Updated on 09/15/2011 1:24PM

Do you dare shun favorite?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Horseplayers are not necessarily risk-takers. This is no contradiction. Safety-minded bettors habitually seek comfort in the familiar, which is one reason Nanogram will be strongly backed in the seventh-race feature Thursday at Hollywood Park.

Notwithstanding ordinary pace and speed figures, and a dubious command of the Hollywood turf course, Nanogram's latest line sticks out. Runner-up in a Grade 3 stakes Sept. 26 at Santa Anita, Nanogram drops into a two-other-than/optional $80,000 claimer Thursday, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint that might be a slam dunk. If not, it offers a terrific wagering opportunity for bettors willing to throw out the chalk entirely.

A field of seven entered the $42,000 race, including two other main contenders: stakes-placed Beauty and Style, and turf sprint specialist She Rocks. Others are comebacking longshots Dandy Night and Let's Cruise; Sissi Song, claimed for $100,000; and recently disappointing Emerald Magic. The feature race offers an exercise in racing's most appealing pursuits - handicapping and gambling.

Nanogram was headed nowhere until trainer John Sadler switched her to turf in early 2000. Nanogram responded with a 75-1 upset at Santa Anita, but tailed off in subsequent starts at Hollywood Park. The subpar efforts are relevant because Nanogram also ran poorly this May at Hollywood while she continues to thrive at Santa Anita, where she has two wins and two seconds from five starts.

The question is whether Nanogram, 2 for 12 lifetime, might reproduce her Santa Anita form at Hollywood. As with most handicapping dilemmas, it depends on her odds. At a short price in a short field, Nanogram offers negligible wagering value. Instead, bettors may trade current form for a hot barn and a comebacking filly proven at Hollywood.

She Rocks, trained by Craig Dollase (26 percent this year), made her U.S. debut here Dec. 14, finishing a troubled third in a highly rated allowance for 2-year-old fillies. It was her first in five months, and proved two things: she runs well fresh and handles Hollywood turf. This is significant because She Rocks is racing Thursday for the first time in seven months, and returning to Hollywood. Her workouts are green light.

The question for She Rocks and Nanogram - both late-runners - is whether they can get up going 5 1/2. Beauty and Style satisfies the pace concern. Unraced in a year, she routinely flirts with 22-second opening quarters, and will show her speed in her first start back for Bob Baffert.

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