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LOS ALAMITOS NOTEBOOK / PAUL McLEOD

Veteran Hawkinson Enjoys His Success

May 02, 1996|PAUL McLEOD

Veteran trainer Bruce Hawkinson is from the old school.

A regular at Los Alamitos for more than 30 years, Hawkinson has quietly gone about becoming one of the top trainers in quarter horse racing. Last season, he finished 10th in the country in earnings with 52 wins in 313 starts.

Surprisingly, he never has finished a meeting at Los Alamitos as the top-earning trainer.

"He has been consistently one of the best, always somewhere in the top of the standings, but he has never won it," said Dick Feinberg, Los Alamitos vice president and general manager.

Hawkinson is off to a good start this year. He has four horses, more than any other trainer, in Friday's $106,200 El Primero Del Ano Derby and he has qualified two more for Saturday's $94,855 La Primera Del Ano Derby.

Keeps and Free Thinker ran the fastest times in qualifiers for El Primero, a 400-yard race for 3-year-old colts and geldings. Another Hawkinson-trained horse, First And Proud, was the top qualifier for La Primera, a 400-yard run for 3-year-old fillies.

So just how excited is Hawkinson about all this?

"We feel fortunate to have some good 3-year-olds," Hawkinson said with barely a hint of emotion. "All of them ran good last year. One was a claimer. This year, we got two or three good starts, but the rest are pretty legitimate horses."

Hawkinson began his career as a jockey, but quickly switched to training. In the early 1960s he befriended a young medical student who visited the track during a break from his college studies. The two struck a solid friendship and years later, when that medical student bought his first horse, Hawkinson trained it.

Now a wealthy south Orange County doctor, former medical student Edward C. Allred is the majority owner of Los Alamitos. He owns more than 400 quarter horses, including the five trained by Hawkinson that are running in the two derbies this weekend.

Hawkinson sees a tight field for both races and Feinberg said that sentiment could be on Hawkinson's side.

"Maybe this will be his big year," Feinberg said. "He has been around such a long time and he is such a nice guy. A lot of us, certainly, are pulling for him to do well."

*

In a story about the future of quarter horse racing in America, the April issue of International Gaming and Wagering Business magazine calls Los Alamitos "the most successful track in sending out its signal" around the country. The magazine points out that quarter horse races from Los Alamitos are seen and wagered on via satellite at tracks in several Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states and also are watched at off-track betting sites in Atlantic City, Nevada and Wyoming.

The magazine said recent legislation in several states that removed laws prohibiting wagering on quarter horse or mixed-breed racing will be a further boon to the track, which made about $2 million last year from satellite bets.

"New York's [Off-Track Betting] system is particularly interested in taking wagers on Los Alamitos, California's night-time track, that will provide opportunities to lengthen the wagering day," the magazine said.

In a typical day last week, according to Feinberg, Los Alamitos races were seen in nine states--as far away as Connecticut--and in more than 30 locations in Mexico, Panama and Colombia. Locations in Massachusetts will go on line in about a week or two, Feinberg said.

*

Versatile jockey Guillermo Gutierrez continued his fine comeback from last season's injury-plagued season by riding Appaloosa Baby JJ to victory in last Saturday's fourth race. He becomes the first jockey this season to have ridden winners in all four breeds that race at Los Alamitos: Appaloosas, Arabians, quarter horses and thoroughbreds.

*

By winning a $12,000 allowance test Saturday, Brotherly remains undefeated in the quarter horse racing equivalent of a marathon--the 870-yard race. Brotherly already has won three "marathons" this season. In 1995 the horse took the Marathon Handicap and the Quarter Horse Breeders Marathon Classic.

Brotherly is owned by Steve Barham, Mark Shannon and Shirley Loeb and trained by Charles Treece. Joe Badilla Jr. was aboard for the allowance victory.

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