Trainer Mike Mitchell, who has made a career of converting claims into graded stakes winners, hopes to add Dynamic Range to the growing list in the $100,000 Sunset Handicap, closing-day feature of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meet Sunday.
Mitchell entered Dynamic Range Thursday morning with jockey Rafael Bejarano against six rivals in the Grade III test at 1 ½ miles on turf. The 4-year-old gelding will make his first start for the Mitchell barn since being claimed for $40,000 on May 20 by Indizguys Stable.
Mitchell hopes that the son of Dynaformer pans out as well as Star Over the Bay, an $80,000 claim who included the 2004 Sunset among several major stakes conquests, and On the Acorn, a $40,000 claim who won the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap in 2007 and 2008 for Indizguys.
Other Mitchell claims that became graded stakes winners include Kessem Power, Leprechaun Kid, Symphony Sid, Sun Boat, Church Service, Big Booster and Ever a Friend.
Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, is optimistic that Skipshot is in top form for the $200,000 Swaps Stakes Saturday and hopeful of upsetting favorite Sidney’s Candy.
Skipshot finished a well-beaten seventh the last time the pair met when Sidney’s Candy led all the way in the Santa Anita Derby in April. But Sidney’s Candy will be making his first start in 11 weeks since an 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby while Skipshot comes off a second-place finish in the Affirmed Handicap here June 19.
“Skipshot is ready to run a good race, and eight pounds is a lot,” said Ward in reference to Skipshot’s 114-pound weight assignment, eight less than highweight Sidney’s Candy.
John Sadler, trainer of Sidney’s Candy, said that stablemate Twirling Candy would probably be scratched, reducing the field to four. Sidney’s Candy, owned by Jenny Craig, seeks to become the fifth horse to complete the Santa Anita Derby-Swaps double. The others are Temperate Sil in 1987, Free House in 1997, Came Home in 2002 and Tiago in 2007.
The Grade II test for 3-year-olds will be run at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track and be run as the ninth of ten races.
Trainer Brian Koriner hopes that Sweet August Moon is on the rise again in the $150,000 Grade II A Gleam Handicap for fillies and mares at seven furlongs Saturday.
After extending her winning streak to three in the Grade III Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita in 2009, Sweet August Moon went to the sidelines for nine months and returned this year with four straight losses.
“She’s a nice filly, and I hope she snaps back on Saturday,” said Koriner Thursday. “She finally drew outside, which should help.”
Sweet August Moon, a 5-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, leaves from post six under a new rider, Victor Espinoza, after drawing the rail in her last two starts.
“She’s a very moody filly,” continued Koriner. “I made some changes, and I hope they’re the right ones.”
After 33 years of experiencing the ups and downs of the racing industry better than any insider, Elevator Gail will be pushing the buttons for the final time Sunday at Hollywood Park.
Gail McNeal became such a familiar fixture on the elevator at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita that she gained the popular nickname and had a horse named after her.
But it’s time to retire, she said, while reviewing her career between stops. “I started at Fairplex in 1977, continued on at Oak Tree that year and have been on the circuit (at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita) ever since,” said McNeal. “It gave me a chance to make contact with people I would never have otherwise.
“I met a lot of famous people: Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and a whole slew of movie stars,” continued McNeal. “Howard Koch always brought movie stars out, brought them up on the elevator, and introduced them to me.”
McNeal also met most horsemen on the circuit, most of whom felt comfortable with her warmth and compassion. “Connie Ring was a favorite of mine,” said McNeal of the late owner of Three Rings Ranch.
Born in New Orleans in 1947, McNeal moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1958. After graduation from Manual Arts High School, she married Alfred McNeal in 1965. Gail and her husband live in Sylmar, have three grown daughters—Scharnelle, Kimbra and Shannon—and five grandchildren.
“Alfred is retired from his electronics company, and I’m looking forward to just spending time with the family,” said Gail. “We’re going to a hotel in Del Mar the last week in July and have trips planned to Big Bear and Maui.” The biggest adjustment she will have to make on her return visits to the track is asking another elevator operator for her floor.
Globetrotter Kinsale King is scheduled to return to Hollywood Park from England next week, according to trainer Carl O’Callaghan.
“He gets here on the 21st,” said O’Callaghan Thursday of the 5-year-old gelding, who faded to 12th in a field of 14 in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket Friday.
“They had an unusual heat wave there, and the ground was terribly hard and stinging his feet,” said O’Callaghan.
Kinsale King had become an international celebrity on three continents. He won the Grade III Vernon Underwood Stakes here in December and the Grade II Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita in January before shipping to Dubai and winning the Grade I Golden Shaheen Stakes in March.
After returning to Hollywood Park, Kinsale King was flown to England in June, where he finished third in the Group I Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot before the Newmarket race.
“We’ve got his feet under control,” said O’Callaghan. “After he gets back, we’ll probably turn him out for three weeks at Sunshine Farm in Bradbury. Then we’ll try to get him ready for the Ancient Title Stakes (at Oak Tree) and the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint).”
FINISH LINES —With four programs left at the meet, defending champion Joel Rosario and 2008 king Rafael Bejarano are tied atop the jockey standings with 70 wins each. Rosario may enjoy a slight edge since Bejarano will be out of town Saturday…Defending champion Doug O’Neill, who has been serving a 15-day suspension through the end of the meet, is trying to hang on for the trainer title with 27 wins and hold off the charges of Bob Baffert (23), Mike Mitchell (22) and John Sadler (21)… Corey Nakatani was happy to be on the backstretch after spending most of this year at Oaklawn and Churchill Downs. “This is where you want to be,” said the veteran jockey. “This is the best racing in the world. This is my home.”…New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died Monday at age 80, was also prominent in thoroughbred racing and had a significant tie with Hollywood Park. Owner of Kinsman Stud Farm in Ocala and Kinsman Stable, Steinbrenner scored one of his first major victories in the 1977 Hollywood Derby with Steve’s Friend, trained by John Fulton…Tuscan Evening, winner of the Grade I Gamely Stakes in her last start here, drew post two in a field of six in the $150,000 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park Saturday. Rafael Bejarano will ride the 5-year-old mare for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. She was flown to Chicago Wednesday… Beryl Threewitt, wife of retired trainer Noble Threewitt, died Monday at 98. The Threewitts had lived in an assisted care facility in Salinas, Cal., since Threewitt retired on his 96th birthday three years ago. No services are planned. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made in Beryl’s name to the CTHF.
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