The $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap will not be quite the same without retired three-time winner Zenyatta but the distaff championship of the Hollywood Park will not be lacking for drama Saturday.
Champion Blind Luck and two females who finished close seconds to Zenyatta last year—St Trinians and Switch—are expected to vie for favoritism in a field of six in the 1 1/8-mile race on Cushion Track.
“She’s doing good,” said trainer Mike Mitchell Thursday, hoping that luck will be on the side of St Trinians this time. The English-bred mare was overtaken in the final strides to finish second, one-half length behind Zenyatta, in the Vanity last year and was disqualified from first for interference in the stretch in her last start, the Milady Handicap May 21.
Switch can relate to St Trinians, also being collared in deep stretch by Zenyatta to finish second by one-half length in the Lady’s Secret Stakes here last October. C R K Stable owner Lee Searing is distributing 4,000 free T-shirts with a “Go Switch” logo on the chest to fans on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Blind Luck will leave from the outside post under high weight of 123 pounds as she seeks to provide trainer Jerry Hollendorfer with a special gift on the conditioner’s 65th birthday.
The lineup also includes lightly raced American Story, the expected pacesetter for trainer Bob Baffert, and Miss Match, who won the Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes as a 45-1 longshot two starts back.
Miss Match, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred mare, subsequently finished fourth in the Apple Blossom Handicap April 15 at Oaklawn Park April 15, a race in which Switch finished second behind winner Havre de Grace.
“The Apple Blossom was a mistake,” said Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale of the 1 1/16-mile race. “It was too short for her. She’s doing very well since she came back.” Drysdale seeks a record-equaling fifth Vanity win.
John Shirreffs, who set the record of five after Zenyatta’s three-peat last year, will only have cherished memories of the Vanity this year as he saddles starters in three other races Saturday. “Maybe I’ll get a chance to try it again one day,” said Shirreffs.
Zenyatta, in foal to Bernardini in Kentucky, not only was the only horse to win the Vanity three times in its 69-year history, she also carried a staggering 129 pounds in her last two wins.
MILLER FEELING MAJESTIC ABOUT JUVENILE
Trainer Peter Miller has won the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes for 2-year-olds three times but he has yet to win the Hollywood Juvenile Championship.
Miller hopes to change that on July 17 in the $100,000 Grade III Juvenile with Majestic City, who gave Miller his third Proctor win with a 3 ½-length score in 1:04.16 for 5 ½ furlongs under David Flores Sunday.
“He’s the best 2-year-old I’ve had and so far looks like the best 2-year-old on the West Coast,” said Miller Thursday. “He’s a monster. He’s more advanced than any 2-year-old I’ve ever had and hopefully he will keep progressing. He does everything easy. He’s never been asked to run yet.”
Majestic City, a Kentucky-bred chestnut colt by City Zip out of the Meadowlake mare Its’chemistrybaby, was purchased at the March Ocala sale for $180,000. “I picked him out along with Jeff Bloom and Nick Hines,” said Miller of the colt owned by Majestic Racing Stable, a syndicate headed by Bloom and Mike Shustek.
BAFFERT TESTS TURF WITH MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was looking for a change of pace with Midnight Interlude and hopes a race on turf late Friday night will fit the name of the Santa Anita Derby winner.
“I just want to see if he likes the turf,” said Baffert Thursday of the 3-year-old colt’s grass debut in the $70,000-added Tsunami Slew Stakes at one mile.
Baffert remained puzzled about Midnight Interlude’s disappointing performances in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, in which he finished far back in both.
“I still don’t know why he didn’t run better back east,” said Baffert. “I’m trying to reverse his mindset.” Midnight Interlude has a turf pedigree top and bottom.
Midnight Interlude will begin a busy stakes weekend here for Baffert, who will also send out American Story in the Vanity Handicap Saturday and high weights Fund Raiser and Irish Gypsy in the $70,000-added Desert Stormer Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs Sunday.
FINISH LINES—Joel Rosario will return from a week at Royal Ascot in England to ride here Friday night. Rosario has the call on Zazu in the $150,000 Hollywood Oaks June 25 for trainer John Sadler, who said the 3-year-old filly will work Saturday for the Grade II test at 1 1/16 miles…Meet riding leader Rafael Bejarano will journey to Iowa June 24 and 25 to ride several stakes at Prairie Meadows, including the Cornhusker Handicap with Gladding for Sadler…Smiling Tiger worked five furlongs in a bullet 58.80 for the Grade I $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap at seven furlongs July 2…Givine drilled four furlongs in 49 for the $150,000 Grade II Royal Heroine Mile July 4…Ryehill Dreamer, winner of the American Handicap for trainer Julio Canani, has been sidelined indefinitely with a tendon injury.
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