The Kentucky Derby Saturday was a prime topic of discussion as horsemen went about their duties in the Hollywood Park stable area Wednesday morning.
Chances of California-based horses appeared unusually strong although many bemoaned the challenging post positions drawn by 3-1 morning-line favorite Lookin at Lucky and 5-1 second choice Sidney’s Candy, the rail and the outside post, respectively, in a field of 20.
Some random comments and selections:
Trainer Ron Ellis—“California horses have shown they’re the class of the field. Post 20 may not be bad at all for Sidney’s Candy, although the rail may be tough for Lookin at Lucky.”
Trainer Mark Glatt—“I think California is pretty solid. The complexion of the race is a lot different with Eskendereya out. If Sidney’s Candy is willing to rate a little, he’s got a heckuva chance.”
Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg—“I like Sidney’s Candy.”
Trainer Ben Cecil—“I like John Sadler’s horse, Sidney’s Candy.”
Trainer Marty Jones—“The California horses.”
Trainer Carl O’Callaghan (a former Todd Pletcher assistant)—“Any one of the (four) Pletcher horses, but I’m rooting for Sidney’s Candy and (jockey) Joe Talamo.”
Trainer Craig Dollase—“I’d like to see the California horses do well. They’re always knocking us on the East Coast that we can’t run.”
Racing secretary Martin Panza—“Dublin. I think it’s time for Wayne Lukas.”
The Kentucky Derby will be simulcast at Hollywood Park. Gates open at 7 a.m., simulcasts begin at 7:30, and live racing begins at 11.
The CashCall Futurity and Hollywood Starlet, the 2-year-old championship events of Hollywood Park’s Autumn meet, have long served as barometers of future success.
That case was never made more strongly than in 2010. Lookin at Lucky, winner of the Futurity, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Noble’s Promise and Make Music For Me, who finished 2-3 in the Futurity, are also in the field of 20.
Blind Luck, a seven-length winner of the Hollywood Starlet, was made the 6-5 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks Friday. She will break from post 5 in the field of 14 3-year-old fillies.
Rafael Bejarano will ride the filly for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in a lineup that also includes Amen Hallelujah, third-place finisher in the Starlet, and locally-based Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp, to be ridden by Joel Rosario for trainer John Sadler; and Ashland Stakes winner Evening Jewel, trained by Jim Cassidy.
Lookin at Lucky will have to overcome the No. 1 post in a field of 20 under Garrett Gomez for trainer Bob Baffert. Noble’s Promise drew post 3 and Make Music for Me will leave from the 9 hole under Joel Rosario for trainer Alexis Barba.
In addition to the trio, the Derby offers a strong California flavor with the John Sadler-trained duo of Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy with Joe Talamo and Arkansas Derby winner Line of David with Bejarano.
Baffert has a second entrant in Conveyance with Martin Garcia up.
David Flores will ride Hollywood Prevue Stakes and Illinois Derby winner American Lion for trainer Eoin Harty. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith picked up the mount on Jackson Bend for Nick Zito.
The Kentucky Oaks will be simulcast here Friday afternoon during a matinee program. The Oaks card at Churchill Downs features six graded stakes, including a rematch between New Orleans Ladies Stakes winner Zardana and runner-up Rachel Alexandra in the $400,000 La Troienne Stakes.
Santa Anita Derby runner-up Setsuko, who just missed getting into the Derby (22nd among entrants in graded earnings) instead will contest the $175,000 American Turf Stakes Friday under Bejarano for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. Chocolate Candy, 2008 Futurity runner-up, will compete in the $150,000 Alysheba Stakes.
Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, who won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with Fusaichi Pegasus, and jockey Victor Espinoza, who won the race in 2004 aboard War Emblem, will be at Hollywood Park Saturday to compete in the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap.
Drysdale will send out probable favorite Cat By The Tale with jockey Tyler Baze, while Espinoza will be aboard Exquisite for conditioner Paddy Gallagher. A field of 10 was entered in the Grade III test for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.
