INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 10, 2009) — Rail Trip, who suffered his first defeat when caught by Ball Four in the stretch of the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, will try to avenge the loss in Saturday’s $250,000 Californian at Hollywood Park.
The Californian, a Grade II event at 1 1/8 miles, is the final major prep for the $700,000 TVG/Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday, July 11. It drew a contentious field of 12, including defending Gold Cup champion Mast Track.
Rail Trip, owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Ron Elllis, entered the 1 1/16-mile Mervyn LeRoy with a five-for-five record. The 4-year-old son of Jump Start fought back after being passed by Ball Four and held off fellow Californian starter Dakota Phone by a half-length to earn second money. Winner of his career debut here last November, he has earned $197,790.
Flying Zee Stable’s Ball Four, an 8-year-old gelding by Grand Slam who was making just his seventh start in the last three years in the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy, scored his only other Grade II victory in the 2006 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. Overall, he has won seven of 25 starts for earnings of $711,520.
Rail Trip and Ball Four will have to contend with much more to earn a trip to the winner’s circle Saturday, including defending Gold Cup champion Mast Track.
Mast Track, owned, bred and trained by Bobby Frankel, connected at odds of better than 10-1 while setting a leisurely pace in the 2008 Gold Cup. The son of Mizzen Mast, who has failed to win in five starts since the Gold Cup, has been training under Frankel’s eye at Belmont Park. He has won five of 15 starts for earnings of $760,022.
Nine Californian winners have gone on to win the Gold Cup, the latest Lava Man in 2005. Ball Four is the lone horse with a chance of matching Eleven Stitches as the only horse to sweep the Mervyn LeRoy, Californian and Gold Cup. He will break from post eight. The entire field for the 56th running of The Californian will line up as follows:
Mr. Napper Tandy, Julio Garcia, 120; Mast Track, David Flores, 116; Rail Trip, Jose Valdiva Jr., 116; Aitcho, Mike Smith, 116; Ukiah, Corey Nakatani, 116; Song of Navarone, Victor Espinoza, 118; Informed, Tyler Baze, 116; Ball Four, Joseph Talamo, 120; Limestone Edge, Joel Rosario, 116; Unusual Smoke, Martin Garcia, 118; Dakota Phone, Rafael Bejarano, 116, and Awesome Gem, Alex Solis, 116.
Song of Navarone, a 5-year-old son of 1992 Gold Cup winner Sultry Song, invades from Lone Star Park in Texas. He had a four-race winning streak in New Mexico before finishing a troubled third in the Lone Star Park Handicap on Memorial Day. Trained by Henry Dominguez and owned by George Coleman, he has won eight of 12 starts for earnings of $667,158. In his lone Southern California start, he finished third in the 2007 Sham at Santa Anita Park before winning the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Awesome Gem, a 6-year-old by Awesome Again, is the most accomplished horse in the field with four wins and nine seconds in 24 starts for earnings of $1,243,882. A fast-closing third in the Berkeley Handicap on Memorial Day at Golden Gate Fields, he registered his biggest win in the 2007 San Fernando at Santa Anita.
Dakota Phone has won four of 17 starts for earnings of $275,010; Mr Napper Tandy shifts to the main track after winning the Grade II San Francisco Mile on turf at Golden Gate; Aitcho steps up in class after scoring an allowance win here at 1 1/16 miles in April; Informed comes off a third in the Grade III Alysheba at Churchill Downs; Limestone Edge won a one-mile allowance race at Churchill in mid-May; Ukiah has a win and a second in allowance company since being claimed for $25,000 in March, and Unusual Smoke finished eighth in the Berkeley after connecting at nine furlongs on turf in the TVG Khaled Stakes here in April.
In Saturday’s co-feature, the $100,000 Round Table Handicap at 1 3/4 miles on the Lakeside Turf Course, Obrigado and Porfido carry co-high weight of 119 pounds. The field will line up as follows:
Obrigado, Rosario up, 119; Leesider, Tyler Baze, 114; Plug Me In, Martin Garcia, 115; Porfido, Flores, 119, and Zappa, Smith 116.
The Round Table will run as the third race and The Californian as the ninth of ten races on Saturday’s program at Hollywood Park. First post time is at 1 p.m.
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