New Zealand trainer Wayne Hillis is a man of his word. “When I was here with Boulevard of Dreams five years ago, I told Marty after the race that I would be back,” said Hillis Wednesday morning from the isolation barn in 50 South at Hollywood Park.
Boulevard of Dreams finished seventh behind winner Ticker Tape in the 2004 American Oaks but Hillis has higher hopes for Puttanesca in the $700,000, Grade I test at 1 ¼ miles on turf Sunday.
Puttanesca, a New Zealand-bred filly who cleared quarantine Wednesday morning after being flown here Monday, was one of seven out-of-state fillies invited by racing secretary Martin Panza to have settled into their stalls here. Seven California-based invitees double the field size to 14.
“Puttanesca is more athletic and has a good turn of foot to suit the short straight,” said Hillis. “Boulevard of Dreams was more of a mile-and-a-half horse.”
Puttanesca won the Group II New Zealand Bloodstock Royal Stakes in January at the American Oaks distance of ten furlongs. The chestnut, the only 4-year-old in the lineup because of her Southern Hemisphere foaling, has recorded two firsts, three seconds and two thirds in 11 starts.
Hillis said the trip from New Zealand was “18 hours door to door,” most of it the flight from Auckland to Los Angeles.
Hillis, who has trained for ten years after 25 years as a steeplechase rider, said Puttanesca has targeted this race since early in the year. “Mr. Kwan wanted to point her for this race since he bought her in February,” said Hillis of owner Wong Yuk Kwan, a Hong Kong real estate magnate who purchased the filly from breeder Seaton Park Ltd.
Hillis has given a call to jockey Glen Boss to ride the filly for the first time. “He’s a leading rider from Australia, has won the Melbourne Cup two or three times, and has ridden internationally in Hong Kong and England,” said Hillis of the veteran.
Puttanesca was joined in the isolation barn by Apple Charlotte from England and Rare Ransom from Ireland.
Apple Charlotte, an English-bred victorious in three of four starts in England, worked an easy seven furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:27.80 under exercise rider John McCauley.
Jane Cecil, wife of trainer Henry Cecil, is deputizing for her husband. She said the Royal Applause filly was flown here Saturday and will canter Thursday under jockey Mike Smith, who has the American Oaks call.
“It was a choice of Royal Ascot or here, and the owners were quite keen on coming here,” said Cecil of Lord and Lady De La Warr, who are scheduled to arrive Friday.
Jeff Byrne, assistant to trainer Dermot Weld, hoped that Rare Ransom can follow in the footsteps of Dimitrova, who won this race for Weld in 2003.
“She’s very sound and has a lovely constitution,” said Byrne after galloping the filly one mile on the main track. “She’s a very straight-forward horse.”
Rare Ransom has won two of seven starts in Ireland and finished fourth in the Group I Irish 1000 Guineas at The Curragh in her last start May 24 for owner Lady O’Reilly. Weld is expected to arrive later Wednesday.
The three foreign arrivals were joined in the stable area by four Eastern invitees — Gozzip Girl from New York, The Best Day Ever from Kentucky, Magical Affair from Maryland and Afternoon Stroll from Pennsylvania — who were flown west on Monday.
Gozzip Girl, winner of the Sands Point Stakes on the Belmont Park turf May 30 in her last start, galloped 1 ¼ miles on the main track.
“She shipped very well,” said Dan Blacker, assistant to trainer Tom Albertrani, in Barn 53. “Nothing fazes her. She’s got a good head on her.”
Gozzip Girl, a daughter of Dynaformer, has won four of five turf starts and also finished second in the Grade I Ashland Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland, beaten by a neck.
“She’s pretty versatile,” said Blacker. “She usually comes off the pace, but in her last race she went wire to wire because there was no speed in the race.”
Kent Desormeaux, who is two-for-two aboard the filly and won the 2004 American Oaks on Ticker Tape, retains the mount.
Magical Affair, who finished fourth to Gozzip Girl in the Sands Point — beaten by 3 ¼ lengths — seeks to avenge that setback. “I jogged her one turn and galloped her one turn this morning,” said Gillian Barnes, assistant to trainer Michael Matz, from Barn 53 North. “She shipped great.
“She didn’t like the soft turf at Belmont and bobbled all the way around there,” said Barnes of the chestnut by Giant’s Causeway. “She likes firm turf and should like the distance here.”
