05/08/2005 11:00PM

On cloud nine, Shirreffs gets back to work

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Benoit & Associates
Hollywood Story had a rough time but still won Sunday's Hawthorne.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, a little more than 14 hours after Giacomo had won the , his trainer, John Shirreffs, was back at Hollywood Park, overseeing his 45-horse stable.

Courtesy of a private flight with owners Jerry and Ann Moss on Saturday night, Shirreffs was back at his Pasadena home before midnight on Derby Day, reliving a remarkable day before a brief night of sleep.

"It was a long day and a really big day," said Shirreffs, 59. "I was like a little kid. You want to jump into bed and dream about it."

Shirreffs could not get far on Sunday morning without accepting congratulations throughout the barn area. By 8:30 a.m., he was back in his office, describing himself as being "on cloud nine."

Later in the morning, Shirreffs finally had a chance to watch a tape of the Kentucky Derby from start to finish, having seen only glimpses of the race live from trackside at Churchill Downs. During the actual running, Shirreffs saw enough of the race to know what a remarkable ride jockey Mike Smith gave Giacomo, weaving his way through the stretch to post the second-biggest upset in the race's history.

When the replay was over, Shirreffs sat behind his desk wearing a big grin, while several stable employees cheered. Later, he reflected on Giacomo's constitution.

"You have to have a tough horse, with a lot of different ingredients," Shirreffs said. "He's tough. He doesn't mind taking dirt in the face."

Sunday was also Shirreffs's first chance to see Hollywood Story's accident-defying win in Saturday's at Hollywood Park. A top older female in the Shirreffs stable, Hollywood Story clipped heels with the longshot Cissy on the first turn, then recovered to win by 2 1/2 lengths after a wide rally on the second turn.

Hollywood Story was favored, but Giacomo ($102.60) was ignored. That didn't matter to Shirreffs. "I never gamble," he said.

In the buildup to the Derby, he was not too bothered by the public impression that California's contenders were a bunch of duds.

"We're on the other side of the Rockies," he said with a laugh. "Maybe to them, it's another country."

Shirreffs came away with fond memories of the minutes after the race.

"You're kind of caught up in the excitement of the moment," he said. "I didn't know where the winner's circle was. The exciting thing was the way the crowd was reacting when Mike Smith was bringing the horse back on the outside fence. It was a like a victory lap after the Olympics. It was really cool."

Across Southern California, Shirreffs's employees were celebrating simultaneously on Saturday afternoon.

Some attended a Derby party, while assistants Michelle Jensen and Felipe Rivera and veterinarian Dawn Hunkin watched with a rowdy group of grooms and hotwalkers in the stable office a few hours before Hollywood Story's race.

Jensen described the scene as "everyone screaming" when Giacomo rallied through the stretch.

Exercise rider Gerard Gaidosch watched from home with his family and was so excited by the result that he said he threw a chair out of an open window.

"I'm just glad there wasn't anybody below on the first floor," he said. "It was in four pieces."

Others made plans to head to the bank on Monday morning. Apprentice jockey Sabina Seibel, who rides Giacomo in workouts, bet $100 to win, which was worth a cool $5,130.

After Sunday's fifth race at Hollywood Park, Jerry and Ann Moss were honored in the winner's circle at Hollywood along with Shirreffs and his wife, Dottie, who is the Mosses' racing manager.

Mosses send Shirreffs new crop

Last week, a group of 2-year-olds owned by the Mosses arrived at Shirreffs's stable.

The group is not expected to start until well into the summer or fall. Shirreffs tends to take his time with juveniles; Giacomo did not debut until July of last year.

There are three colts that have already gained attention - Tatsuji (by Fusaichi Pegasus), Telepathic (by Tiznow), and King's Bet (by Kingmambo).

Derby Day business down

Hollywood Park's business fell on Kentucky Derby Day compared to 2004.

Saturday's ontrack crowd of 20,515 marked a decrease of 4.5 percent.

Handle figures fell more substantially. The ontrack handle of $4,359,449 was down 12 percent, while the all-sources handle of $21,898,468 marked a decrease of 10 percent.

In 2004, the Kentucky Derby simulcast at Hollywood Park included a pick six carryover of more than $86,000 on the live racing. There was no carryover for Saturday's card.

Stanley Park could go in Murray

Until Saturday, the most accomplished horse this year on the Moss-Shirreffs team was Stanley Park, the winner of the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita on March 27.

He is scheduled to start at the current Hollywood Park meeting.

Fourth in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap on April 16, Stanley Park is questionable for Saturday's $350,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf, Shirreffs said.

Saturday, Stanley Park worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park in 1:19.80.

"He worked a little slow," Shirreffs said. "We'll see how he trains this week. I want to see how energetic he is in his gallops."

Shirreffs said a backup plan is the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf on June 11.

The Murray, named for the late Los Angeles Times sportswriter, should be an excellent race. The probable starters include Continental Red, Deputy Lad, Exterior, Pellegrino, Runaway Dancer, Sarafan, T.H. Approval, and Vangelis.

The Murray is the top race on a program that includes two $150,000 stakes - the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at 1 1/16 miles and the Grade 3 Los Angeles Times Handicap at six furlongs.

The candidates for the Mervyn LeRoy feature Ace Blue, Anziyan Royalty, Awesome Dividend, Borrego, Ender's Shadow, Lava Man, Outta Here, and Perfect Moon.

In the Los Angeles Times Handicap, Areyoutalkintome, Forest Grove, Shadow of Illinois, and Tsigane are the leading probable starters.

Dime supers start Wednesday

Hollywood Park will begin offering dime superfectas on Wednesday after the tote machines were changed over the weekend to allow the bet to be offered on self-service machines and at mutuel windows, said general manager Eual Wyatt Jr.

Dime superfectas have been offered at other tracks around the country, and in California through simulcasting.

Hollywood Park received permission from the California Horse Racing Board last week to begin offering the discounted wager.

Track officials do not know what effect dime superfectas will have on the size of the pools. Last Wednesday, for example, superfectas were offered on four of the eight races. The pools ranged from $34,432 to $121,288 and averaged $71,302. The bet will be offered on races with eight or more betting interests.

A less-expensive superfecta is likely to attract interest from bettors on a budget, as well as current superfecta players. By knocking the price down to a dime, superfecta bettors accustomed to playing $1 units are likely to avoid the current tax ramifications imposed on winnings, since 10-cent superfectas are less likely to pay $600 or more, which attracts the attention of the Internal Revenue Service.