07/27/2009 11:00PM

Class drop for Grace Upon Grace


DEL MAR, Calif. - Grace Upon Grace had an ambitious campaign at Hollywood Park. After defeating California-bred maidens in his debut in April, Grace Upon Grace twice faced open company, and acquitted himself admirably, finishing second in the Willard Proctor Memorial in June, and fourth of five after racing wide in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 12.

He missed his friends, though, so trainer Walther Solis thought he would oblige on Wednesday at Del Mar. Grace Upon Grace is back in against Cal-breds, in the $100,000 Graduation Stakes, and the drop in class makes him one of the prime contenders in the 5 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

"After he ran second in the Proctor, we were going to point for the Graduation, but the Juvenile field was so short we decided to take a shot," Solis said. "He had to have a workout anyway." Might as well get paid to breeze six furlongs.

Grace Upon Grace is adding blinkers for the Graduation, in which faces nine rivals. Victor Espinoza rides him for the third straight time.

"He wasn't focusing. He was looking at other horses," Solis said. "I think it will make a difference."

Solis also sends out Sweet Tigger, who has made his last two starts in stakes races in Northern California after defeating Cal-bred maidens at Hollywood Park in his third start on June 5. This will be his fourth start in less than eight weeks.

"No matter how much you do with him, he's a good-feeling horse," Solis said. "He's always jumping out of his skin."

Solis's main rival in the Graduation is trainer Mike Harrington, who entered a trio of runners, including Roman Counsel, who beat open maidens in his third start on July 5 at Hollywood Park. He was narrowly beaten in his first two starts, both of which were also against open company.

Harrington also entered Ritzville, who had a rough trip in a stakes race at Pleasanton in his last start, and Swiss Exploit, who defeated maiden claimers in his lone start back on May 6 at Hollywood.

Bertran Hill comes off a front-running win against Cal-bred maidens at Hollywood Park on June 28. It was his third start, but the first time he got away from the gate cleanly. If he can break well again, his sharp early speed should make him prominent throughout in this abbreviated sprint.