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COMMENTARY

Logical Step Is Quadruple Crown

May 28, 1997|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If the Belmont Stakes on June 7 is anything like the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, racing fans are going to be sorry to see the Triple Crown conclude.

Perhaps it doesn't have to end in Elmont, N.Y.

Hollywood Park could continue the show by boosting the worth of the Swaps Stakes on July 13. Doubling the purse from $500,000 to $1 million might do the trick.

Usually, the destination for the survivors of the Triple Crown is New Jersey--for the Haskell at Monmouth Park--or, a few weeks later, upstate New York--for the Travers at Saratoga--but why couldn't Hollywood Park be next?

The Inglewood track is the home base of Free House and, before Silver Charm began what has already been a very successful trip with wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he was stabled at Santa Anita. Also calling Hollywood Park home are Touch Gold, who proved he belongs with the big boys with his remarkable effort last Saturday, and Wild Rush, the impressive winner of the Illinois Derby and a probable starter in the Belmont.

Another race bringing together these colts--plus some possible new challengers--could make for the most anticipated contest locally since Cigar showed up for the Pacific Classic last August, especially if the Belmont is another thriller. Even if it isn't, the Belmont is hardly a definitive race because of its 1 1/2-mile distance.

While Del Mar's premier event turned out to be a shocking upset by Dare And Go that ended Cigar's 16-race win streak, it looked like a walkover going into the Classic.

Such wouldn't be the case in the Swaps. Given the closeness of the Preakness and the vast amount of trouble encountered by Touch Gold, a case could be made for all three colts. This would heighten interest, even keeping those casual observers who usually pay attention only to the Triple Crown races involved.

Granted, such an idea is premature, given the fact the Swaps is still more than seven weeks away and much can change in a short time--evidenced by the sudden retirement of Captain Bodgit, who was injured while finishing third in the Preakness--but if the remaining combatants are healthy, it could become a reality.

Hollywood Park has shown a willingness to try to make things happen, and the incentive is there now, given the increase in business (handle figures are up slightly over last year) and Monmouth Park has already raised the purse of the Aug. 3 Haskell from $750,000 to $1 million.

The Swaps was sweetened in 1989 to entice Sunday Silence to run--and lose, to Prized--and 20 years ago, more dollars was what lured Seattle Slew west after his Triple Crown sweep.

His presence in the fourth running of the Swaps was a boon to the track, leading to one of the biggest and most memorable days in Hollywood Park history.

The attendance of 68,132 was the fourth-largest ever and only twice since then has that figure been exceeded. And none who were there will forget watching the heavily favored Seattle Slew struggling home fourth behind Text, Affiliate and runaway winner J.O. Tobin.

Coming five weeks after the Belmont, the timing seems right and there would be plenty of time to rest after before returning for the major races in the fall. The distance--1 1/8 miles--is also ideal. Free House won the Santa Anita Derby by a head over Silver Charm at nine furlongs and Touch Gold's best race came at 1 1/16 miles in the Lexington.

Although there has been no official word on the subject, Hollywood Park officials are believed to be considering raising the Swaps purse and, if they haven't already, should start wooing the various connections to stay home.

No doubt, the people at Monmouth Park have already started making their pitch to bring the talented 3-year-olds to their track, but, after Belmont Park, the fourth stop on the Silver Charm, Free House and friends tour should be California.

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