By Chris Esslinger

Wednesday, December 4, 1996

Home of the 1997 Breeders' Cup


Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, whose stable eclipsed the $15-million mark when Marlin won the $500,000 Crown Royal Hollywood Derby, looks to pad his 1996 bankroll when Hit The Roof tests stakes competition in Saturday’s Grade III Vernon O. Underwood.

“We’ll roll the dice for $100,000.” said Lukas, who saddled Pancho Villa to win the 1985 Underwood. “Hey, I’m realistic. We’re kind of swinging at a curveball here, but you never know, we might just make some contact.” Hit The Roof, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, will have to face the likes of veteran sprinters Paying Dues, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up, and Criollito, hero of last spring’s Churchill Downs Handicap. “It’s not going to be easy on Saturday,” Lukas said. “Hit The Roof should improve off his last race, which was a comebacker. But let’s face it, he has to improve just to have a chance to win.” Hit The Roof, a 3-year-old colt by the speedy sire Housebuster, returned from a six-month hiatus to defeat allowance runners by a half-length in a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash on Nov. 20.

“The race was good for him,” Lukas said. “He relished the turf, but I think he’s much more effective on the main track. That’s his preferred surface.”

In other Underwood developments: Glen Hill Farm’s Concept Win, nominated to the Underwood, has been retired. Stud plans have not been announced. The 6-year-old son of Manila, trained by Willard Proctor, goes to the breeding shed with nine wins, seven seconds, four thirds and earnings of $621,498 from 30 starts. Five of the Florida-bred’s nine wins came against stakes competition: the Bolsa Chica Stakes (1993), Palos Verdes Handicap (1994), Crazy Kid Stakes (1994), Triple Bend Handicap (1995) and Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (1996). Trainer Cliff Sise sent Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Paying Dues through a five-furlong drill at Santa Anita on Sunday in :59 3/5.

Criollito drilled four furlongs Monday at Santa Anita in a bullet :46 1/5 for trainer Bob Baffert.

The probable field for Saturday’s 16th running of the $100,000-added Vernon O. Underwood (Gr. III) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs: Criollito, Chris McCarron; Hit The Roof, Corey Nakatani; Men’s Exclusive, no rider; Minjinsky, no rider, and Paying Dues, Pat Day.


Bobby Frankel, who saddled Matriarch winner Wandesta, says there’s a good chance 4-year-old filly Sleep Easy will run in Sunday’s $100,000-added Bayakoa Handicap (Gr. II).

Since her Grade I win in the 1995 Hollywood Oaks, Sleep Easy has finished as the runner-up in this year’s El Encino (Gr. II) and the Santa Margarita Handicap (Gr. I), and third in the Lady’s Secret (Gr. III). Most recently, the daughter of Seattle Slew finished fifth in allowance company on Oct. 27 at Santa Anita.

“She’s been a little disappointing this year,” said Frankel, who saddled 1983 Bayakoa winner Sweet Diane. “I think she’s going to run good, though. She’s run some good races but she’s been a little unlucky.”

In other Bayakoa developments: Belle’s Flag worked five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 on Santa Anita’s training track Monday. Smolensk drilled a half-mile in :48 3/5 Wednesday at Santa Anita. Cat’s Cradle worked six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 on Monday. Probables for the Bayakoa Handicap, for fillies and mares, to be run at 1 1/16 miles: Listening, Chris McCarron, 120; Cat’s Cradle, Alex Solis, 120; Sleep Easy, no rider, 116; Traces of Gold, Kent Desormeaux, 116; Smolensk, Eddie Delahoussaye, 115; Above The Table, no rider, 115; Belle’s Flag, Corey Nakatani, 115; Goulash, no rider, 114; Predicted Glory, no rider, 112, and Special Eyes, Matt Garcia, 108.


Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup is ready to go back to work. “He’s doing great,” trainer David Hofmans said. “He’ll probably work a half-mile Saturday or Sunday. We’re aiming him for the San Pasqual Handicap (Jan. 12) at Santa Anita.”

Alphabet Soup defeated both 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze (second) and defending Classic champion Cigar (third) in the 1996 running at Woodbine.


Trainer Jenine Sahadi is reserving a stall for Miss Stamper, the leading money-earning 2-year-old this year in England and Ireland. She is scheduled to arrive here from Europe early next week. Team Valor, headed by Barry Irwin, recently purchased Miss Stamper for syndication purposes. The bay daughter of Distinctly North has won four of six 1996 starts for earnings of $248,320. Miss Stamper beat a 29-horse field in the Tattersalls Breeders Stakes at The Curragh in Ireland and she also shattered a 37-year-old course record in the Weatherbys Super Sprint. The Irish-bred is the third horse bought by the California-based Team Valor from English-based trainer Richard Hannon, the other two being My Memories, runner-up to A.P. Indy in the 1992 Belmont Stakes, and Eastern Memories, who beat Cigar in the 1993 Volante Handicap.

FINISH LINES: Matriarch winner Wandesta has been retired and will return to Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky . . . Alex Solis leads the jockeys standings with 23 wins as he aims for his fourth consecutive Southern California title . . . Tallories, preparing for the $500,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Sunday, Dec. 15, worked seven furlongs in 1:41 1/5 . .. Hollywood Futurity hopeful Swiss Yodeler went one mile in 1:40 2/5 on Wednesday. The Futurity will be run Dec. 15 . . . Dramatic Gold, scheduled to run in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap on closing day (Dec. 22), went seven furlongs in 1:25 . . . Elmhurst worked a half-mile in :48 4/5 Wednesday at Santa Anita . . . Raintrap worked four furlongs in :49 4/5 on Tuesday . . . Top Rung breezed three furlongs in :38 4/5 on Monday at Santa Anita . . . Ventiquattrofogli worked four furlongs in :50 2/5 Tuesday . . . Sandpit drilled four furlongs in :47 4/5 on Monday . . . Tiger Talk went four furlongs in :49 on Wednesday . . . Larry the Legend continued his comeback attempt by working five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 Wednesday at Santa Anita . . . Possible Hollywood Turf Cup starter Urgent Request went five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 Tuesday at Santa Anita . . . Admise, winner of the Oak Tree Invitaional, worked six furlongs in 1:13 on Monday at Santa Anita.

The Running Horse (