When Betfair Hollywood Park opens the doors Thursday for its 75th anniversary season, a slew of familiar faces from top management to numerous other departments will be manning their posts.
Vice president and general manager Eual G. Wyatt, Jr. probably has the longest ties to the Inglewood track. Wyatt, Jr.’s father, Eual G. Wyatt, Sr., was the leading trainer at the inaugural Hollywood Park meeting in 1938. Wyatt, Jr. began the first of two stints as Racing Secretary in 1979 and was promoted to his current position in 1994.
When patrons enter the track, generally the first thing they pick up is a program. The multiple page racing guide lists the runners in each race and is a collaboration between Director of Programs Craig Peterson (hired in 1991), who assembles the information, and Randy Pawling, who has printed the program since 1976.
Head upstairs to the Turf Club and you will be greeted by the smiling face of Maitre d’ Lawrence Abbott, who has spent 34 of his 75 years seating customers with a joke at the ready.
Finding the horses that fit each race is the job of the racing office, which certainly is not lacking for experience.
Vice president of racing and racing secretary Martin Panza, responsible for setting the conditions under which each race is run, was named to his present position 19 years ago when Wyatt was promoted. Dick Wheeler, assistant racing secretary, is the longest tenured employee in the department with 43 years under his belt. Dan Eidson, who came up as an assistant trainer to Ed Gregson before going out on his own in 1986, joined the racing office 13 years ago and presently holds the position of assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator.
Watching the races from Betfair Hollywood Park on television? Caesar Hernandez has been at the controls of the pan camera since 1983. Director of broadcast Roger Roman is beginning his 24th season while Kip Hannan, who as production supervisor has a vast wealth of racing history at his fingertips, has used his skills for a quarter of a century.
Those mentioned above and dozens of others all can be can be excused for waxing nostalgic during the 75th year of the venerable track.
Hoefflin or O’Farrell, Schneider, Et Al’s Halo Dolly, assigned high weight of 120 pounds, heads an expected field of seven or eight fillies and mares in the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap. The Grade III at one mile on turf will be run for the 52nd time Sunday.
The ultra-consistent 5-year-old has won half of her 28 starts for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, with eight of those victories coming on grass. A versatile daughter of Popular, Halo Dolly captured the Fran’s Valentine Stakes on the Betfair Hollywood Park grass at this trip during the 2012 Spring/Summer meeting. Rafael Bejarano has the call.
Moonie’s My Name (John Sadler) makes her second stateside start after losing a photo to stablemate I Dazzle in the American Beauty Stakes April 7. The English bred, a six-time winner in her native country, will be piloted by Joe Talamo.
Others slated to start are Purim’s Dancer (Tom Proctor, Tyler Baze), who tries two turns for the first time, Little Emily (Robert Leonard, Joe Steiner), a winner of three of her last six, Long Face (Patrick Biancone, Julien Leparoux), who drops out of a pair of Grade 2 races, and Plaza de Indias (Angel Rodriguez), in the money four of five starts on the Betfair Hollywood Park grass.
Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s assistant trainer, said Irish-bred Esentepe is on the fence.
The popular Show Me The Money contest will return Sunday, May 5th at Betfair Hollywood Park. Winner-take-all-prize for the on-line contest is $2,500.
Contestants choose a single horse from one of six designated races each day.
If the horse finishes first, second or third, players remain in the contest. If the horse is out of the money, contestants are eliminated.
The deadline for enrollment is 12:45 p.m. May 5. Post time for that day is 1 p.m. Daily selections must be made 10 minutes before the first race.
For more information and complete contest rules, visit www.betfairhollywoodpark.com.
Rail Trip, winner of the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup and most recently second in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, worked a half-mile Tuesday in 48 seconds on Cushion Track for Ron Ellis. The trainer also sent out Grade II Marjorie L. Everett Handicap winner Include Me Out, who earned the same time Monday.
Fast Bullet and Bank the Eight, both from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and both impressive winners during the 2012 Autumn meet at Betfair Hollywood Park, drilled five furlongs Monday at Santa Anita. Fast Bullet was clocked in 1:00 1/5 while Bank the Eight was timed in 1:00 3/5. Also working for Baffert was 2011 CashCall Futurity winner Liaison (five furlongs in 1:00 4/5).
Comma to the Top, victorious in the 2010 CashCall Futurity, worked a half-mile in :47 3/5 on Cushion Track April 20 for trainer Peter Miller.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and the red-hot Rafael Bejarano, leading trainer and rider, respectively, at the 2012 Betfair Hollywood Park Spring/Summer meeting, are poised to defend their titles.
Baffert, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, has racked up 27 training crowns since switching from Quarter Horses to Thoroughbreds in 1991. He’s captured the Kentucky Derby three times and currently is campaigning leading Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude, winner of last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup. Baffert is strongly considering Game On Dude for another run at the Gold Cup.
