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Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Is in Jeopardy

April 27, 2001|BILL CHRISTINE

For the second time in three years, the Breeders' Cup may have to avoid running its races at Santa Anita because of construction work at the Arcadia track.

Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Assn., the nonprofit group that rents Santa Anita and has hosted two previous Breeders' Cups, said Thursday that the 2002 Breeders' Cup is in jeopardy.

Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment Inc., which owns Santa Anita, has told Chillingworth that construction of a new simulcast betting facility at the east end of the grandstand might prevent the track from conducting a Breeders' Cup in the fall of next year.

The Breeders' Cup is an eight-race day, with purses worth $13 million. The races frequently determine winners of the Eclipse Awards, including horse-of-the-year honors.

"If the Breeders' Cup sees this as a problem, they'll go elsewhere," Chillingworth said about the 2002 date. "My opinion of what will happen really doesn't count for much. Oak Tree is caught between our landlord and the Breeders' Cup."

Damon Thayer, a spokesman for the Breeders' Cup, said Thursday from Lexington, Ky., that his organization had had no "official advisory" from either Oak Tree or Magna regarding the status of Santa Anita for 2002. Chillingworth said, however, that he had talked Wednesday with D.G. Van Clief, president of the Breeders' Cup.

"We've got no comment for now," Thayer said. "When we hear something, we'll start talking about contingencies."

Chillingworth said that the Breeders' Cup would decide by the end of May. There is speculation that Hollywood Park might get next year's races if Oak Tree can't host them, but for that to happen, Oak Tree would have to sacrifice part of its racing calendar and the California Horse Racing Board would have to approve. Hollywood Park's fall meet doesn't begin until after Oak Tree's season has ended.

The Breeders' Cup was last run at Hollywood Park in 1997. The races, first run in 1984, haven't been held at Santa Anita since 1993. Oak Tree was scheduled to be the host last year, but when Magna, which bought Santa Anita in December of 1998, announced that construction would be a problem, the Breeders' Cup took the event to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Chillingworth has been conditioned for the unexpected since Oak Tree became a tenant of Santa Anita.

"After we gave up the Breeders' Cup for 2000, Stronach came out three weeks later and said the construction wouldn't be a problem," Chillingworth said. "But by then it was too late. The Breeders' Cup had already made the switch to Churchill Downs."

Chillingworth said it was unlikely that Oak Tree would get the Breeders' Cup in 2003.

"From what I've heard, they've already got a track in mind for that year," he said.

Thayer said there's nothing firm about a site for 2003.

"Right now, we're just thinking about next year," he said. "We're not focused on anything beyond that."

This year's Breeders' Cup will be run at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., on Oct. 27.


Point Given, who'll be favored May 5 in the 127th Kentucky Derby, gave trainer Bob Baffert and his exercise rider, Pepe Aragon, some anxious moments Thursday at the barn at Churchill Downs.

After a morning gallop, Point Given left the track and headed for Baffert's barn. A photographer made a sudden move in trying to take a picture and spooked the colt, who reared three times.

"He could have gone over and hurt himself," Baffert said.

Point Given has reared before, and gotten loose at least a couple of times in the Santa Anita stable area. How he will react on Derby day, before a howling crowd of more than 150,000, might be a factor.

Point Given, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, and Baffert's Wood Memorial winner, Congaree, are scheduled to have their final pre-Derby workouts on Monday.

Two Derby probables worked Thursday, Blue Grass Stakes winner Millennium Wind going five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 and Songandaprayer, who'll be a longshot in the race, covering the same distance in :59, fastest time of the morning among 23 workers.

Millennium Wind has been bothered this year by a skin rash and problem feet, but trainer David Hofmans said that he's had no difficulty at Churchill.

"I'm happy about the way his heels look," Hofmans said. "They're not painful and they haven't bothered him."

Running on the lead, Songandaprayer won the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February, but since has been fifth in the Florida Derby and second, 5 1/4 lengths behind Millennium Wind, in the Blue Grass.

With Edgar Prado, his jockey in the last three races, riding Flamingo winner Thunder Blitz in the Derby, trainer John Dowd has named Aaron Gryder to ride Songandaprayer. Jerry Bailey, who passed up the mount on Congaree for the Wood, could have ridden Songandaprayer in the Derby, but he has chosen Talk Is Money, the second-place finisher in Saturday's Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.

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