Trainer Doug O’Neill reclined in a chair at his stable office desk at Hollywood Park Sunday morning wearing a baseball cap with the logo “Life Is Good” on the front.
Life was very good for O’Neill Saturday when Informed posted an upset victory in the $250,000, Grade II Californian, and he hopes it gets better in two 3-year-old stakes here next weekend.
O’Neill, the runaway meet leader with 26 wins, plans to enter Cape Truth and Scorewithcater in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap on Cushion Track Saturday and Flashmans Papers in the $100,000 Cinema Handicap on turf next Sunday. Dover Street Art is also listed as a possibility for one of the Grade III tests.
Like Informed, who returned from two unsuccessful races out of state to establish himself as a contender for the $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11, O’Neill hopes home cooking will help Cape Truth, Scorewithcater and Flashmans Papers.
All return to a track where they have won after disappointing efforts out of state. “Running them out of their own stall is always a beautiful thing,” said O’Neill.
Cape Truth and Scorewithcater will both try to rebound from distant fifth-place finishes on May 9 in the Affirmed at 1 1/16 miles. Cape Truth, who will be ridden by Alonso Quinonez, returns from a 15-length defeat in the Lone Star Derby, while Scorewithcater, who has the services of Joseph Talamo, comes back after a 13-length defeat in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont.
“Scorewithcater’s race was not as bad as it looked,” said O’Neill. “He ran his race but ran into a monster that day in Charitable Man.”
The Affirmed lineup is expected to be headed by Sunland Park Derby winner Kelly Leak (Mike Smith) and Lone Star Derby winner Mythical Power (Victor Espinoza). Other probable starters include Grazen (Rafael Bejarano) and Quindici Man.
Flashmans Papers returns from a sixth-place finish in the Arlington Classic May 23. The English-bred colt will be ridden by Brice Blanc in the 1 1/8-mile Cinema. He worked four furlongs on Cushion Track in :49.60 breezing Sunday.
Unbeaten Elusive Bluff worked six furlongs on turf in 1:14.20 Sunday for his 2009 debut in the $100,000 Cinema Handicap, a Grade III test for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on grass next Sunday.
Regular jockey Michael Baze was aboard the Elusive Quality colt, who worked in company with Arcodoro. He has not raced since winning the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes on a yielding Belmont Park course in October, one month after breaking his maiden at first asking there.
“Southern Equine Stable bought him after his maiden win,” explained John Daley, assistant to trainer Eric Guillot. “We brought him out here and were going to run him in the Breeders’ Cup, but he had some issues, and we gave him some time off.”
Other probable Cinema starters include Arden Park (Rafael Bejarano), Flashmans Papers (Brice Blanc), Herr Mozart (Victor Espinoza) and Oil Man (Joel Rosario).
FINISH LINES — Jockey Tyler Baze and trainer Doug O’Neill, who teamed Saturday to win The Californian with Informed, will compete against each other in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup in Virginia next Saturday. Baze will ride Battle of Hastings, who worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on turf here today, for trainer Jeff Mullins. O’Neill will send out Mark S the Cooler with Corey Nakatani up. The 3-year-olds are scheduled to be flown east on Wednesday…Jockey Mike Smith will be in Toronto next Sunday to ride Mr. Foricos Twou for trainer Catherine Day-Phillips in the $1-million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine…Get Funky drew the rail with jockey Garrett Gomez in a field of nine in defense of his crown in the $70,000-added Robert Kerlan Memorial Handicap at six furlongs on turf Thursday. Only two horses have won the race twice in its 20-year history: Forest Glow in 1991 and 1992, and Full Moon Madness in 2000 and 2003…Black Mamba worked five furlongs on turf in 1:02 for trainer John Sadler for the $150,000 Beverly Hills Handicap June 28…Tuscan Evening breezed four furlongs on grass in :49.20 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer for the $250,000 Royal Heroine Mile on July 11…Owners Ike and Dawn Thrash of Mississippi have another Dawn readying for the circuit. The couple already have stakes fillies Dawn Before Dawn, Dawn After Dawn and Third Dawn campaigning here in the Sadler barn. They will be joined later this year by Sister Dawn, a 2-year-old Indian Charlie filly turned out with bucked shins.
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