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Notes on a Scorecard

ALLAN MALAMUD

June 08, 1995|ALLAN MALAMUD

Thunder Gulch beat third-place Timber Country by 2 1/4 lengths and a head in the Kentucky Derby. . . .

Timber Country beat third-place Thunder Gulch by half a length and a neck in the Preakness. . . .

So what will happen Saturday, when the Wayne Lukas-trained colts meet in the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes? . . .

"I like our chances," said Gary Stevens, who rides Thunder Gulch. "On his best day, I think he's five lengths better than Timber Country. Of course, I've got a reputation for boosting my horses." . . .

Stevens also has a reputation for getting his horses to the wire first. . . .

He had enough major victories in the first five months of 1995--the Santa Anita Handicap with Urgent Request, the Santa Anita Derby with Larry The Legend, and the Kentucky Derby--to last most jockeys a lifetime. . . .

"I feel that I'm close to the top of my game," he says at 32. . . .

A three-month stay in Hong Kong, where they race only twice a week, refreshed him and got his professional and personal priorities in order. . . .

"Now I appreciate what I'm doing more," he said. . . .

In New York, he will ride an animal that he describes as a warrior. . . .

"I love Thunder Gulch's fight," he said. "He's never had a real bad race, and he's the most consistent of his class." . . .

The Belmont Stakes is a 1 1/2-mile marathon, compared to the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby and 1 3/16-mile Preakness. . . .

"Looking back at old films of the Belmont, I found that it doesn't necessarily take what you would call a 1 1/2-mile horse to win the race," said Stevens, who has twice finished fourth. "At this time of year, there probably isn't a true 1 1/2-mile 3-year-old, anyway." . . .

"The Belmont is usually won by a horse that is very steady," he said. "You rarely see horses come from far back like you'd imagine. They're usually forwardly placed, just like the winners of the other two Triple Crown races." . . .

Stevens doesn't expect to get much in the way of instructions from Lukas, who will also greet Pat Day in the walking ring. . . .

"Wayne knows my style of riding, and I know what he wants," the jockey said. "He wants me to get my horse into the race quickly and take authority, not to wait for the horse to react to a situation." . . .

Look for a thunderous finish Saturday.

*

The pitching in the College World Series isn't much better than that in the major leagues, but at least the college pitchers have an excuse--the aluminum bat. . . .

I still prefer the crack of the wood bat to the ping of the aluminum bat. . . .

Somehow, I didn't think I would look at the statistics on June 7 and find Dodger shortstop Jose Offerman atop the National League in batting average among active players. His average of .358 was second only to injured San Francisco Giant third baseman Matt Williams' .381. . . .

Dodger pitcher Ismael Valdes on why he likes to work fast: "I don't want the fielders to get bored." . . .

The Angels' top farm club, Vancouver, is also leading its division, the Northern of the Pacific Coast League. . . .

Rockne Harmon, a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, is a brother-in-law of Seattle Mariner star pitcher Randy Johnson. . . .

UCLA's John Godina and Valeyta Althouse have been named athletes of the month by the Track and Field Writers of America. Godina won the shotput with a collegiate record distance and the discus in the NCAA meet and Althouse the women's shotput. . . .

The 65th birthday of the Tommy Trojan statue on the USC campus will be celebrated today at 1:45 p.m. . . .

USC President Steven Sample will be master of ceremonies, cake will be served and the Trojan marching band and songleaders will perform. . . .

The bronze statue weighs 2,000 pounds, cost $10,000, was a gift from the General Alumni Assn., and was modeled after Trojan football stars Russ Saunders and Erny Pinckert. . . .

Dennis Rodman might want to be traded to the Lakers, but they don't need the distractions he causes. . . .

If the International Boxing Federation's stripping of George Foreman's title is upheld in court, the next three heavyweight championship bouts probably would be Axel Schulz vs. Francois Botha for the IBF, Bruce Seldon vs. Joe Hipp for the World Boxing Assn., and Oliver McCall vs. Frank Bruno for the World Boxing Council. I can hardly wait.

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