08/29/2012 4:48PM

St. John's River gets vacation until Fair Grounds opens

Barbara D. Livingston
St. John's River's, who raced once at Saratoga this summer, will be given an extended vacation.

St. John’s River, the Kentucky Oaks runner-up in 2011, is being given some time off and is to resume training this winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, according to her trainer, Andrew Leggio Jr.

“That’s the plan right now, unless things change,” he said.

St. John’s River had been based this summer at Saratoga, and in her last start July 26 was second as the odds-on favorite in a second-level allowance. She was beaten 3 1/2 lengths, one race removed from a third-place finish to Royal Delta in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.

“We’ve turned her out for a couple of months,” said Leggio, who trains St. John’s River for Dede McGehee. “She had a little problem with her airway last time, running in that race. Ms. Dede wanted to give her a little break. She’s in Kentucky.”

St. John’s River got her start at Fair Grounds, winning her maiden at the track in January 2011, then finishing second in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. She would go on to run second by a neck in the Kentucky Oaks won by Plum Pretty. St. John’s River began her 2012 season with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs in May.

Trainer Cline dead at 70

Leon Cline, a trainer for 50 years whose most recent starters came in April at Oaklawn Park, died last Saturday at National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs, Ark. He was 70. Cline died of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his wife, Donna Cline. Funeral services were to be held Wednesday at Union Valley Baptist Church in Perryville, Ark.

Cline was born in Hazel Park, Mich., and spent his youth in Oklahoma, where he rode in match races before there was parimutuel racing in the state. Cline would go on to train and became noted for his work with the top Appaloosa runner Cricket Bars. He later decided to switch to Thoroughbreds, and first spent time working as an assistant to trainers Bob Holthus and Lynn Whiting, said Donna Cline.

Cline’s top Thoroughbred runners included Dee Mzee, who raced at both Oaklawn and in New York. Donna Cline also recalled that one of her husband’s trainees accounted for half of a record daily double at Oaklawn in 1971. The horse was Faithful Win($176.40) and the double returned $6,902.

Cline’s survivors include sons Justin and Robert Cline, who work in racing, and daughters Angella Lee, Cindy Payne, and Lonna Larson. He also has nine grandchildren.

Oklahoma sets dates for 2013

The Oklahoma Racing Commission has granted 2013 dates, with Remington Park to race Thoroughbreds from Aug. 9 through Dec. 8 in a 67-date season that mirrors the current meet. Remington was also granted a 50-date Quarter Horse meet from March 8 through June 2.

In other allotments, Will Rogers Downs in Claremore will run a 32-date Thoroughbred meet from March 4 through May 18. The track’s Quarter Horse meet will extend from Sept. 7 through Nov. 9. Fair Meadows in Tulsa, meanwhile, was granted a 34-date mixed meet from June 6 through July 27.

◗ Heritage Place, an auction house in Oklahoma City that features Quarter Horses, has announced plans for a Thoroughbred mixed sale on Dec. 8. It will be for horses of all ages, and is being put on with the support of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma.

◗ The Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and the Texas Thoroughbred Association are teaming up to support a new magazine, Southern Racehorse. It will cover the two states and feature “personality profiles, how-to articles, and horse health tips,” said publisher Denis Blake, former editor of the discontinued magazine, The Texas Thoroughbred.

◗ Philip Webber of Hot Springs Village, Ark., won a two-day handicapping tournament over 77 other players last weekend at Oaklawn and in addition to $6,000 cash earned a trip to Las Vegas for the Horse Players World Series at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in February.

◗ Jockey Gilbert Ortiz has been named as the recipient of the second annual Sam Thompson Memorial Jockey Award. He will be honored Sunday at Ruidoso Downs. The winner is determined by a vote among active jockeys, and spotlights character.

◗ Louisiana Downs leading rider Richard Eramia enters Friday’s card two wins from 1,000 victories in North America.