04/25/2013 3:24PM

Brad Free: The beat goes on for Mel's Game in Tiznow Stakes


Saturday is California Gold Rush Day at Betfair Hollywood Park, and the handicapping notebook is full, with stuff like this . . .

◗ Call it a surprise if Mel’s Game does not win his fourth straight by dominating the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes on Saturday at Hollywood. His main rival, John Scott, got sick and missed a start; Mel’s Game has not missed a beat.

◗ Sure glad the Tiznow is race 5, first leg of the pick six. It’s always nice to get the pick-six “single” out of the way early, win or lose.

◗ Mel’s Game is owned by Nick Alexander and trained by Mike Mitchell.

Their Saturday should get off to a big start in race 1 with speedball allowance filly Hail Mary.

“She is like training a rocket ship, she’s so fast,” Mitchell said. “She is razor sharp right now.” Odds-on?

◗ Every spring, the 7 1/2-furlong Tiznow begs this question – is the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner still a maiden? It sounds crazy, but it happened in 2000. An unseasoned colt did not win a maiden race until his third start May 31 at Hollywood. Five months later at Churchill Downs, Tiznow won the BC Classic by a neck over Giant’s Causeway.

◗ Speaking of Tiznow, here’s wishing trainer Jay Robbins all the best in retirement. Still remember Robbins’s quote about Tiznow, following his maiden win and before anyone else knew how good he was.

Robbins’s (paraphrased) quote about Tiznow: “He might be the best horse I ever trained.” Turns out, Robbins was right.

◗ Milestones are ahead for the Teddy’s Promise team. Jockey Victor Espinoza is nearing 3,000 wins; he entered the week with 2,991.

Trainer Ron Ellis is nearing 1,000 wins; he entered the week with 993. The totals will increase if Grade 1-winning sprinter Teddy’s Promise delivers Saturday as the favorite in the $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes.

◗ Not sure if Ismene is good enough, but she has an upset chance in the B. Thoughtful. After all, who would dare run early with speedster Ismene?

◗ Handicapping deadlines are brutal. Daily Racing Form analyses for the first three cards of the Hollywood spring meet were filed before a single race was run. If I “blank” Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, my alibi will be – didn’t know how the track would play.

◗ Willie B Awesome, full brother to Grade 1-winning filly Willa B Awesome, aims for his career debut May 5 at Hollywood in a maiden race for California-bred 2-year-olds. Is the brother as good as the sister?

“So far, he is more talented,” trainer Walther Solis said. Stay tuned.

◗ Hollywood ran 36 races for 2-year-olds last spring; the 2010 U.S. foal crop (2-year-olds of 2012) was 25,808. Wonder if Hollywood will run fewer races this spring. According to the Jockey Club, the estimated 2011 U.S. foal crop (2-year-olds of 2013) was 23,150, a decline of 11 percent.

◗ The competition is frustrating, infuriating, and exasperating. Sign me up. “Show Me The Money” starts May 5 at Hollywood. The free online contest offers a $2,500 winner-take-all prize and requires players pick one horse from one of six daily designated races to hit the board. You’re out of the game when your pick finishes out of the money.

◗ It was not a horrible call by Santa Anita stewards to disqualify Viva Carina for interference April 20 in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap and move runner-up Lady of Shamrock to first. But the call could have gone either way.

Yes, I backed front-runner Viva Carina at 8.90-1 odds and still don’t think she had to come down. But it was not a horrible call.

◗ The uninspiring Santa Barbara may have confirmed what California observers suspected – the filly-mare turf division in California is rather weak. The possible exception is Tiz Flirtatious, early favorite for the Grade 1 Gamely on May 27.

◗ Department of wishful thinking: the media parking sticker from Betfair Hollywood is labeled 2013 . . . and 2014.

◗ Just wondering . . . who on the California Horse Racing Board will be the next person hired by Frank Stronach? Just asking, that is all.

◗ Asking this question again: If Unlimited Budget becomes the sixth Fair Grounds Oaks winner in the last nine years to win the Kentucky Oaks, will the graded stakes committee consider bumping the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks up to the Grade 1 status it deserves?

◗ Speaking of the Kentucky Oaks, how about Seaneen Girl as a bomber?

She ran like a short filly finishing third in the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 30, her first start in four months. If she improves second start back, she could hit the board at a big price.

◗ It was “positive expectation” April 18 in the Golden Gate pick five – the amount paid to winners was $61,258 more than wagered. Total payout was $694,704. Bettors wagered $633,446 chasing a $149,941 carryover. A 50-cent parlay on the bet (14 percent takeout) would have returned $536. But winning tickets received more than double – $1,102.85.

◗ Handicapper Chuck Dybdal tipped Daily Racing Form readers/Golden Gate pick-five bettors April 18 to use a race 7 first-timer trained by streaking Aggie Ordonez. Dybdal wrote “ . . . fans may want to give a long look at first-time starter Some Kind of Ride . . . ” Some Kind of Ride romped, the seventh win from Ordonez’s last 11 starters.

◗ Can you name the only horse still racing who competed in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile? He has won eight races and $445,128 from 34 starts. A 7-year-old still trained by Frank Lucarelli, Gallant Son is in with a chance in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile on Saturday at Golden Gate.

◗ Breeders’ Cup 2008 trivia, part two: Can you name the last-place finisher from the 2008 BC Juvenile? Answer: Mine That Bird.

◗ Last call: Summer Hit should win the San Francisco Mile, but only if he can sit behind likely pacesetter Coach Bob.