By Chris Esslinger

Friday, December 20, 1996

Home of the 1997 Breeders' Cup


Jockey Alex Solis, on his way to his fourth consecutive Southern California meeting title, credits his success to hard work.

“To be able to do this takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” Solis said. “It’s hard to slow down and reflect on what I’ve accomplished this year. But sometimes you have to do it.” The 32-year-old Panama-native holds a commanding 10-win lead over second-place jockey Gary Stevens going into the autumn meeting’s final weekend.

“What I’ve always wanted to try and accomplish is to be first and to be consistent,” Solis said. “My main goal is to be as consistent as I can.”

Solis has been consistently winning races and meets this year, riding 69 winners at the spring/summer meeting here, 44 at Del Mar, 35 at Oak Tree and, through Thursday, 34 at the autumn meeting. He was second at Santa Anita’s winter/spring meeting with 74 winners -- one shy of Corey Nakatani.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction I get when I think what I’ve been able to do over the last few years,” Solis said. “I’ve worked my whole life to get to this point.”

Solis counted among his highlights this year his victory in the Pacific Classic with Dare and Go along with his win in the San Juan Capistrano.

“Beating Cigar with Dare and Go was my biggest win,” Solis said. “It meant a lot to me because I love racing at Del Mar. Also, winning four races on Cal Cup Day was special.” Solis didn’t take all the credit for his success this year.

“I’ve been so fortunate to ride some very good horses,” he said. “Urbane, Golden Steel, Swiss Yodeler, I love riding those horses. Miss Lady Bug is a very nice filly.”

Solis said he wants to top his 1996 success in 1997.

“I want to be a little higher in the national standings in money-won,” Solis said. “It’s going to be tough to stay in the top five in the country, but that’s what I want to do.”


Arrivederci Baby, who once struggled in the allowance ranks, has suddenly become a contender coming in to Sunday’s $100,000-added Native Diver Handicap (Gr. III) at Hollywood Park.

Arrivederci Baby caught the attention of fans and horsemen alike by capturing the Forty Niner Handicap by six lengths over Romarin in his last start.

“I was very surprised by his performance in that race,” trainer Jose Silva said. “He won really easily in that race against some good competition.”

The son of Caros Love has won four of 28 starts, with earnings of $139,375, and Silva thinks the best is yet to come, perhaps as soon as Sunday.

“He’s getting better and better every race,” Silva said. “I think he’s going to run a great race. He has a good chance to win.”

Leading jockey Alex Solis rides the 4-year-old gray gelding for the first time.

The six-horse field for Sunday’s $100,000-added Native Diver Handicap, to be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, follows in post position order: Peyrano, Rene Douglas, 113; Don’t Blame Rio, Matt Garcia, 112; Arrivederci Baby, Solis, 113; Gentlemen, Gary Stevens, 121; Dramatic Gold, Kent Desormeaux, 122; and Alyrob, Corey Nakatani, 113.


Monrovia Handicap winner Klassy Kim takes on a solid field of fillies and mares in Saturday’s $60,000-added Safely Kept Handicap.

“She doing real good,” trainer Mel Stute said. “She blew out real well yesterday, it seems like she’s on her old game again.”

Klassy Kim returns after a disappointing effort in the On Trust Handicap here last month. The 5-year-old daughter of Silent Screen finished second in the California Cup Distaff Handicap in November at Santa Anita. The bay mare also won the California Cup Distaff and El Encino Stakes (Gr. II) last year. Klassy Kim has eight wins from 37 starts and earnings of $612,807 for Bill M. Thomas.

“She’s had some tough times lately,” Stute said. “We gave her a little rest and everything we seemed to do just backfired.”

Stute believes Klassy Kim has a good chance of winning.

“This is a good field, it’s going to be a good race,” Stute said. “This looks like it could be one of the graded stakes races. But I think Klassy Kim’s the horse to beat.”

In other Safely Kept developments:

Taisez Vous winner Raw Gold is ready to battle Klassy Kim and the Safely Kept field.

“She’s looking very good,” said Grant Hofmans, assistant to trainer David Hofmans. “This is going to be a tough race, but I think she’ll be right there with them.”

Raw Gold, a 3-year-old daughter of Rahy, is also a multiple-stakes winner, having won the Grade III Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year and, at age two, capturing the Grade II Landaluce Stakes. The bay filly most recently finished third in the Dec. 1 Pine Tree Lane. The Kentucky-bred has seven wins in 14 starts, with earnings of $347,877 for Ridder Thoroughbred Stable.

