07/10/2004 11:00PM

Total Impact surprises in Gold Cup

Total Imapct scores a 1 1/4-length win over Olmodavor in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Total Impact had developed such a habit of placing in major stakes that trainer Laura de Seroux watched Saturday's $750,000 from her San Diego county home, not expecting him to win.

She missed an eyewitness view of the best performance of Total Impact's career.

Given a ground-saving ride from jockey Mike Smith, Total Impact ($15.40) pulled clear in the final furlong to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Olmodavor. Even the Score, the 7-10 favorite, was third in the field of seven.

De Seroux was delighted to have incorrectly predicted the outcome.

"I thought we'd run a place," she said by telephone. "I thought Even the Score looked a cinch."

The victory ended a seven-race losing streak for Total Impact, dating back to the 2003 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap. The Grade 1 Gold Cup marked his first success at that level since the Group 1 Tanteo de Potillos in 2001, his final start in Chile.

The victory was worth $450,000 to Sultan al Kabeer and Bridport S.A. Total Impact, 6, has won 5 of 18 starts and $1,1595,68.

Total Impact was third along the rail for the first six furlongs, tracking Yessirgeneralsir and Royal Moro through early fractions of 23.93 and 46.97 seconds. He was still third on the final turn, but engaged Yessirgeneralsir in early stretch.

"I could see he was going to get through and Mike had plenty of horse," de Seroux said.

Total Impact took the lead from Yessirgeneralsir at the eighth pole, but was in a fight for the lead until the sixteenth pole with the pacesetter and Even the Score. At one point, the trio was within a half-length.

Total Impact slowly went clear, finishing 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.72. The Gold Cup marked his third stakes appearance at the meeting, following a third in the Grade 2 Mervn LeRoy Handicap on May 8 and a second in the Grade 2 Californian on June 12. Even the Score won both races.

"I was hoping to win and we did change tactics," de Seroux said. "In the Leroy, Mike followed a fast pace and he thought that's what got him beat. We wanted to wait as long as possible. It was more of a relaxed pace than the LeRoy and the Californian."

Even the Score was denied a chance to become the second horse in history to sweep the three major dirt stakes of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, which was accomplished in 1981 by Eleven Stitches.

In Saturday's Grade 1 Gold Cup, Even the Score was wide on both turns, which trainer Vladimir Cerin said cost him the race.

"The shape of the race was not in our favor," he said. "I don't think this was his best race. We were dead going into the first turn. When they put up $750,000, they're don't hand you the race."

Total Impact and Even the Score will be pointed for the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22. This time, de Seroux promises that she will be there.