Updated on 09/16/2011 7:48AM

Golden victory over illness and adversity


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Two knee surgeries, two bouts of colic, a last-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap in March, and Momentum could not stop Sky Jack from winning the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on Sunday.

The remarkable comeback was not lost on trainer Doug O'Neill, who on Sunday recalled visiting Sky Jack last year after he had undergone surgery for colic.

"I went out to see him shortly after the surgery and he did look awful, skin hanging on bones," O'Neill said.

On Sunday, was a picture of health, a robust gray 6-year-old who ran a powerful race on the front to hold off a stretch-long rally from a stubborn Momentum.

The final time of 2:01.73 for 1 1/4 miles was more than three seconds off the stakes record, but that meant little to jockey Laffit Pincay, who won a record ninth Gold Cup.

Pincay, 55, climbed off Sky Jack after a win in the 2000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park, convinced he had found a handicap star for 2001.

He was off by one year.

"This horse is unbelievable," Pincay said. "When he won the Native Diver, I thought he was the best horse in the country. I was surprised when he got hurt and more surprised when they said he almost died. He proved me right the way he ran."

The Gold Cup was the fourth race of Sky Jack's comeback, which includes a win in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap in May but also a last-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap. O'Neill blamed himself for the loss in the Big Cap, but credited owners Rene and Margie Lambert for giving him time to bring the gelding back to form.

"It is hard to find owners like that, who invest that much money and are that patient about where you run," he said.

The Gold Cup will not be a springboard to the national stage for Sky Jack.

Because he is not Breeders' Cup eligible, Sky Jack has the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Oak Tree on Nov. 2, as a long-term goal, O'Neill said. The $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 25 is a possibility.

"I don't think you'll confuse him with Crystal Water or any of the other greats that have won this race," O'Neill said of the 1977 Gold Cup winner. "But I know I will."

Beverly D. next for Astra

Astra, the undisputed leader of the West Coast's female turf division, will make her next start in the $700,000 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 17, trainer Laura de Seroux said.

Astra won her third stakes of 2002 in the Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 29, and was a candidate for the $400,000 John Mabee Ramona Handicap at Del Mar on July 27.

But de Seroux is unhappy about the three-week time difference between the Ramona and the Beverly D. "I think it's a little quick after the Ramona, especially going to a mile and a quarter race," de Seroux said.

The 6-year-old Astra may not have another prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 26 after the Beverly D.

"It may just be the two races," de Seroux said. "She can do it. She's easy to keep fit. She gallops strong and puts a lot into her work."

Astra is one of several top-class fillies in de Seroux's stable this year.

Azeri, the winner of four consecutive Grade 1 races and considered the West Coast's top older female on dirt, is being pointed for the Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 11. Her long-term goal is the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Dublino, the disqualified winner of the American Oaks on July 6, is being pointed for the Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 24, de Seroux said.

The stable's most recent acquisition is Little Treasure, a 3-year-old who won the Prix de Bagatelle at Chantilly, France, on May 21. Little Treasure is being pointed for the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap over a mile on turf for 3-year-olds fillies on Aug. 3.

Valdivia and Sorenson injured

Jose Valdivia Jr. and Danny Sorenson took off their mounts over the weekend after being injured in separate incidents.

In Friday's second race, run on turf, Valdivia was thrown from Flying Heart when the filly went over the inside rail in midstretch after being crowded by Ourfirstattraction. Valdivia was briefly hospitalized and missed the weekend because of a sprained wrist. He is booked to ride on Wednesday.

Ourfirstattraction was ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, who was held blameless by track stewards.

Sorenson took off his mounts late Saturday and Sunday after being injured in a spill in Saturday's seventh race. Sorenson was unseated from Rampant Control when the gelding stumbled shortly after the start.

"He was bruised pretty good," said Paige Schvaneveldt, Sorenson's agent. "It got him pretty good in the thigh. It all happened so fast. He couldn't get away from the horse. He took off because he was sore, but he'll try to ride on Wednesday."

This has been a rough Hollywood Park meeting for Sorenson, who missed three weeks earlier in the spring due to an ankle injury. Said Schvaneveldt, "We're hoping to have a better Del Mar meeting."

Tribal Rule retired

Tribal Rule, a winner of two allowance races in fast times at Del Mar last summer, has been retired after injuring a sesamoid in an allowance race on July 10.

Tribal Rule never started in a stakes in his four-race career, but was considered a hopeful for the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year before being sidelined after Del Mar.

The Sprint was Tribal Rule's goal for 2002 when the injury was discovered last week. In his only start of the current campaign, Tribal Rule finished a neck behind Mighty David after six furlongs in 1:08.27, the fastest six furlongs of the current meeting.

"He was a hard-luck horse with unbelievable talent," owner Marty Wygod said. "I was hoping to get to the Breeders' Cup Sprint."

A 6-year-old by Storm Cat, Tribal Rule will be sent to Wygod's River Edge Farm in Buellton, Calif.

"I'm going to support him with my own mares and he'll be available to select mares," Wygod said.

* Pincay, who through Sunday was third in the jockey standings behind Valenzuela and Alex Solis, will miss Wednesday through Friday after dropping an appeal of a three-day suspension from Santa Anita earlier this year. He will return to riding on Saturday for the final two days of the Hollywood Park meeting.

* Ron Anson and Trudy McCaffery have been elected to the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. Anson and McCaffery join a 12-member board. Ron Charles, Jack B. Owens, and Don Valpredo were re-elected on the 2002 ballot. Both Anson and McCaffery were represented by stakes-winning horses on Sunday. McCaffery co-owns Came Home, the winner of the Swaps, while Anson owns Irguns Angel, the winner of the A Gleam Handicap.