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Espinoza Finds Will Rogers to His Liking

HORSE RACING

May 07, 2000|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unable to come close in the Kentucky Derby with Captain Steve, trainer Bob Baffert got some consolation Saturday at Hollywood Park.

At the same time, a great day got even better for jockey Victor Espinoza.

Purely Cozzene, the 6-5 favorite trained by Baffert for owners Ed and Natalie Friendly, won the $100,000 Will Rogers Handicap at Hollywood Park, giving Espinoza his fourth winner on the card.

After his victory in last month's La Puente at Santa Anita, Purely Cozzene earned his fourth victory in 10 starts, beating 7-2 second choice Duke Of Green by a length in 1:34 3/5 for the mile on grass.

Content to track a slow pace set--surprisingly--by Jekyll And Hyde, Purely Cozzene took over into the stretch for his third victory on turf. Duke Of Green deserved better as he made up ground in a race where the final half-mile (46 3/5 seconds) was quicker than the first (48 flat).

"This horse is improving," said Espinoza, who also won the first with Windy's Halo, the third with Dream Counter and the fourth with Morocco. "The problem is trying to get him to relax a little bit because he wants to go as fast as he can.

"The first time I rode him at Santa Anita he was very tough to handle. He isn't quite as keen now. He still pulls hard, but not nearly as hard as he used to and that helps him finish better."

Making his first start in the United States after winning two of three in Italy, Duke Of Green finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Silver Axe, then came Designed For Luck, Jekyll And Hyde, Cielo Stellato, Sideburn and Pj'salarm. Sign Of Fire was a late scratch.

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Excellent Meeting is the 3-5 morning-line favorite to make a successful 4-year-old debut in the $150,000 Hawthorne Handicap today at Hollywood Park.

Sidelined after undergoing ankle surgery last year, the daughter of General Meeting has trained well for her comeback for Baffert, and will have only four opponents in the Hawthorne, a Grade II race that will be run at 1 1/16 miles. Riboletta, who won the Santa Margarita Handicap on a sloppy track at Santa Anita in early March, Speaking Of Time, Zante and Cookin Vickie complete the field.

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Big E E won his second in a row, overtaking pacesetter and 5-2 favorite Precise End, who had to be vanned off because of an injury to his right front leg, in the final sixteenth of the $150,000 Withers at Aqueduct.

Ridden by Heberto Castillo, Jr. for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and the L Hollow Farms, the 3-year-old son of Jolie's Halo paid $9.30 for his third win in nine starts. He completed the mile in 1:35 3/5.

A race earlier, 23-1 shot Spindrift rallied from off the pace to win the $112,800 Fort Marcy Handicap.

Making his U.S. debut after winning four of 12 in England and the United Arab Emirates, the 5-year-old, Irish-bred won in 1:40 4/5 for the 1 1/16 miles. Spindrift is owned by Rashid al Maktoum. Jean-Luc Samyn rode for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

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Manistique, the large daughter of Unbridled who was a multiple stakes winner, has been retired after being injured in a workout.

Owned by the 505 Farms of the late Marshall Naify and trained by John Shirreffs, Manistique finished her career with 11 victories in 15 starts and earned in excess of $1.3 million. All 11 of her victories came in California and she was unbeaten at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. Her final start came in the Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 13 at Santa Anita. She defeated Snowberg by a half-length.

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