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HORSE RACING

Nothing Throws Off White Heart

May 30, 2000|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's not a recommended training routine. But when one of trainer Neil Drysdale's horses throws a rider in the morning, big things are not far off.

Nine days before the Kentucky Derby, Fusaichi Pegasus reared up and unseated his exercise rider at Churchill Downs. By race day, Fusaichi Pegasus was unflappable as he became the first favorite to win the Derby in 21 years.

Last Thursday, preparing for Monday's $300,000 Charlie Whittingham Handicap, White Heart was distracted by a workmate at Hollywood Park and threw Kent Desormeaux before running off. Desormeaux, who rode Fusaichi Pegasus to victory in the Derby, had no trouble staying aboard Monday as White Heart, winning his first stake in the United States, rallied to beat Self Feeder by a neck in the 1 1/4-mile grass race, named last year for the Hall of Fame trainer who employed Drysdale as an assistant in the early 1970s.

The Whittingham turned into a wide-open affair before the field reached the first turn, with Chris McCarron pulling up the 9-10 favorite, Dark Moondancer.

"He bobbled with me and I heard a pop," McCarron said. "I was sure that I did. And at that point, you don't guess."

Trainer Ron McAnally, who saddled Dark Moondancer for wins in the San Luis Obispo Handicap and the San Luis Rey at Santa Anita this year, said that McCarron did the right thing.

"Chris said that when he pulled him up, he looked all right," McAnally said. "I give Chris credit, because he wanted to protect the horse, and he's a very valuable horse."

The British-bred White Heart won five of 15 starts in Europe, all at distances of a mile or less, before arriving at Drysdale's barn late last year. He won an allowance race at a mile on May 10 at Hollywood, the first time Drysdale saddled him.

The third choice Monday in a six-horse field, White Heart was clocked in 2:00 4/5 and paid $13.20 to win. The $180,000 winner's share of the purse was about $50,000 less than what the 5-year-old gelding had earned in his career.

Desormeaux, adding the Whittingham to a recent list of stakes wins that include the Derby, Pimlico Special and the Black-Eyed Susan, is atop the national money list with more than $6.5 million in purses.

"I'm delighted to win this race because of Charlie," Drysdale said Monday. "It's very thrilling. Everything I do is a reflection of Charlie."

Horse Racing Notes

In other races named after renowned trainers, Laffit Pincay rode Squirtle Squirt to a 1 1/2-length win over Our Magistrate in the $79,725 Willard L. Proctor Memorial and Caller One, giving Corey Nakatani his third winner of the day, won the $99,568 Laz Barrera Memorial. A stewards' inquiry into a bumping incident in the stretch failed to change the order of finish in the Proctor.

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