Cat by the Tale, a consistent 5-year-old mare, finished second behind Tuscan Evening in her last start in the Santa Ana Handicap at Santa Anita on March 21. She won the Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap there in January. Drysdale will be looking for his second win in the Wilshire. He won with Sapphire Ring in 1999.
Espinoza had a memorable Kentucky Derby Day victory here in 2005 when he won the Hawthorne Handicap aboard favored Hollywood Story after nearly going down in tight quarters on the first turn.
Trainer Ben Cecil confirmed from Santa Anita that he planned to enter a trio of Irish-breds in the $100,000 Senorita Stakes, a Grade III for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf Sunday.
“They’re all doing well,” said Cecil of the triumvirate of Andina, Bab At The Bowster and Elusive Galaxy. Joe Talamo has the call on Andina, and Tyler Baze will ride Elusive Galaxy. The assignment on Bab At The Bowster is pending.
Andina finished second in the Providencia Stakes on the Santa Anita turf April 3 in her last start. Elusive Galaxy finished second in an allowance race at Santa Anita last time out, and Bab at the Bowster was fifth in the China Doll in her first in this country in February.
Trainer Jim Cassidy also plans to enter a pair of Irish-breds, I’mneverwrong with Victor Espinoza in quest of her third straight victory; and English import Hasty in her United States debut.
Irish-breds have won the last three editions of the Senorita: Valbenny in 2007, Sweeter Still in 2008, and Mrs Kipling last year. English-bred Foxysox began the domination of European imports by winning the race in 2006.
City to City, the likely favorite on the strength of consecutive victories in the China Doll and Providencia, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Cushion Track. Joel Rosario will again ride.
Other probable starters include Cozi Rosie (Mike Smith), Glory Pride (Rafael Bejarano), Harissa and Pulpit Magic.
Rail Trip, winner of the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup, worked seven furlongs in 1:24.20 on Cushion Track to the delight of trainer Ron Ellis.
“He was smokin’ around there, but he did it very nicely,” said Ellis after the drill under exercise rider Jose Dominguez. “He went the last five-eighths in 59 and one.”
Rail Trip, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, is scheduled to return in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May. It will be his first start since he finished third in the Pacific Classic last September at Del Mar.
“He was just worn out and feet-sore,” explained Ellis of the layoff. “He had a long year. I gave him 60 days off but he never left the barn.”
Rail Trip apparently appreciated his vacation. “He’s doing awesome,” said Ellis. “The time off really did him good. He’s filled out.”
Rail Trip finished second in both the Mervyn LeRoy and Californian locally last year before winning the Gold Cup.
Ellis plans the same route this year. The $150,000 Grade II Mervyn LeRoy is at 1 1/16 miles. The $150,000 Grade II Californian is at 1 1/8 miles on June 12, then comes the $500,000 Grade I Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles on July 10.
*FINISH LINES—*Trainer A.C. Avila, a close friend of jockey Omar Berrio, said the 41-year-old veteran should return to action next week following a spill here Sunday. “He’s got some bruises in his ribs and his upper right leg, the femur,” said Avila. “He will be out through Sunday and will try to gallop on Monday.” Berrio was unseated on the track by Dave’s Pacemaker shortly before the start of the seventh race…Superstar mare Zenyatta breezed an easy half mile in 52.40 seconds Tuesday in preparation for a possible start in the $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap here on June 13. If the 6-year-old mare does indeed run in the Vanity, she would try to become the first three time winner of the Grade 1…Apprentice jockey Jesus Velasquez, 19, is hoping to crack the circuit here. “He’s been here about a month,” said agent Marco Figueroa of the Puerto Rican native. “He started riding in Puerto Rico, went to Philadelphia Park three months last year, went back to Puerto Rico and came here,” explained Figueroa. “He tacks 108 pounds.”
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