04/05/2006 12:00AM

Buzzards Bay too good to leave out

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The decision to raise Buzzards Bay in class for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park was an easy one for his connections. Buzzards Bay has made sure of it.

"He's just trained magnificently," said Ron Ellis, who trains Buzzards Bay. "He's pretty much been getting best-of-the-mornings just with breezings, as easy as he can."

Buzzards Bay comes into the Oaklawn Handicap off a four-length score in the Grade 3, $150,000 All American Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 20.

"I think he kind of got his confidence built up in that last race," said Ellis.

Buzzards Bay showed more speed in the All American than he had in a while, pressing a quick pace before going on to win in a strong time of 1:47 for 1 1/8 miles. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 108.

The All American was one of two major wins Buzzards Bay has scored at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Oaklawn 'Cap. The other came last year, when he raced close throughout to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

"I think that's the way he wants to run," said Ellis. "I think that's his style, to lay up close and press the pace."

In his only other start at 1 1/8 miles, Buzzards Bay was fourth to Lava Man in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 28. One start later, Lava Man won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

Buzzards Bay was sold last July when a partnership was dissolved, and he was turned over to Ellis. Buzzards Bay will be Ellis's second starter at Oaklawn, behind Twice the Vice, who won the Apple Blossom in 1996.

"The filly I brought for that really loved the track, and I think this horse will really appreciate it, too," said Ellis. "It's a good, kind track and I think he'll really take to it."

Buzzards Bay would become a millionaire with a win in the Oaklawn 'Cap. He is the 118-pound highweight and will be ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. Adromeda's Hero, It's No Joke, and Master Command flew into town Tuesday for the Oaklawn Handicap. Other probables are Magnum, Purim, Gouldings Green, and With Distinction.

Hollywood Story needs to be closer

John Shirreffs has more than just one "warrior" in his stable. The trainer of Kentucky Derby prospect A. P. Warrior, he will start Hollywood Story in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn on Saturday.

"She's mentally very tough," said Shirreffs. "She's a war horse. She shows up for every race. She's competed at 2, 3, 4, and 5. I think for a mare, that's exceptional."

Hollywood Story, who would become a millionaire with a win Saturday, won her maiden in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in December 2003. The victory is one of three graded stakes scores on her r?sum?, all at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Apple Blossom.

Hollywood Story comes into the race off a third-place finish to Star Parade in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 11. She rallied from 12 lengths back in that 1 1/16-mile race, her first start since she finished a troubled eighth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in October.

"I thought she ran pretty well," Shirreffs said of the Santa Maria. "She was making up a lot of ground at the end, so we were happy there.

"We hope to have her a little closer [to the pace] than she has been in her last few races."

Shirreffs has given the mount to Oaklawn's leading rider Luis Quinonez. Hollywood Story, a winner of $892,015, is a 5-year-old daughter of Wild Rush.

Happy Ticket breezes easy half

Happy Ticket has been settled in at Oaklawn since Saturday afternoon, and on Wednesday morning she breezed an easy half-mile in 51.60 seconds under Loren Dancer. She is being pointed for the Apple Blossom.

"It was a nice, easy breeze," said Andrew Leggio Jr., who trains Happy Ticket. "We just stretched her out a little bit."

Like Hollywood Story, Happy Ticket would become a millionaire with a win in the Apple Blossom. She comes into the race off a second-place finish to Round Pond in the Grade 3, $175,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn. She is based at Louisiana Downs.

Horses arrive from California

Five horses arrived at Oaklawn from Southern California on Wednesday for stakes over the next week.

In addition to Star Parade and Hollywood Story for the Apple Blossom and Buzzards Bay for the Oaklawn 'Cap, Bordonaro and Magnum were on the flight. Bordonaro is here for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 13. Magnum is scheduled to run in the Oaklawn 'Cap.

* Thunder Mission, who won an allowance and was third in both the Grade 3 Essex and Grade 3 Razorback Breeders' Cup in three starts this meet, will make his next start in the $100,000 Alysheba at Churchill Downs, said his trainer, Ralph Nicks. The Alysheba is at 1 1/16 miles on May 5.

* Each of the stakes that make up the Racing Festival of the South will pay through the sixth place, according to the condition book at Oaklawn.