The 10-horse Safely Kept field, to be run at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, follows in post position order: Passerine, Julio Garcia, 116; Distinguish Forum, Rene Douglas, 114; Raw Gold, Alex Solis, 116; Call Now, Corey Black, 116; Grab The Prize, Laffit Pincay Jr., 117; Klassy Kim, Goncalino Almeida, 118; Salta’s Pride, David Flores, 113; Rhapsodic, Corey Nakatani, 114; Evil’s Pic, Gary Stevens, 116, and Majestic Number, Victor Espinoza, 113.


Hollywood Turf Express runner-up Cyrano Storme runs against a strong field of older horses in Sunday’s $60,000-added Dayjur Handicap.

“He’s in top shape,” trainer Jean-Pierre Dupuis said. “I like his chances, he’s always in the running and very consistent.”

The 6-year-old bay gelding has won five of 32 starts, while earning $426,209 for Robert and Beverly Lewis.

“I was very pleased with his effort in the Turf Express,” Dupuis said. “He beat everybody by two lengths, but he got beaten by a monster [Sandpit].”

The Irish-bred son of Cyrano de Bergerac will again be ridden by Rene Douglas, who guided him to victory in the 1995 Turf Express.

The seven-horse Dayjur field, to be run at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, follows in post position order: Silver Kite, Julio Garcia, 115; Makinanhonestbuck, Gary Stevens, 115; Cyrano Storme, Douglas, 121; Promising Wonder, Alex Solis, 113; Suggest, Corey Nakatani, 116; Stately Warrior, Corey Black, 114, and Banchory Baron, Brice Blanc, 112.


Trainer standings for the autumn meeting are very close entering the final weekend. Five trainers are within two wins of each other and the top ten trainers are separated by just three victories.

“It tells me we’re all kind of even in a sense,” said Mel Stute, who is tied for second with Mike Mitchell with eight wins. “There are some good trainers here. So, it’s nice to be near the top, but it’s been close all the way.”

Ron McAnally, whose most recent stakes win came in the Dec. 8 Bayakoa Handicap, leads all trainers with nine victories. The top trainers of the 1996 autumn meeting at Hollywood Park follow:

Trainer Wins Win %
Ron McAnally 9 18.7
Mike Mitchell 8 26.6
Mel Stute 8 15.0
Wally Dollase 7 28.0
Richard Mandella 7 16.2
Vladimir Cerin 6 26.0
Neil Drysdale 6 24.0
D. Wayne Lukas 6 19.3
David Hofmans 6 18.1
Dan Hendricks 6 17.1
Jack Carava 6 14.2


Chera Cluck rode her first career winner on Thursday, connecting aboard Desdimona in the ninth race.

“I feel great, but I haven’t absorbed all this yet,” Cluck said.

Cluck, 35, a San Juan Capistrano-native, started riding at Los Alamitos. She rode her first mount at Hollywood Park during the spring/summer meeting.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Cluck said of being a jockey. “They told me I was too old when I was 19 and I couldn’t let it go. I came back when I was 29, I did not know one person.”

Cluck worked horses at Fairplex and rode for the now-defunct Grande Vista del Rio, a farm in Corona, for four years. There, she got to know Desdimona.

“I broke Desdimona and it was just a crazy thing that Geri Olsen ended up buying her,” Cluck said. “She wanted me to ride her for a long time, and I turned down the mount three times. Then I finally accepted, so this has a lot of meaning for me.”

Desdimona, a 4-year-old daughter of Slew’s Royalty, won her maiden race in her ninth try and now has earnings of $21,825. The brown filly is trained by Michael Hop.

“I wanted to see how she’d run with a more experienced rider her last time out,” Cluck said. “She ran for me, I think, because we like one another.”

Cluck hopes to ride on the Southern California circuit next year.


This weekend’s simulcast line-up at Hollywood Park includes seven stakes races. On Saturday, the $100,000 Ladies Handicap from Aqueduct runs at 12:45 p.m., the $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. from Calder at 1 p.m., the $150,000 W.L. McKnight from Calder at 1:27 p.m., the $75,000 My Charmer from Turfway Park at 1:42 p.m. and the $50,000 Pago Hop from Fair Grounds at 2:15 p.m. Sunday, the $50,000 East View from Aqueduct runs at 12:45 p.m. and the $75,000 Christmas Futurity from Turf Paradise at 3:45 p.m.


Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. rode one winner Thursday, bringing his career total to 8,494. He is second on the all-time list behind Bill Shoemaker’s 8,833 winners. Pincay will celebrate his 50th birthday on Dec. 29.

FINISH LINES: Zanferrier, second in the Laz Barrera, worked six furlongs in 1:14 2/5 on Friday at Santa Anita . . . Promising 2-year-old colt P.T. Indy drilled five furlongs in :59 3/5 Friday.

The Running Horse (