07/12/2008 11:00PM

Can Church Service catch Boule d'Or?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Boule d'Or and Church Service are the only 2008 graded stakes winners in Sunday's $150,000 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park. Their respective strategies for the race could not be more different.

Boule d'Or, the winner of the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita in March, will have the lead, and is proven over the Sunset distance of 1 1/2 miles on turf. Church Service, who won the Grade 3 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap on May 26, is a closer. Trainer Mike Mitchell would not be bothered if Church Service were last early.

"You take him back and get him out of the race and let him make his move," Mitchell said. "You don't want to move too early."

The Grade 2 Sunset Handicap is the feature of a nine-race program on the closing day of the meet. The Del Mar meet begins Wednesday.

Church Service has turned out to be a lucrative claim since being bought for $50,000 at Santa Anita in January. Church Service, 5, has been first or second in his three starts since the claim. He was second in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf in February and second in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on the main track in March.

"My horse just likes anything," Mitchell said. "I think he can do a mile and a half."

The Sunset has drawn the first three finishers of the Round Table Handicap over 1 3/4 miles on turf on June 14 - Cedar Mountain, Transduction Gold, and Porfido. Cedar Mountain, trained by Neil Drysdale, is a distance specialist who won an allowance race over 1 1/2 miles on turf here on May 7.

Transduction Gold, bred, owned and trained by John Glenney, will be near the front. The 5-year-old gelding thrives in turf marathons, having won the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland in October.

Like the rest of the field, Transduction Gold will be in pursuit of Boule d'Or, who has a drawn the rail. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Boule d'Or was a well-beaten fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap on May 10, but emerged from the race with an excuse.

"He had a severe lung infection," Mullins said. "It was normal stuff we deal with, just a little more severe. He's doing well now."

Regular rider Tyler Baze has the mount, which gives Mullins confidence. "Tyler's good with a horse on the lead," Mullins said.