Asked if he had his six opponents in the Californian Stakes Saturday at Hollywood Park surrounded with his two entrants, trainer Paddy Gallagher Thursday replied, “They have me surrounded. There are a lot of nice horses in that race.”
Aggie Engineer, who drew post four under Joe Talamo, and Soul Candy, who leaves from post six under Garrett Gomez, both have one advantage in the $150,000 Grade II Californian. They are the only entrants to have won stakes at Hollywood Park, and both at the Californian distance of 1 1/8 miles.
Aggie Engineer, a 6-year-old gelding, won the Native Diver Handicap in December. Soul Candy, a 5-year-old gelding, captured the California Cup Classic in October.
The running styles of the pair do not clash. “Aggie Engineer’s good races have been on or near the lead,” said Gallagher. “Soul Candy lays back and makes one run.”
The Californian serves as the final major prep for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9.
ZENYATTA LURES OWNERS BACK INTO RACING
Trainer John Shirreffs welcomed a new arrival to his barn this week, and he can thank Zenyatta.
“A 2-year-old filly by Street Sense came in yesterday on a flight from Florida,” said Shirreffs of the first horse he is conditioning for owners Bill and Terry Mathis of Oklahoma City.
“I guess Mrs. Mathis was very excited about Zenyatta last year, and that got them thinking about getting back into racing,” said Shirreffs of the couple that campaigned horses about 20 years ago.
The Mathises also purchased three other 2-year-olds that are expected to join the Shirreffs stable. The Mathis family campaigned multiple stakes-winning female sprinter Pine Tree Lane during the late 1980’s.
The road to Barn 55, where Zenyatta spent more than four years with Shirreffs, has a green sign with the words Zenyatta Way in honor of the superstar mare, who won 19 of 20 starts and earned Horse of the Year honors last year. She was retired to the broodmare ranks in Kentucky and this week was pronounced in foal to Bernardini.
Shirreffs was working on the proper French pronunciation of Eblouissante—Ay-BLUE-eh-sahnt—a 2-year-old half sister to Zenyatta who has been galloping here the past month. “Eblouissante means brilliant,” said Shirreffs of the filly by Bernardini out of Vertigineux.
“It’s too early to tell how long it will be before she starts,” said Shirreffs, who did not start Zenyatta until November of her 3-year-old year.
Shirreffs has more immediate goals for Senorita Stakes winner Star Billing, scheduled to return in the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on turf June 11.
AWESOME GEM RETURNS FOR GOLD CUP DEFENSE
“He keeps on firing,” said trainer Craig Dollase in reference to venerable 8-year-old gelding Awesome Gem, who returned to Barn 54 North Tuesday after winning the Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas Monday.
“He looks great; I’m looking forward to the Gold Cup,” said Dollase, preparing the West Point Thoroughbreds standard-bearer for his defense in the $500,000 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles July 9.
“We used the Lone Star Handicap as a prep last year when he finished second,” said Dollase. “He’s a fresher horse this year. We didn’t ship him around as much.”
Dollase thinks the hard-trying veteran will earn more respect this year than last, when he surprised at 8-1 odds under David Flores.
“He should be one of the choices,” said Dollase. “He got a good Beyer figure at Lone Star, I think 101. That puts us right in the hunt.”
Dollase said he will be a keen-eyed scout viewing the Californian Stakes here Saturday. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Californian for rivals,” said Dollase.
ROSARIO, GOMEZ TO RIDE IN BELMONT STAKES
Meet riding leader Joel Rosario and Garrett Gomez will be in New York June 11 to ride in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
Rosario will be back aboard Brilliant Speed, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, while Gomez will return on Master of Hounds, fifth in the Derby.
Ron Ebanks, agent for Rosario, said he has also taken calls on Smiling Tiger for Jeff Bonde in the True North Handicap and Fantasia in the Just A Game Handicap on the Belmont undercard.
Tony Matos, agent for Gomez, said he has also taken undercard calls on Viscount Nelson in the Manhattan Handicap and Justaroundmidnight in the Just A Game.
Jockeys David Flores and Martin Garcia will also be at Belmont to ride in the undercard. Flores will ride Turbulent Descent for Mike Puype in the Acorn Stakes, while Garcia has taken a call on Coil for Bob Baffert in the Woody Stephens Stakes.
FINISH LINES—Scotty McClellan, agent for jockey Joe Talamo, joked that his rider requested he should ride on suspension more often. Talamo, serving a three-day suspension during the Memorial Day weekend for a riding infraction that resulted in a stakes disqualification the previous week, made the most of the designated race provision for exemptions in graded stakes. He won the $150,000 Grade II American Handicap Saturday on Ryehill Dreamer and the $100,000 Grade III Los Angeles Handicap Monday on Camp Victory, the latter ironically through disqualification…Champion Blind Luck worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:12.80 for the $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap June 18 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer …Smiling Tiger drilled five furlongs in 59.80 for the True North Handicap June 11 at Belmont for trainer Jeff Bonde …Proudinsky worked five furlongs on turf in 1:01.80 for the $250,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile July 2 for trainer Humberto Ascanio … Rafael Bejarano has taken a call on multiple stakes winner Bourbon Bay for trainer Neil Drysdale in the $250,000 Grade I Charles Whittingham Handicap here June 11… Alonso Quinonez will ride Spud Spivens in the Grade III $100,000 Affirmed Handicap here June 11…Camp Victory, M One Rifle and Amazombie, the 1-2-3 finishers in a roughly run Los Angeles Handicap Monday, are expected to resume their rivalry in the $250,000 Grade I Triple Bend Handicap July 2.
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