It may not be quite at the level of Goldikova winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile for a third time but Treat Gently hopes to post another major stakes victory for a female against males in the $250,000 Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup Saturday.
Treat Gently, a 5-year-old mare, worked three furlongs in 36.40 seconds on Cushion Track Thursday under exercise rider Leana Willaford, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, after being flown west from Kentucky on Monday.
“We just wanted to blow her out and open her lungs a little bit,” explained Willaford. “She felt good. She’s settled good. She’s eating good.”
Treat Gently, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, drew post two under Patrick Valenzuela and will carry 123 pounds, three less than seven male rivals, in the 1 ½-mile grass test.
Willaford said the Turf Cup appeared to be an inviting spot. “She’s a little difficult to place,” she said. “She likes the longer distances. Juddmonte already had another horse in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (Midday, who finished second). And she comes off a very creditable race against the boys at Belmont (a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational October 2, 2 ¾ lengths behind winner Winchester.)”
English-bred Treat Gently was a Group II winner in France for Andre Fabre in 2008 before coming to the United States in 2009. She has won two of seven starts this year, highlighted by the Grade II Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont in May.
“We’d like to get her covered up or she can be a little bit keen,” said Willaford, confident that Valenzuela will be up to the task in his first ride on the mare.
Hall of Famer Mott will be after his second Grade I stakes victory in California this year with a female against males on turf. Proviso won the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March.
Treat Gently seeks to become the second female to win the Turf Cup in its 28-year history. Champion Miss Alleged won the race in 1991. Juddmonte racing manager Garrett O’Rourke is scheduled to attend Saturday.
Two other Turf Cup entrants also blew out three furlongs on the main track Thursday: Buenos Dias for Hall of Famer Ron McAnally and Worth Repeating for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, both in 38.40.
Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, who will be represented by Marlang in the race, said a second candidate, Bourbon Bay, was forced to pass because of illness. “He had a fever the day before the draw, but he’s okay now,” said Drysdale.
GRAYSON HOLDING HIS GROUND WITH FAST FILLY
Owner-trainer Bob Grayson, 72, waited a long time for a filly like Holding Her Ground.
“I’ve been in the sport 40 years, and she’s probably the best one I’ve had,” said Grayson Thursday after entering the 4-year-old filly in the $55,000-added Playa del Rey Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs Sunday.
“They better bring their running shoes,” said Grayson as a warning to seven rivals against the Florida-bred filly seeking her fifth victory in her last six starts.
Holding Her Ground, to be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela for the first time, comes off her first stakes victory in the Harvest at Fresno on October 10 with ever-rising speed figures.
Grayson, who claimed the filly for $40,000 out of a maiden victory in her first start at Calder in 2008, credited assistant Robert Strauss Jr. for her emergence as a top sprinter.
“She was a light filly and hard to put weight on,” explained Grayson. “He had a feeding program that worked for her. She has probably put on 200 pounds.”
Grayson also credited jockey Christian Santiago Reyes, who rode the filly to two upset victories at Del Mar. Holding Her Ground has won five of 15 starts and earned $149,215, almost all of it the past six months.
Grayson, an Oklahoma native who calls himself an “Okie from Muskokee,” started in racing in Arizona before moving here and taking out his license 25 years ago.
Grayson has 20 horses in training—four here and 16 at Fairplex Park—and an additional 50 at a farm in Bakersfield.
FANS CONTINUE TO VISIT ZENYATTA
Steve Willard, exercise rider for Zenyatta, talked to half a dozen visitors at the entrance of Barn 55 South Monday as hot walker Carmen Zamora walked the glamour queen of racing along shedrow.
“She was happy to get home and settled right in again,” said Willard of the two-time champion, who returned Sunday night after finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday. She finished a head behind Blame with a belated rally, her first setback in 20 starts.
“She still gets 10 or so visitors a day,” said Michelle Jensen, assistant to trainer John Shirreffs. “She came back perfect.”
BAFFERT AIMS PAIR FOR STARLET
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said that May Day Rose and A Z Warrior are both on target for the $250,000 Hollywood Starlet on December 11. The Grade I test for 2-year-old fillies will be run at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
May Day Rose comes off a wire-to-wire victory in the $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes here at the Starlet distance on Sunday. A Z Warrior finished 12th and last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Friday after capturing the Grade I Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park.
“A Z Warrior came out of it with a foot bruise,” said Baffert, optimistic that she will recover in time for the Starlet. Baffert won the Starlet with Excellent Meeting in 1998 and Habibti in 2001.
Trainer John Sadler said that Darley Debutante winner Tell a Kelly, seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, is also being aimed for the Starlet.
ROSARIO TO RIDE COURT VISION IN CITATION
Joel Rosario will ride Court Vision for the first time in the $250,000 Grade I Citation Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf here November 27, agent Ron Ebanks said Thursday.
Court Vision, a multiple Grade I stakes winner with more than $2.5-million in earnings, will be shipped west from New York by trainer Rick Dutrow later this month after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile Saturday.
Court Vision, a 5-year-old son of Gulch, won the 2008 Grade I Hollywood Derby in his only previous start on this course. He also won the 2009 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and the Woodbine Mile in September, both Grade I.
Meteore, another Citation nominee, worked seven furlongs on turf in 1:28.60 here Thursday for trainer Richard Mandella.
BEJARANO TO RIDE FRENCH STAR IN MATRIARCH
Jockey Rafael Bejarano has taken a call to ride French star Special Duty in the $250,000 Grade I Matriarch for fillies and mares at one mile on turf November 26, agent Joe Ferrer said Thursday.
Special Duty, an English-bred 3-year-old filly owned by Juddmonte Farms, is a double Group I winner for trainer Criquette Head-Maarek.
Bejarano has also taken a call on Citrus Kid for the $250,000 Hollywood Derby on November 28, according to Ferrer. The 3-year-old colt is based in New York with trainer John Terranova.
FINISH LINES—California Cup Sprint winner Cost of Freedom worked four furlongs in 47 seconds Thursday for trainer John Sadler for his next probable start in the $100,000 Vernon Underwood Stakes November 25…Trainer Jamie Lloyd said that Oak Tree Derby winner Fantastic Pick remains on target for the Hollywood Derby November 28 and that Moment of Weakness will run in the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds Nov. 27. Corey Nakatani will ride both.
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