11/06/2001 12:00AM

Energizer bunny Pincay notches another title


ARCADIA, Calif. - The durability of Laffit Pincay Jr. continues to amaze.

On Monday, Pincay, 54, clinched his third riding title of 2001 with two winners on the final day of the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita. Pincay finished the six-week meeting with 33 winners, two more than 37-year-old Alex Solis.

Pincay has won five riding titles at the Oak Tree meeting, including the 2000 title.

Earlier this year, Pincay won riding titles at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting and the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting before finishing second at Del Mar.

Although he was scheduled to resume riding Wednesday at Hollywood Park, the opening day of the autumn meeting, Pincay said a fourth riding title this year may be out of his reach. He is considering taking a mid-December vacation with his wife, Jeanine, before the Hollywood Park meeting ends on Dec. 17.

"I want to take some time off," Pincay said. "I won't miss a lot of days."

Pincay finished the Oak Tree meeting well, winning three races on Saturday's California Cup program.

"Two weeks ago, I didn't give us any chance," said his agent, Bob Meldahl.

Pincay's lack of travel worked to his advantage. While Solis left California for the Breeders' Cup, Pincay stayed at home.

"There are so many things that can happen," Pincay said. "You have to get the breaks. It could have gone the other way, but it's nice to finish in front."

Pincay is closely allied with Bill Spawr, who led trainers at the Oak Tree meeting with 13 winners, three more than Richard Mandella. Spawr and Pincay won twice on closing day Monday, with McAdam ($8.60) in the first and Hemet Thought ($9) in the third.

Handle up, crowd down

Handle and attendance results for the 32-day meeting were mixed. While average overall handle, including statewide and nationwide sources, grew 3.6 percent from 2000 to $10,111,519, ontrack average attendance fell 5.7 percent to 10,532. Average ontrack handle was relatively unchanged, falling $3,277 to $2,348,877.

Oak Tree management announced a 6 percent purse increase on Oct. 31, retroactive to the start of the meeting. The increase put purses on the same level as the start of the 2000 meeting, which was plagued by disappointing business and an 8 percent purse cut.

El Cielo: King of the hill

El Cielo lowered the course record for about 6 1/2 furlongs with his second victory in the $107,800 Morvich Handicap on Monday.

Winning for the fifth consecutive time down the hillside, El Cielo was timed in 1:11.46, shaving .11 of a second off Comininalittlehot's 1996 record set in the same race.

"It's El Cielo mountain," trainer Craig Dollase said of the hillside course. Owned by a partnership, the 7-year-old El Cielo has made a career of turf sprints. The Morvich was his fourth stakes win, and third on the hillside course.

Ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., El Cielo, the 123-pound highweight, stalked pacesetters Islander and Speak in Passing until the field crossed over the main track. Once back on the main turf course, El Cielo dueled with Speak in Passing before pulling away to win by a half-length. Speak in Passing finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Islander in the field of six.

"He's the ultimate racehorse," Dollase said of El Cielo. "He carried the weight and deservingly so. I was a little worried there wouldn't be enough speed. He doesn't like to lose."

Last year, El Cielo won the Morvich Handicap and Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express in an 18-day span. The $200,000 Turf Express on Nov. 23 is under consideration, Dollase said.

"Maybe we'll go for the double," Dollase said. "He's done it before. We'll see how he comes back."