Trainer Mike Mitchell, who won the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap twice in a row with On the Acorn in 2007 and 2008 before the race was discontinued last year, shoots for another with Skellytown when the $150,000 race resumes Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Like On the Acorn, who won the second time as a 7-year-old gelding after being claimed by Mitchell, Skellytown is a 7-year-old gelding preparing for his second start for Mitchell. He was claimed for $25,000 on April 1 at Santa Anita.
Skellytown made Mitchell’s purchase for a quartet of owners look good with a strong third-place finish in the Grade II 1 ¾-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap on the Santa Anita turf on April 18. The Grade II Jim Murray is at 1 ½ miles on grass.
“He ran great in the San Juan,” said assistant trainer Phil D’Amato Sunday. “ We didn’t have him that long. He’s been training great. This might be a better distance for him. Mike always thought a mile and a half would be his best distance.”
Tyler Baze has taken the call on Skellytown, a chestnut by Thunder Gulch out of the Strawberry Road mare Miss Dahlia. He has won five of 16 starts and earned $152,240.
A large field is shaping up for the Jim Murray, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Skellytown will be joined by a Neil Drysdale-trained trio of Scintilla (Rafael Bejarano), Ridge Dance (Brice Blanc) and History Boy (David Flores), San Juan Capistrano runner-up Unusual Suspect (Alonso Quinonez), Del Mar Derby winner Rendezvous (Joel Rosario), Falcon Rock (Joe Talamo), Stalingrad (Victor Espinoza), Dynamic Range and Quindici Man.
Scintillo and Ridge Dance, a pair of English-bred 5-year-olds, worked seven furlongs in tandem on the Hollywood grass for Drysdale. Scintillo, Bejarano up, was clocked in 1:28.60; Ridge Dance, with exercise rider Umberto Gomez, in 1:29.40.
Scintillo, winner of the 2007 Group I Gran Criterium in Italy and the 2009 Group II Grand Prix de Chantilly in France, is poised for his United States debut. History Boy comes off an allowance/optional claiming victory at 1 ¼ miles on turf here April 21.
Dynamic Range worked six furlongs on Cushion Track with Talamo in 1:13 for trainer Julio Canani.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith seeks his third straight victory in the $150,000 Grade II Milady Handicap for fillies and mares here next Sunday, but it will not be aboard the prohibitive favorite.
Unbeaten superstar Zenyatta will remain in the John Shirreffs barn here for she won under Smith in both 2008 and 2009. This time, Smith will try his hand with Joffe’s Run for trainer Neil Drysdale.
Zenyatta worked an easy six furlongs in 1:15.80 breezing for a possible start in the $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap here June 13 while Joffe’s Run worked seven furlongs in 1:28.
Joffe’s Run, a 5-year-old chestnut mare, won a pair of ungraded stakes at Calder in 2008 for trainer Marty Wolfson before going to the sidelines for more than a year. She began her comeback with a sixth place finish in a Santa Anita allowance in February.
Other probable Milady starters include Santa Lucia Handicap winner Devine Actress (Tyler Baze), Santa Margarita and Santa Lucia runner-up Dance to My Tune (Rafael Bejarano), 2008 Hollywood Starlet runner-up Wynning Ride (Martin Garcia), Torrey Pines Stakes winner Third Dawn (Joel Rosario) and Miss Silver Brook (Joe Talamo).
“Miss Silver Brook worked unbelievable!” exclaimed trainer Julio Canani after the 4-year-old filly drilled a bullet five furlongs in 58.80 seconds under Talamo.
Third Dawn worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 for the John Sadler stable. Will O Way, another nominee, worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 for trainer Vladimir Cerin.
“We both broke our maiden Friday!” chirped agent Marcus Figueroa in the stable area Sunday in reference to apprentice jockey Jesus Velasquez guiding Lethal Dose to a 19-1 upset for the first victory of his career in the eighth race.
Three maidens were actually broken—the agent’s, the jockey’s and the 5-year-old horse’s—in the 5 ½-furlong sprint for $25,000 maiden claimers. Lethal Dose had been winless in 14 previous starts for trainer Silverio Martinez.
“Jesus just followed Silverio’s instructions,” said Figueroa.
“Jesus is 19 and graduated from the same class in the Puerto Rico Jockey School as Christian Santiago Reyes,” said Figueroa of the 2009 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice.
“Jesus rode briefly at Philadelphia Park last year without any success and went back to Puerto Rico last winter,” explained Figueroa, who brought him to California last month. “I have some friends at the track in Puerto Rico who recommended him.”
Figueroa, 30-year-old brother of jockey Omar Figueroa, is breaking in with the apprentice. “I was working as a maintenance mechanic,” said Figueroa. “Omar helped me, and Orlando Cross, an exercise rider, introduced me to the trainers. Jesus has been getting on horses for Silverio, Doug O’Neill, Walther Solis and Pico Perdomo.”
WinStar Farm co-owner Bill Casner and his wife, Susan, were happy visitors here Thursday to see Kayce Ace get up in a photo finish to win a maiden race for 3-year-old fillies five days after winning the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver.
“We’re still floating on the clouds,” said Texan Casner, wearing a white cowboy hat of the stable’s first Kentucky Derby victory.
Casner has high hopes as well for Kayce Ace, who rallied under Rafael Bejarano to win by a head at 1 1/16 miles for trainer Eoin Harty.
“She has the same mind as Colonel John,” said Casner of the full sister to the retired Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes winner. “She was quiet as a church-mouse in the paddock.”
Casner’s wife picked out Sweet Damsel, the dam of both, and named Kayce Ace for the couple’s daughter, who earned a doctorate in ecology at UC-Davis.
“She’s a big stretchy filly, and I had her at my farm in Texas—Rafter C Ranch—for six months before sending her to Eoin,” said Casner.
Harty said he would probably train the filly conservatively and race her through her conditions. He said he has another well-bred WinStar 3-year-old filly, Life Well Lived, a full sister to 2009 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed.
Casner said he has three more foals out of Sweet Damsel: a 2-year-old Speightstown colt named Spider Man, a yearling Tiznow colt named Bill of Rights, and a filly by Tiznow born the night before the Kentucky Derby.
FINISH LINES— Trainer John Sadler said he scratched Stockings from the Railbird Stakes today after the 3-year-old filly spiked a 104-degree fever Saturday morning. “We treated her with antibiotics and it’s down to 101 today,” said Sadler…Virgin Islands native Kerwin John enjoyed his first victory since returning to this circuit this year: a $144 shocker aboard Day with Desi in the fourth race Thursday. “From 4 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos to 1 1/16 miles here,” said John of the 4-year-old gelding, who set the pace with blinkers off for trainer George Papaprodromou. “It felt like he was going to keep going. At the quarter pole, it looked like he was going straight home.”…Trainer Ron Ellis celebrated his daughter Laura’s 14th birthday at The Palm Saturday night after heavily favored Rail Trip started the day on the right foot with an easy victory in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap. “Samantha’s birthday is Monday,” said Ellis of co-owner Samantha Siegel. “*Bob Feld*, whose birthday is next week, was there too, so we celebrated all three of the birthdays.” Ellis said the horse came back in top shape and would be nominated to both the Californian Stakes and Stephen Foster Handicap on June 12…Ellis worked San Simeon Handicap winner Mr Gruff six furlongs on turf in 1:14.60 breezing for the $250,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile on May 29…Multiple stakes winner Tuscan Evening worked six furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:13 for the $250,000 Grade I Gamely Stakes on May 31 for the Jerry Hollendorfer stable.
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