Jingle Bell Hop Posts Christmas Eve Victory

Just in time for Christmas, aptly named Jingle Bell Hop ran the right race on the right day. Trainer Vladimir Cerin had said that if his winless filly didn't hit the win column on Christmas Eve, it might never happen.

Jingle Bell Hop didn't let Cerin down. Without a victory in four starts and forced to settle for two seconds earlier at the meet, the 3-year-old won easily Sunday under Gary Stevens in the last race of Hollywood Park's fall season.

Bred and owned by John and Betty Mabee, Jingle Bell Hop was the 2-1 morning-line favorite. She went off at even less--backed, no doubt, by last-gasp hunch players--and paid $4.80 for $2, running 5 1/2 furlongs on grass in 1:03 3/5.

"Maybe I should ride a Jingle Bell Hop every Christmas Eve," said Stevens, who had a gut-wrenching season that was marred by the death of his good friend, jockey Chris Antley, and the receipt a week ago of an unrelated extortion letter. Inglewood police arrested two men in connection with the extortion scheme.

Trainer Warren Stute, unable to derail Jingle Bell Hop with his Got The Memo in the finale, won the closing-day feature, the $78,250 On Trust Handicap, with another offspring of the Chilean-bred sire Memo when Grey Memo rallied for a one-length win.

Grey Memo, ridden by Garrett Gomez, lacked a finishing kick in his seven previous races, but Sunday he made up nine lengths after outrunning only one horse through the first half-mile. None of the horses in the seven-horse field had won his previous start, and Cliquot, who finished second after not withstanding Grey Memo, lost for the ninth consecutive time. Cliquot's last victory came in last year's On Trust.

Favored Unlimited Value was the early leader before finishing fourth. Grey Memo, winning for the fifth time in 18 starts overall, earned $48,250 after running 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:28 1/5. His last win came in the Snow Chief on April 30 at Hollywood Park, where he has scored three of his victories.