Updated on 09/17/2011 10:20AM

Cunning Play takes the low road


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The improving filly Cunning Play might have snuck into the $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap Friday at Hollywood Park, been part of a small field, and earned Grade 3 placing in only the third start of her comeback. Trainer Laura de Seroux admits she was tempted.

"I know the Hawthorne would be a small field, and we were back and forth between running there or a two-other-than," the trainer said. Ultimately, de Seroux entered Cunning Play in the two-other-than allowance race. Why? "Because it's the right thing to do to develop her," she said.

Cunning Play faces four fillies and mares in the seventh race feature Thursday at Hollywood. If the big filly reproduces her recent front-running win at Santa Anita, she can race gate to wire in the 1 1/16-mile race. Her main rivals are the lightly raced Tropical Blossom, who is coming off a career-best win, and class dropdown Film Critic. Longshots Enjoy and Fair Bianca also entered.

Cunning Play has always been well regarded by her connections, and finished only 1 1/4 lengths behind Take Charge Lady in the Grade 2 Alcibiades at Keeneland as a 2-year-old. But her 3-year-old season, according to de Seroux, was "a debacle. She had horrible trips." Owner-breeder Wimborne Farm sent her to California last year, and she began to improve.

"Her works are all bullets, but she's happy and relaxed," de Seroux said, adding, "she trains second only to Azeri."

In her first California start, Cunning Play stumbled at the break, and finished third. Next time out, she broke well, set a strong pace, and won by one length. It was her second win from 10 starts.

- Dublino and Turtle Bow, both trained by de Seroux, were scheduled for turf workouts between the second and third race Wednesday. Dublino is pointing for the Grade 3 Wilshire Sunday, along with stablemate Little Treasure. De Seroux said she may train Turtle Bow up to the Grade 1 Gamely May 26, depending on the Wednesday workout.

- Azeri worked a half-mile Saturday under Mike Smith for de Seroux, and the 2002 Horse of the Year is aiming for the Grade 1 Milady May 24. Total Impact worked five furlongs Tuesday and could start in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy May 10. With Medaglia d'Oro out of the Pimlico Special May 16, de Seroux said Total Impact will also be considered for that race.