Updated on 09/17/2011 11:39AM

Bear Fan faces key test for class


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Bear Fan is the only undefeated filly nominated for Saturday's $100,000 Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park - and the one with the most to prove.

In four starts, Bear Fan has won three overnight races and the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes against California-breds last summer at Del Mar. An ankle injury kept her out of training over the winter, but she returned to finish in a dead heat for first with That's Our Tricky in a six-furlong allowance race at Bay Meadows on May 15.

The race was a prep for the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Handicap, which is run over six furlongs for fillies and mares. The Desert Stormer is led by Cee's Elegance and Jetinto Houston, the first two finishers in the B. Thoughtful Stakes for California-breds on April 26, and Madame Pietra, who has won three consecutive stakes but has not started since January.

A victory in the Desert Stormer would not only give Bear Fan her first graded stakes win, but would give co-owner and trainer Wesley Ward the confidence to try more difficult races.

"She's come back like a tiger," Ward said. "I'm very comfortable with her. She's had ample time to recover."

Ward insists that Bear Fan needed the allowance race at Bay Meadows in May, her first start since winning the Fleet Treat Stakes last July.

"I didn't have her fit at all," Ward said. "I wanted to get a race into her instead of a work.

She got smashed and got wiped out at the start. The horse I dead-heated with got off to a long lonely lead and we came and nailed her on the money."

Mike Smith rode Bear Fan in her three starts last year, but is booked to ride Jetinto Houston. Ward has given the mount on Bear Fan to Curt Bourque, the leading rider at Arlington Park but unfamiliar to most Southern California racegoers. Ward said he chose Bourque as a favor to the jockey's agent, Ron Ebanks, who helped him gain a new client, Roger King, earlier this year.

"I've seen him ride at Arlington and he rides with a lot of confidence," Ward said of Bourque.

Saturday's feature race is the $200,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Atlantic Ocean, the winner of four stakes in the last year, is the 121-pound topweight in a field expected to include Bartok's Blithe, Gotdream, Harbor Blues, Lady's Mantle, Major Idea, Quero Quero, Rutters Renegade, Shapes and Shadows, and Star Vega.

Atlantic Ocean was ninth in the Kentucky Oaks on May 2, and trainer Bob Baffert said he has chosen the Honeymoon as a prep to the $750,000 American Oaks on July 5.

Atlantic Ocean won the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes on turf last November. Her most recent win came in the Sunshine Millions Oaks at Santa Anita last January.

"She'll need the out," Baffert said. "I don't know what happened in the Oaks."

Affluent switching to turf

Affluent, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap in January who was fifth in the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 25, is switching to turf.

Trainer Ron McAnally said Affluent will be pointed for the $100,000 Royal Heroine Stakes over a mile on turf on July 5, a prep for the $400,000 John Mabee Handicap (formerly Ramona Handicap) at Del Mar on July 26.

The 5-year-old Affluent has won 8 of 22 starts and $1,467,651.

In switching to turf, McAnally avoids meeting Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, who has won nine consecutive races, all on dirt. Affluent has proven turf form. She won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in 2001 and the 2002 Ramona Handicap.

McAnally recently added a prominent 3-year-old filly to his stable in advance of the American Oaks. Welcome Millennium, fourth in the French 1000 Guineas last month, has been bought privately by Arnold Zetcher. Welcome Millennium has placed in four stakes in the last year.

Trainer Smith changes careers

Trainer Mike Smith has disbanded his five-horse stable, citing low inventory and the escalating costs of workers' compensation in California.

Smith, 50, said he plans to concentrate on a window installation business that he launched a few years ago. He did not rule out a return to training.

"I was down on horses and it was going to be a while before more came in," he said. "This is the first time in 20-some odd years that I won't be involved. I'd like to get enough horses. The horses I had weren't cutting it."

Smith's best horse in the last year was Humorous Lady, who won the Astarita Breeders' Cup Stakes at Belmont Park last fall, but was unplaced in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park. She has since been sent to Kentucky and given time off, Smith said.

Stevens gets mount on Storming Home

Gary Stevens has been booked to ride Storming Home in the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap on June 14, according to his agent, Craig O'Bryan. The Whittingham is a Grade 1 race run over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Storming Home became a leading member of the turf distance division with a win in the $400,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on May 10. The Murray was Storming Home's U.S. debut and first start for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Also on June 14, Stevens will ride Piensa Sonando for McAnally in the $400,000 Californian Stakes, a prep for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13.

Stevens is booked to ride the Royal Ascot meeting in England beginning on June 17.

* Harold Hodosh, who trained the multiple stakes winner Viva la Vivi, died on Sunday in Escondido after a battle with cancer. He was 72.