Vic Stauffer, Hollywood Park track announcer and agent for meet-leading jockey Joel Rosario, made the stable rounds with the 24-year-old Dominican Republic native Thursday morning after surviving a weekend scare.
Rosario rode four winners Sunday to open a 74-66 lead over defending champion Rafael Bejarano and help Stauffer rebound from a minor stroke that hospitalized him Saturday night and most of the day Sunday.
“Eight up, four days to go; I think we’re in pretty good shape,” said Stauffer. “The mathematics are rather compelling at this point.”
Rosario refused to count his chickens before they are hatched. “It’s not over yet,” he said in deference to Bejarano, who has won the last six major meets on the Southern California circuit. “But I feel good. Winning my first title here would be very important to me. It would help me get better horses in stakes races.”
Stauffer thought a day earlier this month when Rosario rode five winners was critical in the race. “He won a lot of photos early and ended up winning five,” said Stauffer. “That was the turning point.”
Rosario was happy to have his agent back and made sure he ordered an oatmeal and bagel breakfast to keep him healthy.
Stauffer, who was replaced at the microphone by Ed Burgart of Los Alamitos on Sunday, recalled the details. “My fiancee, Tina, and I were attending a concert — a tribute to Henry Mancini — at the Hollywood Bowl when my arm went numb and my speech was slurred,” said Stauffer. “I went to first aid and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, where they termed it a mini-stroke.”
Stauffer said he started feeling better Sunday afternoon when Rosario won the first three races. Stauffer called his close friend, track promotions manager George Ortuzar, who placed his receiver near a television screen so Stauffer could hear the call of each of the races.
“I had all kinds of tests — CATSCANs, MRIs, EKGs — and they revealed that they didn’t know how it happened,” said Stauffer. “But my theory is stress.
“Everything with Joel trying to be leading rider, I obsessed about it,” said Stauffer. “I’ve got to learn that when I get home, I’ve got to leave my condition book on the front step.”
Stauffer said he is taking blood thinners and will incorporate acupuncture, yoga and meditation into his schedule to combat stress. Stauffer thinks the upcoming Del Mar meet, where he has only one job, will be a welcome change of pace. “Stress management, courtesy of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce,” said Stauffer. “One job, instead of two, and I can relax at the seashore. Joel being leading rider took care of the stress. I have 80 calls in the first book.”
Rosario, meanwhile, would like to close out this meet in style. “I like our chances in all three stakes,” said Stauffer of mounts on Massone in the $300,000 Swaps Stakes and Evita Argentina in the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap Saturday, and Obrigado in the $150,000 Sunset Handicap Sunday.
Rosario, runner-up at this meet last year, has won the most races at this session since Patrick Valenzuela won 81 during a 65-day meet in 2003.
Trainer Doug O’Neill can enjoy a Mediterranean cruise with his family, knowing that his stable is in the capable hands of chief assistant Leandro Mora.
O’Neill wrapped up his eighth Hollywood Park title in the last 14 meets here Sunday when he swept 2-year-old $100,000 stakes for meet championships. Mora sent out filly Necessary Evil to a three-length victory over colts in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship and won the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for fillies with Repo.
The stakes sweep gave O’Neill 36 winners at the meet, 16 more than runner-up and defending champion John Sadler, and left him one shy of his personal best of 37 wins during a 65-day meet in 2003. Two more wins this week would give him the highest winning total at this meet since Bobby Frankel won 42 during a 76-day meet in 1977.
“I think Doug was off the coast of Italy when we won on Sunday,” said Mora from the O’Neill barn here Thursday. “The phone went dead when we went to get our picture taken. He told me he found out what happened around midnight when I talked to him the following morning.”
O’Neill is scheduled to return home Saturday night, after Mora saddles Scorewithcater and Dover Street Art in the $300,000 Swaps Stakes and Modification in the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap.
Mora, who assisted the late Brian Mayberry when he dominated 2-year-old stakes here, joined O’Neill in 2001. He credited some of the input he has been able to give O’Neill in winning eight 2-year-old races at the meet to the teachings of Mayberry, who won the Landaluce fives times and the Juvenile twice between 1988 and 1993.
“You have to treat babies like babies,” said Mora of that 2-year-old approach. “From the bottom, you’ve got to show them the steps, like a father.
“You’ve got to be more sensitive with fillies than colts,” added Mora. “And you also have to treat each horse like an individual. Repo is a little hyper, so you have to train her a little differently and take her to the gate more often. Necessary Evil is just the opposite: mellow and quiet.”
Mora is optimistic that Scorewithcater and Dover Street Art will improve off their last outings in the Swaps. Scorewithcater will be equipped with blinkers after a fourth-place finish in the Affirmed Handicap. “Dover Street Art has shown more stamina on synthetic than turf,” said Mora after a fifth-place finish on grass in the Cinema Handicap.
FINISH LINES — Advice, winner of the Grade II Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and 120-pound high weight in the Swaps Stakes Saturday, was bedded down in Barn 60 South after being shipped here Tuesday from Kentucky by trainer Todd Pletcher. He was scheduled to school during the first race Thursday. Advice drew post six in a field of eight in the Grade II test at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track…Trainer John Sadler, who won the A Gleam Handicap last year with Dearest Trickski, makes a strong case for the defense with Coco Belle leaving from post two and Evita Argentina from the outside in a nine-horse field in the seven-furlong test for fillies and mares. “I’ll have one from the front and one from behind,” said Sadler in reference to speedster Coco Belle and closer Evita Argentina. “They drew good posts. Evita is kind of a seven-eighths specialist. She has won two stakes at that distance. Coco Belle is in really good form now. She won her last two races here. The question for her is how the pace goes, whether she gets loose or whether she gets pressured.”…*Pico Perdomo* has left to train in Saudi Arabia.
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