Trainer Peter Miller stood atop the second-story staircase on Barn 66 South overlooking the training track at Hollywood Park Wednesday before entering Majestic City in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity Saturday.
“He’s being dismissed by a lot of people, but at their own peril,” said Miller, as optimistic about the chances of the 2-year-old colt as he was about those of Comma to the Top before he won the Grade I test at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track last year.
Comma to the Top came into the Futurity on a four-race winning streak last year while Majestic City enters the race on a three-race losing skein, but Miller has not lost faith in the chestnut son of City Zip.
“Comma to the Top came into the race in great shape and Majestic City is coming in just as well,” said Miller. “He’s doing super. He worked awesome the other day (a bullet four furlongs in 46.80 seconds December 7). He is on point.”
Majestic City showed his fondness for the main track here during the Spring/Summer meet with three victories in as many starts, climaxed by a score in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Only Swiss Yodeler in 1996 has been able to sweep the Juvenile and Futurity.
Killer Graces posted an upset win in the $402,000 Grade I Hollywood Starlet for fillies Saturday to end a three-race losing streak following domination of the Spring/Summer meet with two stakes wins, a pattern not lost on Miller.
“You can throw out his last race because of the soft turf,” said Miller in reference to a distant 13th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs November 5 after setting the early pace.
“He could have easily won the two races before that,” said Miller, alluding to a second-place finish in the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland and a second-place finish in a roughly-run Del Mar Futurity in which he was disqualified and placed third for interference.
“He’s three-for-three here, training like a beast, and gets the leading rider in the country,” said Miller of jockey Ramon Dominguez, flying in to ride him for the first time. “He should be the favorite in my opinion.”
Track linemaker Russell Hudak tended to agree with Miller’s reasoning and indicated he could make Majestic City the tepid favorite in the field of 13. Majestic City drew post 11 in the Futurity, which will be run as the ninth race.
“I’m taking blinkers off, getting him to relax,” added Miller. “I expect to see him a little off the pace, maybe sitting second or third.”
Miller seeks to join Hall of Famer Bob Baffert as the only trainer to win the Futurity in consecutive years. Baffert, who entered a formidable trio of Drill, Liaison and Sky Kingdom, has won the race a record five times, including back-to-back twice.
Miller will never forget Comma to the Top’s victory last year in a rainstorm following a lengthy delay in the paddock to replace a lost shoe.
“It was probably the longest half hour of my life,” said Miller of the delay when one blacksmith was injured and a replacement needed to be found. “It was surreal. The elation I felt afterwards I never felt before.”
Comma to the Top, a Florida-bred gelding who gave Miller the richest victory of his career in the Futurity, scored an impressive victory in a $56,000 allowance race Sunday, covering seven furlongs in 1:21.63 in his second start back following a seven-month layoff.
“He’s a thoroughbred horse who should have been running in the 1920’s,” said Miller, eyeing the Malibu Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita December 26 for his next start. “The more I run him, the better he runs.”
MITCHELL HOPES TO CAP BIG MEET IN ON TRUST SUNDAY
Trainer Mike Mitchell, who holds a 15-13 lead over Bob Baffert heading into the final five days of the Autumn Meet, hopes to put an exclamation point on a memorable session with Mark the Bench in the $80,000-added On Trust Handicap, closing-day feature Sunday.
“He should like the 7 ½ furlongs on synthetic,” said Mitchell Wednesday of the 6-year-old chestnut horse he claimed for $25,000 out of his last start, a second-place finish here December 7.
Win, lose or dead-heat, Mitchell will have no complaints over a meet in which he passed the legendary Charlie Whittingham for the No. 2 spot in career wins at Hollywood Park.
Mitchell said the meet highlight was a victory by Pacific Ocean in the $100,000 Vernon Underwood Stakes November 26 in the fastest six furlongs (1:08.48) of the year over Cushion Track.
“It was his first start for me with a new client (JMJ Racing Stables) and got us off on the right foot,” said Mitchell. “He smoked ’em.”
Mitchell will have his work cut out with Mark the Bench, the 112-pound lightweight with Martin Garcia, in the On Trust for Cal-breds. Other probable starters include Mensa Heat, Joe Talamo, 122; Red Defense, Joel Rosario, 121; Chiloquin, Martin Pedroza, 118; Legal Separation, Victor Espinoza, 116; and Spud Spivens, Garrett Gomez, 116.
Legal Separation worked four furlongs in 49.60 Wednesday for trainer Ed Moger, Jr.
ROSARIO AIMS FOR MEET THREE-PEAT
Jockey Joel Rosario, shooting for a third consecutive Autumn Meet title, holds a narrow lead over Rafael Bejarano and Martin Garcia entering the final five days of the session.
Through December 11, Rosario had won 29 races, two ahead of perennial rival Bejarano and five in front of Garcia.
The last jockey to lead the Autumn Meet three straight years was Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, who won five in a row (1981-85).
Rosario, who has also led the last three Spring/Summer meets at Hollywood Park, is chasing his sixth straight title at the Inglewood track, the most since McCarron won nine in a row from 1980-84.
PROGNOSIS GOOD ON WEEMISSFRANKIE
Weemissfrankie, the star 2-year-old filly, was back in her stall in Barn 52 North here Wednesday following successful surgery Sunday for a condylar fracture of her right foreleg.
“The surgery went excellent,” said trainer Peter Eurton of the operation performed by Dr. Wayne McIlwraith at Los Alamitos. “I just got the e-mail from Dr. McIlwraith. The prognosis is very good.”
The injury was discovered after Weemissfrankie finished fourth as the 9-to-10 favorite in the Hollywood Starlet. “One screw was put in,” said Eurton of the surgery. “The fracture was non-displaced.”
Eurton said the filly might be able to return to training in four months. “We can start hand-walking her in 14 days,” said Eurton. “She will stay here for 45 days. She might start aqua-tread work in three months.
“In four months, we could start jogging her,” said Eurton in hopes of a return to the races at Del Mar or the autumn Santa Anita meet.
Weemissfrankie established herself as the top 2-year-old filly on the West Coast after victories in the Del Mar Debutante and Oak Leaf Stakes, both Grade I’s, and a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
FINISH LINES—Trainer Richard Baltas was happy with a victory by Adriatic Moon in a $25,000 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles Sunday, his first since returning to training on his own recently. “It was his second time with blinkers off and first time routing since he was a 3-year-old,” said Baltas of the 5-year-old gelding, claimed three races back. “He was bred to route but had been sprinting and doing well so they kept sprinting him. I thought he could route and he should like grass and he’s a Cal-bred, so we have a lot of options.”… Frank Regina , a long-time horse owner on the Southern California circuit nicknamed “Frankie Eyelashes,” passed away Tuesday in Las Vegas. He was 74…Trainer Marty Jones said that Tiz Flirtatious, who remained unbeaten in three starts with a victory in the Cat’s Cradle Handicap Sunday, is under consideration for a return in the Grade I La Brea Stakes December 30 at Santa Anita .
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