Updated on 09/15/2011 1:30PM

Closers look good in Express


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Before the three-day, $2.1 million Autumn Turf Festival at Hollywood Park picks up any steam, it starts slowly Friday. Likewise, the main contenders in the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express - Swept Overboard and Nuclear Debate - will languish early and fly late.

Eleven sprinters gun 5 1/2 furlongs in the $200,000 Turf Express, the first of six graded turf stakes comprising the 11th annual Turf Festival. The Turf Express is race 9, the Grade 3 Miesque for 2-year-old fillies goes as race 5. Saturday, Breeders' Cup Mile winner Val Royal meets El Cielo in the Grade 2, $500,000 Citation, along with the Grade 3 Generous for 2-year-olds. Sunday, two Grade 1's anchor the season's best turf racing - the Matriach for fillies and mares, and the Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds.

* finished fourth, beaten a length, in the Breeders' Cup Sprint after rallying against a Belmont track bias that compromised horses racing closest to the rail. Winner of the Grade 1 Ancient Title in early October at Santa Anita, Swept Overboard proved in June he handles the Hollywood turf when he won a minor stakes, and finished a close second in a classified allowance.

"This turf course is conducive to his style," trainer Craig Dollase said. "I'm confident he'll take to this just fine."

Swept Overboard will need help, and is likely to get it. Though none of the first six turf sprints (through Wednesday) was won by a deep closer, the Turf Express sets up as a likely meltdown for the front-runners. No fewer than six speedballs figure to duel - defending champion Texas Glitter, Devil's Roar, Lexicon, Speak in Passing, Gibson County, and Rocky Bar.

The prospect of a blistering pace gives Swept Overboard, a six-time winner of $522,442 from 14 starts, a rightful shot, along with his main foe: late-runner Nuclear Debate, the 123-pound highweight. He makes his California debut after being purchased last month for approximately $260,000 at a Newmarket auction. A multiple Group 1 winner in Europe, he has won nine of 37, and earned $813,346. He is making his U.S. debut for trainer Darrell Vienna. After the Turf Express, Nuclear Debate, the 6-year-old gelding, will point for a sprint in Hong Kong.

Texas Glitter finished second in the Turf Express last year, but from post 2 he faces five front-runners to his outside. Trainer Bobby Frankel, who will be the most active Turf Festival trainer with nine scheduled runners, entered Speak in Passing and Blu Air Force.


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