Trainer Jeff Mullins and owner Michael House watched intently from trackside Sunday as three of their horses worked on grass for the Turf Festival at Hollywood Park next weekend.
Multiple stakes winner Battle of Hastings worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.60 under Felipe Valdez for the $300,000 Hollywood Derby next Sunday.
A pair of European imports later worked five furlongs in tandem for their United States debuts. In the Slips was clocked in 1:03.40 under Valdez for the $100,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies next Sunday. Ace of Aces was timed in 1:03.80 under Joel Rosario for the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds Saturday.
House, a San Diego resident, wore a baseball cap with the name Battle of Hastings in the front and 1066 — the year the famous English battle was fought — on the back.
“He worked really good,” said Mullins, and reviewing the 3-year-old gelding’s exemplary record, added in understatement, “He’s pretty honest.”
An English-bred son of Royal Applause who was imported from England last year to launch his United States career in the Generous, Battle of Hastings has battled to four firsts and three seconds in his last eight starts. He won the Virginia Derby in July and finished second in the Oak Tree Derby in his last start, a head behind The Usual Q.T.
Battle of Hastings, who has earned more than $1 million for House since the purchase, will be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, replacing regular rider Tyler Baze, who had a broken finger reset last week. The Grade I Hollywood Derby is at 1 ¼ miles, the same distance as the Virginia Derby.
Mullins and House have high hopes for their two newcomers. “I’ve had Ace of Aces about two months,” said Mullins of the Irish-bred gelding who finished second in his only start in Ireland. “The filly just came in three days before the Breeders’ Cup. They both just needed maintenance works today.”
Bloodstock agent Niall Dalton found Ace of Aces while Richard Duggan and Jamie Lloyd collaborated In the Slips, who won her last two starts in England, the last at a mile under 133 pounds Sept. 24.
“She got a high (92) Timeform number in that race and I was very disappointed that she did not get into the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies Turf, in which she failed to draw in from the also-eligible list),” said Duggan, also watching the works.
“I watched her tape and bought her as soon as I could,” said Duggan, who later transferred her to Lloyd. “She may replace Magical Fantasy.”
Duggan also found Magical Fantasy in Europe and imported her here to Paddy Gallagher, where she became a multiple Grade I stakes-winning millionaire who was sold at four to Japanese interests for $1.8 million at the recent Keeneland November sale.
“That filly is really level-headed,” said Mullins after the drill.
The 2-year-old stakes are both Grade III at one mile.
Acclamation worked six furlongs on turf in 1:15.40 Sunday under Joseph Talamo for the $300,000 Hollywood Derby, a Grade I test for 3-year-olds at 1 ¼ miles on turf next Sunday.
“He was just cruising,” said trainer Don Warren alongside Old English Rancho owner-breeder Bud Johnston.
“He didn’t want to pull up,” said Talamo excitedly of the California-bred colt who finished third in the Del Mar Derby and second in the Ralph Hinds Invitational at Fairplex Park.
Expected to join Acclamation in the Derby are Battle of Hastings (Garrett Gomez), Black Bear Island, Meteore (Rafael Bejarano), Take The Points (Edgar Prado) and five supplementary nominees: Al Khali (Kent Desormeaux), Blazing Spirit (Alex Solis), Sir Al (Joel Rosario), The Usual Q.T. (Victor Espinoza) and Rescue Squad.
Tuscan Evening, unbeaten in three starts on the Hollywood Park turf, seeks to extend that streak to four in the $300,000, Grade I Matriarch for fillies and mares at one mile Saturday.
The Irish-bred 4-year-old filly, winner of the Grade II Royal Heroine Mile here in July and the Grade II Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita on Nov. 6, appears to be the controlling speed in a small but select lineup shaping up for the race.
“Shhhh!” said Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, when asked about prospects for the filly dictating the pace.
“I don’t make any predictions any more,” said Hollendorfer of the way the race will unfold. “She’s a real nice filly and will blow out Tuesday.”
Rafael Bejarano, who is unbeaten in three tries aboard the filly, has taken the Matriarch call. He won the race two years ago on Precious Kitten.
Other probable starters are Ventura (Garrett Gomez), Rutherienne (Joel Rosario), April Pride (David Flores) and Diamondrella (Alex Solis).
Diamondrella, supplemented for $6,000, worked Sunday at Santa Anita under Solis for Gary Stevens, who took over her training last week.
El Gato Malo, eighth-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in his last start, worked five furlongs on turf here Sunday in 1:00.80 for the $300,000 Citation Handicap, a Grade I test at 1 1/16 miles on grass Friday.
