10/11/2001 11:00PM

Sprint star Cover Gal retires at age 4


ARCADIA, Calif. - Cover Gal, a two-time California-bred champion, has been retired, trainer Lance Stokes said Friday.

The announcement brings to an end the career of one of the state's top sprinting fillies over the last two years.

"She was sound, but she wasn't quite the same," Stokes said. "She had some thin-walled feet. We decided rather than spend the time to get her right, we'd send her to the breeding shed."

Stokes said Cover Gal is on her way to Kentucky but that a mating has not been finalized. He said owners Bill Peeples, Danny Valdez, and Reed Workman are considering Fusaichi Pegasus, Point Given, and St. Ballado.

A 4-year-old, Cover Gal won six stakes and $600,699, dominating the statebred division in 1999 and 2000 when she won championships as the outstanding 2-year-old and 3-year-old filly.

At 2, she won three stakes, including the California Cup Juvenile Fillies over 1 1/16 miles, a performance that proved she was not just a sprinter. At 3, she had her best season, winning three stakes and finishing second to Spain, the winner of the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff, in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita.

Stokes considers the La Brea as Cover Gal's best race. "It was a Grade 1," Stokes said.

Earlier this year, Cover Gal was third in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita, the highlight of her final year on the track.

Cal Cup Classic field shaping up

Irisheyesareflying, the winner of the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs, and Romanceishope, the Del Mar Derby winner who started in the Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita, are among the leading contenders for the $250,000 California Cup Classic on Nov. 3.

The Cal Cup Classic, run over 1 1/8 miles, is the top race on a 10-race program showcasing statebreds. Overall, the day is worth $1.275 million.

With three weeks remaining, the Cal Cup Classic hopefuls include Figlio Mio, Grey Memo, Lily's Lad, and Waingarth. Figlio Mio has overcome a recent quarter crack to return to training.

Trained by John Sadler, Waingarth was a stakes winner at Del Mar in August and won an allowance race at Santa Anita last weekend.

"He deseves a shot in there," said trainer John Sadler. "Now that he's won two allowance races, he'll make his living among Cal-breds. I hope he's another Grey Memo type."

Grey Memo, a winner of 6 of 28 starts and $530,611, starts in a $58,000 allowance race over seven furlongs on Sunday, which has drawn a solid field of six. Earlier this fall, the 4-year-old Grey Memo was second in the Pomona Invitational Handicap at Fairplex Park.

Trainer John Shirreffs said Lily's Lad may start in the Califronia Cup Mile, which is run on turf. The race is also expected to draw Native Desert, who has resumed workouts after bruising a foot earlier this fall.

Two stakes get purse boosts

The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association has added $25,000 to two stakes for California-breds at the Hollywood Park fall meeting.

The On Trust Handicap for older horses on Nov. 22 and the Cat's Cradle Handicap for fillies and mares on Nov. 23 will be run for $100,000 over 7 1/2 furlongs. Both races were published with purses of $75,000.

"Obviously, this strengthens our program for Cal-breds at the autumn meet," said Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza.

The fall meeting, which runs from Nov. 7 to Dec. 17, does not have any other stakes restricted to California-breds.

Officer's half-sister struggling

Officer, the winner of the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, is likely to be the shortest price on Breeders' Cup Day when he starts in the Juvenile at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

His older half-sister's form, however, leaves something to be desired.

On Oct. 6, Whimsical Goddess, who is by Mountain Cat, finished seventh as the 8-5 favorite in a six-furlong maiden race at Bay Meadows. A California-bred, Whimsical Goddess was never a factor, finishing 14 3/4 lengths behind race winner Silver Screen Girl.