04/21/2010 11:00PM

Two bring to mind days gone by


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Santa Anita season went out last weekend with the bang of Tuscan Evening and Bourbon Bay, two bona fide stars with travelogue names, accompanied by the whimper of its predictably disappointing business figures in face of factors both self-inflicted and imposed.

That used to not matter. Fans used to not need to care. The business of racing chugged along in a parallel world - up or down, flat or flourishing - while customers were asked only to enjoy the show, bet with both fists, and tolerate the hot dogs. Now, fans are forced to stomach the bottom-line woes of an MEC, a CDI, a NYRA - stock symbols more than stadiums - like children unhappy that the parents are fighting downstairs.

It is fair to acknowledge the fact that Santa Anita's management just spent the last four months looking over one shoulder trying to operate the state's richest meet while worrying about the machinations of its bankrupt parent company and flinching in the other direction at the slightest hint of a raindrop that could clog its troubled synthetic surface. These are legitimate concerns.

But the idea that fans share their pain has become a dreary, inside-the-beltway fetish. People either go to the races or they don't, and the reasons are as old and as obvious as the bricks and mortar that still hold racetracks in place. The product is either fun, convenient, well-priced and hip, or its not. And if it's not, if horse racing doesn't find a way to become an iPad app, for instance, or treat its core supporters with consistent, kid-glove class, then they can rearrange those corporate deck chairs all they want and the boat will still keep sinking.

Besides, and believe it or not, the important stuff is still happening out there between the lines. In winning the Santa Barbara Handicap last Saturday, Tuscan Evening did something that only very, very good older horses do these days, which is to win consecutive stakes races over a 105-day period at 6 1/2, eight, nine, and 10 furlongs.

Granted, Tuscan Evening barely raised her pulse trotting around out there to win the Santa Barbara, but her grace under competitive pressure should hold up well in greater challenges, and her people - Will de Burgh, Jerry Hollendorfer and Rafael Bejarano - should enjoy the view.

Likewise, Bourbon Bay was nothing less than a reliable investment commodity through Santa Anita's three longest events, lasting nearly five miles laid end to end, commencing with the San Luis Obispo and the San Luis Rey and climaxed by his victory on Sunday in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap. Unlike Tuscan Evening, however, Bourbon Bay was fully extended.

"He won't be doing that again," said a proud and relieved Neil Drysdale, after checking on his horse in the test barn. Bourbon Bay was, in technical terms, pooped.

"The conventional thinking is that if a horse can get a mile and a half, he can get a mile and three-quarters," Drysdale said. "That's not necessarily the case. It can be a bit of a jump. He got that last part on class."

O'Callaghan back to Earth

It figures to be an equally dizzying leap for Carl O'Callaghan to descend from the heights of winning the $2omillion Dubai Golden Shaheen with Kinsale King last month to running the 3-year-old Leaving New York, a Cal-bred (good joke), in the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

The Snow Chief is the highlight of the $910,000 Gold Rush Day of eight races for horses either bred in the state or sired by a California stallion. The challenges range from 6 1/2 furlongs to the nine furlongs of the Snow Chief, and with Caracortado sitting this one out, the heart and soul of the race looks like it belongs to the Sham Stakes winner Alphie's Bet. But he threw in a clunker last time out in the Santa Anita Derby, so hope should spring eternal among the rest.

Leaving New York, a son of Tribal Rule, won his first race in his third try on Valentine's Day at Santa Anita. After that, he was shipped north to Golden Gate with the rest of the O'Callaghan stable so that Kinsale King could get the feel of a Tapeta synthetic surface, same as he would encounter in Dubai. As plans go, that one worked just fine.

"We're still a little bit on cloud nine around here, and why not?" O'Callaghen said Thursday morning from Hollywood, where his stable has resettled. "I've had lot of nice calls, and a chance at some new horses, which is great. I've never been one to go out hustling new clients."

He may have to learn, but give him a break. O'Callaghan won't celebrate the first anniversary of his first starter until May 2. Winning the Golden Shaheen with Kinsale King was a good way to mark his freshman year as a public trainer, and Leaving New York played a part. Dr. Patrick Sheehy owns them both.

"The last work Kinsale King had before Dubai, he worked with Leaving New York, and it was a pretty good work," O'Callaghan said. "I've always thought he could turn out to be a special horse."

Leaving New York had a brief illness while O'Callaghan was in Dubai and lost a week of training.

"The Snow Chief comes up as kind of a Catch-22," O'Callaghan said. "You don't want to miss a race like this, and the trip will be no problem for him. I wish I had another week with him, but I think he'll give them a run for their money."