Dollase, whose father Wally won the race a record four times, hopes the 4-year-old gelding will appreciate the longer distance. He won an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on the Del Mar turf in September.
El Gato Malo, to be ridden by David Flores, is expected to be joined by the Humberto Ascanio-trained duo of Proudinsky (Mike Smith) and Fluke (Joseph Talamo), the Mike Mitchell-conditioned pair of Ever A Friend (Joel Rosario) and Monzante (Alex Solis), Cowboy Cal (Rafael Bejarano) and supplementary nominees Blue Chagall (Garrett Gomez), Skyrush (Martin Pedroza) and Enriched.
Times Gone By and Whatsthescript head a list of possible starters.
Trainer Ken McPeek confirmed Sunday from Kentucky that he would enter Bridgetown, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, in the $100,000 Generous Stakes, a Grade III test for 2-year-olds at one mile on grass Saturday.
“He’s doing quite well; he worked yesterday at Santa Anita,” said McPeek, who left six Breeders’ Cup starters at the Arcadia track with assistant Jordan Blair.
Bridgetown will be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez. The Florida-bred son of Speightstown has recorded two firsts and two seconds in four grass starts. He won the Summer Stakes at Woodbine before a game second-place finish in the Juvenile Turf, three-quarters of a length behind Pounced.
Other probable starters include Ace of Aces (Joel Rosario), Alfarabi (Rafael Bejarano), Lucky Rave (Alex Solis), Summer Movie (Michael Baze), Who’s Up (Victor Espinoza) and Marcello.
Who’s Up, an impressive maiden winner on the Santa Anita turf in his last start, worked five furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:02.20 Sunday for trainer Kathy Walsh.
The Mailet, who shipped here last week from New York for trainer Bruce Levine, worked five furlongs on turf in 1:01 Sunday under Joel Rosario for the $100,000 Miesque Stakes, a Grade III test for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on turf next Sunday.
The Mailet, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Rock Hard Ten, broke her maiden on the Belmont Park turf Oct. 22 at 43-to-1 odds after two unsuccessful tries on the main track.
“We tried her on turf in her third start, she took to it, and we hope she does the same this week,” said Josh Flores, assistant to Levine, from Barn 72 West. Rosario has the call.
Other probable starters include In The Slips (Garrett Gomez), Whispering Hush (Victor Espinoza) and Full Mandate (Mike Smith).
Irish-bred Full Mandate and In The Slips will both be making their United States debuts after promising starts in England. Jim Cassidy has taken over the training of Full Mandate, while Jeff Mullins now conditions In The Slips.
Connie and Michael and Upperline head a list of possibles.
FINISH LINES: Ron Anderson, agent for jockey Garrett Gomez, said the two-time Eclipse Award winner escaped serious injury in a ninth-race spill here Saturday. He said the rider was released from Centinela Hospital after X-rays to his shoulder and elbow proved negative Saturday night. Anderson took Gomez off his mounts Sunday, saying he was “a little jarred up,” and said he would return to the saddle this week…Lava Man, nearing a comeback at eight, worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:12.20 under Joel Rosario Saturday to the delight of trainer Doug O’Neill. “He worked in company, broke about three lengths off, ranged up in mid-work and finished strong,” said O’Neill. “The Native Diver is the game plan (aiming for a return in the Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 12).”…Blind Luck, third-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 for the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 20 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer…Trainer*Ken McPeek* said Robby Albarado would be at Hollywood Park to ride Noble’s Promise in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity and Beautician in the $300,000 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 19 and 20, respectively. Noble’s Promise finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Beautician second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. McPeek also said he planned to start Teamgeist in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap for fillies and mares on Dec. 5…Victor Espinoza will be at Churchill Downs Friday to ride Misremembered for Bob Baffert in the Clark Handicap. Mike Smith will be at Aqueduct Saturday to ride Stardom Bound in the Gazelle Stakes…Hall of Famer Smith will return to Hollywood Park next Sunday as part of the supporting cast on Zenyatta Day. Smith, the unbeaten mare’s regular jockey, will be Kurt Hoover’s guest on a special edition of The Inside Scoop at 11:30 a.m. at the Garden Paddock tote board, one hour before first post. Zenyatta will be honored following the seventh race. Free “Girl Power” posters and DVDs of the champion mare will be distributed to fans…There will be a special 11 a.m. post time on Thanksgiving Day Thursday and afternoon racing Friday with a 12:30 first post.
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