Comma to the Top seeks to punctuate a banner Autumn Meet by turning a question mark into an exclamation point with a victory in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Rising from a maiden win in $50,000 claiming company to a graded stakes winner, Comma to the Top seeks his fifth straight victory in his first outing in Grade I company. Thirteen 2-year-olds are expected to compete in the 1 1/16-mile race on Cushion Track.
Comma to the Top, a Florida-bred gelding by Bwana Charlie, aims to complete an unprecedented “Triple Crown” sweep at the meet after scores in the Real Quiet Stakes on the main track and Grade III Generous Stakes on turf in his previous two outings.
Trainer Peter Miller again expects to see Comma to the Top in his customary position of setting the pace under Corey Nakatani. “He’s the speed in my mind,” said Miller after the gelding worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds Sunday. “He could rate, but I think he’s faster than the other horses.”
Miller explained the name. “One of the owners’ young kids was learning to write and couldn’t say apostrophe,” explained Miller. “Comma to the Top is slang for apostrophe.”
Miller, a 44-year-old native of Los Angeles, hopes to cap a sizzling meet with a Futurity victory. Miller has recorded nine firsts, two seconds and nine thirds with 26 starters for a winning percentage of 35.
Nakatani, a 40-year-old veteran, seeks his first Futurity victory after four seconds and three thirds in previous efforts.
A field of 13 is probable for the 30th running of the Futurity: Comma to the Top (Nakatani), J.P.’s Gusto (Joe Talamo), Clubhouse Ride (Patrick Valenzuela), Industry Leader (Rafael Bejarano), Awesome Patriot (Victor Espinoza), High Level Jeff (Joel Rosario), Boxeur des Rues (Julien Leparoux), Gourmet Dinner (Sebastian Madrid), Rustler Hustler (Ramon Dominguez), Crimson China (Garrett Gomez), Riveting Reason (Alonso Quinonez), Ronin Dax (Mike Smith) and Slammer Time (David Flores).
Comma to the Top was joined on the Sunday work tab by Awesome Patriot, who worked five panels in 59.80 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the leader in Futurity wins with five.
Three other candidates worked here Saturday: Industry Leader, one mile in 1:39.20; Slammer Time, six furlongs in 1:14; and Riveting Reason, five furlongs in 1:00.60.
Gourmet Dinner and Rustler Hustler are scheduled to be flown here Tuesday from Florida. Gourmet Dinner won the rich Delta Jackpot Stakes in Louisiana in his last start for trainer Steve Standridge. Rustler Hustler has won his last two stakes on turf at Belmont and Monmouth for conditioner Rick Dutrow.
Crimson China, a recent acquisition by Team Valor International, is scheduled to arrive here Thursday from England. The Giant’s Causeway colt has won one of two starts on all-weather tracks there.
TRAINER VINCENT TIMPHONY SUFFERS SERIOUS STROKE
Vincent Timphony, who trained Wild Again to an upset victory in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic here in 1984, was in grave condition at Arcadia Methodist Hospital, his ex-wife Scarlet confirmed on Sunday.
“He was admitted to the hospital a week ago Saturday because of respiratory disease and a series of strokes,” she said. “The decision was made to take him off life support yesterday.”
Timphony, 76, spent his whole life around racing. “He was born right behind the Fair Grounds and began going to the track as a little boy,” said his wife of 24 years. “Vincent won his first horse in a gin rummy game when he was 18. We are looking at the loss of one of the last Damon Runyan characters in the game.”
Scarlet said that Timphony’s early mentors were trainers Tennessee Wright and Marion Van Berg, who launched him on a career that began on a Midwest circuit of Louisiana, Arkansas and Chicago, and branched into New York, New Jersey and Florida. He came to California in 1983, one year before the exciting and controversial Breeders’ Cup that resulted in a three-way photo finish and stewards’ inquiry.
Timphony has five children, four grand-children and one great-grand-child. “He’s a man who loved horses and loved people,” said Scarlet.
NIKKI’SGOLDENSTEED DRILLS FOR ON TRUST
Nikki’sgoldensteed worked four furlongs in 49 seconds here Sunday for the $75,000-added On Trust Handicap, closing-day feature next Sunday for California-breds at 7 ½ furlongs.
Other probable starters include Amazombie (Mike Smith), Earnednevergiven (David Flores), Mobilized (Alonso Quinonez), The Bat Signal (Joe Talamo), Cayambe and the Harris Farm-owned duo of Red Defense and Hugs To All.
FINISH LINES—Trainer Mel Stute, 83, was floored when he learned he had reached the 2,000-victory career milestone Saturday with Score for Fun in the first race. “I found out when they told me in the winner’s circle,” said Stute Sunday. “I couldn’t believe it.” Stute makes no predictions of when he expects to hit 2,001. “I’m planning to sell the horses that my wife owns in January, and then I will be down to two or three,” said the popular veteran, who scored his first win in 1947 at Portland Meadows with Egg Nog…While Stute and Bob Baffert were celebrating recent membership in the 2,000 club, young Phil D’Amato savored his first winner with heavily favored Zippin E in the first race Friday. D’Amato, chief assistant to trainer Mike Mitchell, has taken over the stable while Mitchell serves a 15-day suspension for a drug violation…Jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Victor Espinoza will miss closing day next Sunday when they leave for Peru to compete in an all-star riding ompetition… Trainer Mike Puype, who sent out unbeaten Turbulent Descent to win the $412,250 Hollywood Starlet Saturday, said the filly would probably open her 3-year-old campaign with the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes February 5 at Santa Anita.
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