Primary threats to Baffert’s dominance are Jerry Hollendorfer, another Hall of Famer who has piled up more than 6,100 lifetime victories, and John Sadler, who has a very deep stable. Add to the mix Doug O’Neill, who will try for his second straight Kentucky Derby win with Goldencents May 4 at Churchill Downs, California favorite Mike Mitchell and Ron Ellis, who is seven shy of 1,000 career wins.
Bejarano, runaway top jockey at the recently concluded Santa Anita meeting, is currently the top dog in California. The 30-year-old Peruvian native has been leading rider numerous times at Betfair Hollywood Park and enters the meeting needing only 18 victories to reach 3,000. Also nearing the 3,000 milestone is veteran Victor Espinoza, who is just nine victories shy of the milestone.
Edwin Maldonado, who surprised many when he held off Bejarano to take the 2012 Betfair Hollywood Park Autumn meeting, won’t sneak up on anyone this time. The talented reinsman has been building business quickly over the last year and figures to win more than his share. Other potential top 10 riders are Martin Garcia, Joe Talamo, and a pair of Eclipse Award winners, Julien Leparoux and Garrett Gomez.
Rafael Bejarano will be the special guest of co-hosts Michael Burns and George Ortuzar Saturday for the first Escogiendo Ganadores (Picking Winners) seminar, which begins at 11 a.m. at the Paddock Tote Board. The Spanish language seminar will be held every Saturday during the 49-day Betfair Hollywood Park meeting.
Bejarano, Burns and Ortuzar will discuss the California Gold Rush program, including the afternoon’s richest race—the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes at 1 1-8 miles over Cushion Track.
Bejarano is the defending Spring/Summer riding champion after piling up 74 victories in 2012 and is second to Victor Espinoza with 16 Gold Rush winners.
An hour later (12 noon) at the same location, one of the on-air personalities from Television Games Network (TVG) will host Hollywood Insider.
Hollywood Insider will feature special guests, handicapping tips, insights and other last minute information regarding the afternoon’s races, and will be held every Saturday throughout the meeting.
A $150,000 guaranteed Pick Six, which proved very popular when introduced during the 2012 Betfair Hollywood Park Autumn meeting, will be offered again on most Saturday’s during the 2013 Spring/Summer session (April 27, May 11, May 25, June 1, June 15, June 22, June 29, July 6 and July 13).
A single winning ticket-purchased either at Betfair Hollywood Park or through Television Games Network (TVG) also picks up a 2013 Toyota Prius, courtesy of Toyota of Orange.
The average pool size was $243,754 for the six times the wager was offered. If the Pick Six pool exceeds $200,000, there will be a $1 Happy Hour with food and drink specials offered at Whittingham’s Pub and the Betfair Players’ Lounge.
To celebrate Gold Rush Day, the annual showcase for California breds to be run Saturday, May 27th, fans will be able to choose from a variety of free items while supplies last.
The first round of the Spring Handicapping Challenge will take place opening weekend. The contest begins Friday, April 26th. Players can also enter Saturday, (April 27th) or Sunday (April 28th). To be eligible for Round II May 25th, contestants must play one of those three days.
Players selecting the most show horses (first, second or third) in races 3-8 will advance to Round II. Participants picking at least one place horse (first or second) May 25th will qualify for the third and final round June 22nd. Additionally, the player whose mythical $2 place wagers earn the most money in Round II will win a flat screen television.
Final round participants will select horses to win in races 3-8. The top three players whose mythical $2 win bets earn the most money will share $5,000. For complete rules, visit any customer service window or go on-line to www.betfairhollywoodpark.com
CLOSING STRIDES*—Birthday wishes to trainer *Mike Mitchell, who turns 65 Thursday…….A reminder that post time for every Friday throughout the meet is 1 p.m……….Omar Berrio, who suffered two strokes last year, is healthy again and exercising horses for trainer Hector Palma. There currently are no plans for a comeback………..The wagering menu remains the same as last year. In addition to $2 win, place and show on each race, there are $1 rolling Pick Threes, $2 rolling Daily Doubles, 50 cent Pick Fours on races 2-5 and the final four races, a 50 cent Players’ Pick 5, with a reduced 14 per cent takeout, on races 1-5 (with carryover), $2 Quinellas on every race, $1 Place Pick All (no carryover), $2 Pick Six (with carryover) on final six races and a $1 Super High Five on the final race…………*Doug O’Neill* is following a similar pattern with Goldencents as he did with last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another. “He’ll work six furlongs Thursday at Santa Anita before shipping to Louisville,” said O’Neill……..Unusual announcement over the loudspeaker during morning workouts last Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park—“Horsemen, please be aware there is a coyote in the infield.” The animal scooted off a minute later without incident.
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