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Concern Earns Right to Mine Some Gold Cup : Horse racing: Trainer Richard Small's well-traveled colt wins Californian one day after arriving.


Trainer Richard Small won't go another 18 years between visits to Hollywood Park.

Absent from Inglewood since Festive Mood finished ninth in the 1977 Hollywood Gold Cup, Small is certain to return in three weeks after Concern's impressive victory in the $250,000 Californian on Sunday.

Laying a lot closer to the pace than usual and taking command on the backside, the 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic winner defeated Tossofthecoin by nearly three lengths in 1:47 3/5 for the 1 1/8 miles.

In the process, he earned a start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 2. The way he won Sunday, he will probably be favored in the meeting's richest race and give Small a chance to better the effort of his previous Gold Cup participant.

Concern's sixth victory in 25 starts also might give cause to the connections of Cigar to think about heading west. Cigar, the nation's top handicap horse, is scheduled to be rested until the $350,000 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 5 at Saratoga.

Given how easily Cigar handled Concern in the Oaklawn Handicap and the Pimlico Special, his connections--owner Allen Paulson and trainer Bill Mott--have reason to consider the Gold Cup.

The 5-2 second choice breaking from the outside in the field of eight, Concern was fifth after a 23-second opening quarter, while longshots Lottery Winner and Stoller set the pace. Concern moved up to fourth after a half-mile while running wide, then cruised to the lead before six furlongs had been run and extended his advantage from there.

Tossofthecoin, the 4-1 third choice, finished a half-length in front of Tinners Way, who was making his first start since Sept. 17, and it was a length back to 3-2 favorite Best Pal.

Losing for only the second time in eight starts on the Hollywood Park main track, Best Pal made a strong move while running wide on the far turn.

"He always runs well, but obviously it wasn't his best race and I'm not sure why," said trainer Richard Mandella of Best Pal. "We've had a little rest since [the] Oaklawn [Handicap on April 15] and he's been doing well, but maybe too well. He hung a little bit there, and maybe I just didn't put quite enough into him."

Small didn't do a thing with Concern after owner Robert Meyerhoff's homebred son of Broad Brush arrived at Hollywood Park around 6 p.m. Saturday.

"I just put the bridle on him and brought him over here," Small said. "I think the key to this horse is to just let him run his own race. We don't really place him in the race. He sort of places himself.

"There's a good chance we'll come back [for the Gold Cup]. I don't think I would change too much. A lot would depend on the schedule of the airlines. He went to the Breeders' Cup the night before. I think it's very positive for him."

Certainly, the 4-year-old likes to travel. In his last 11 starts, he has run at 11 different tracks. The last time he ran two races at the same place was April, 1994, at Oaklawn Park. He finished second in the Rebel on April 2, then came back to win the Arkansas Derby 22 days later.

For the 12th time in 31 starts, Tossofthecoin was second, and he hasn't been worse than third in seven races this year. Tinners Way figures to improve in the Gold Cup.

Best Pal was followed home by Let's Be Curious, Lottery Winner, Ravenwood and Stoller, who broke down on the far turn under Gary Stevens.

A 4-year-old El Gran Senor colt who had three victories in 18 appearances before the Californian, Stoller suffered a slab fracture of his left front knee and had to be destroyed.

Horse Racing Notes

Concern's victory was worth $160,900 and pushed the colt's earnings to $2,989,350. . . . Corey Nakatani won three times Sunday and Alex Solis had two winners. . . . There will be a special Monday card today and the track will be dark Tuesday and Wednesday.

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