The Best Day Ever relaxed in her stall in Barn 50 North after galloping on the main track. “She seemed to take to the track and seems to be happy,” said Philip Bauer, assistant to trainer and co-owner Ken McPeek. “Keeping her happy: that’s the key.”
The photogenic daughter of Brahms finished second by a neck in her last start in the Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs after winning her two previous starts by a nose.
“She should relish the added distance,” said McPeek from Kentucky before flying here later in the day.
“She shipped well and is eating good,” said Gina Moore, assistant to trainer and co-owner Tim Hamm, from Barn 51 South of Afternoon Stroll. “She jogged a mile and galloped a mile this morning.”
Afternoon Stroll won the Grade III Appalachian Stakes on the Keeneland turf in April. “She usually shows some speed and should be right up there,” said Moore.
“This was kind of a last-minute decision a week ago,” said Moore. “This is our first time in California, and we’re excited.” Hamm was expected to arrive later Wednesday.
The septet will be joined by seven local horses in the eighth running of the American Oaks. The probable lineup: Apple Charlotte (Mike Smith), Rare Ransom (Patrick Smullen), Puttanesca (Glen Boss), Gozzip Girl (Kent Desormeaux), Magical Affair (Julien Leparoux), The Best Day Ever (Corey Lanerie), Afternoon Stroll (Joseph Talamo), Well Monied (Joel Rosario), Mrs Kipling (David Flores), Acting Lady (Rafael Bejarano), Third Dawn (Garrett Gomez), Lexlenos (Alex Solis), Nan (Corey Nakatani) and Pretty Unusual (Tyler Baze).
Parading and Conservative, a pair of highly regarded horses with an affinity for synthetics in the Shug McGaughey stable, were on the Cushion Track here Wednesday under assistant Jennifer Patterson with an eye toward the Hollywood Gold Cup and Swaps Stakes, respectively.
“Both shipped well and settled well,” said Patterson from Barn 63 South after they were flown here from New York Monday. “Today was the first day they galloped, and they were both happy.
“Parading loves synthetics, and Conservative does too,” said Patterson.
Parading won the Ben Ali Stakes and Conservative finished second in the Lexington Stakes, both on the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Patterson said Parading will probably work here this weekend and be ridden in the $700,000 Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles July 11 by Kent Desormeaux.
The $300,000 Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds will be run here on July 18 at 1 1/8 miles.
Street Magician was bedded down in Barn 51 South after arriving from Laurel Park in Maryland Monday, and Rebellion was scheduled to arrive later Wednesday from Keeneland for the $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap, a Grade I test at seven furlongs on Cushion Track Sunday.
Rebellion, a 6-year-old horse trained by Graham Motion, showed his prowess sprinting here last year with a victory in the 7 ½-furlong Ack Ack Handicap. Street Magician, a Grade III stakes winner in Maryland, seeks his third straight victory for trainer Michael Trombetta following a ten-month layoff.
A large field is shaping up: Noble Court, Joel Rosario, 121 pounds; Rebellion, Julien Leparoux, 118; Siren Lure, Frank Alvarado, 118; Street Magician, Rafael Bejarnao, 116; Star Nicholas, Michael Baze, 115; Paul’s Hope, Garrett Gomez, 114; Rush With Thunder, Martin Pedroza, 113; Trumpet Player Jay, Aaron Gryder, 112; Zensational, Victor Espinoza, 111, and Bet On Victor, Martin Garcia, 109.
The year has been a quiet one for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, who hopes to make some noise on the Fourth of July Saturday with Buenos Dias in the American Handicap, a Grade II $150,000 stake at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Buenos Dias, a 4-year-old Irish-bred colt imported from France, will make his second United States start after a closing second in an allowance race here June 4.
“I like him a lot,” said McAnally of the Peintre Celebre colt owned by Charles Cella. “He ran with some good company over there.”
Buenos Dias recorded two firsts and four seconds in 10 French starts.
McAnally has won the American four times, most recently with another 4-year-old import, Candy Ride from Argentina in 2003. He also won with John Henry in 1983, Tight Spot in 1991, and Dark Moondancer in 2000.
FINISH LINES — Tres Borrachos, winner of the Swaps Stakes last year, worked six furlongs in 1:15.80 for trainer Beau Greely for the Hollywood Gold Cup.
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