06/27/2007 11:00PM

Epic Power aims to continue mile dominance


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Epic Power already conquered the two leading races for California-bred milers in the last eight months - the 2006 California Cup Mile and the Khaled Stakes in April.

Epic Power's next goal is the newest race for the division, Saturday's $75,000 Korbel Handicap at Hollywood Park. Run over a mile on turf, the Korbel Handicap has drawn five entrants, including Super Strut and Jack's Wild, the last two winners of the Crystal Water Handicap at Santa Anita; Now Victory, a stakes winner at Golden Gate Fields last September; and Exceeding, a stakes winner in 2005 who recently returned from an 18-month layoff.

The Korbel is the first of four stakes on Saturday's program, which is headed by the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Epic Power is the 122-pound topweight and is making his first start since the Khaled. Trainer Jack Carava was pointing Epic Power to the $125,000 California Dreamin' Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 3 when the Korbel Handicap was announced.

"We had him in steady training," Carava said. "I just shortened up his last two works."

Carava insists that Epic Power should be going for his fourth stakes win in the last year. He was frustrated when Epic Power ran a troubled seventh behind Jack's Wild in the Crystal Water.

"He had a horrible trip, or he could have won that race," Carava said.

Owned by La Canada Stables, Epic Power is expected to stalk Exceeding, who finished third in the Bullet Stakes here May 18.

"Hopefully, they'll be some speed," Carava said. "Hopefully, Exceeding can set the pace."

Track hopes for Gold Cup attendance boost

The Gold Cup program is the first of three major days at Hollywood Park through the Fourth of July week. It is followed by the CashCall Mile next Friday and the American Oaks on July 7.

Judging from last year's attendance figures, the public is losing interest in the Gold Cup.

Last year, the Gold Cup drew a measly on-track crowd of 8,308, fewer than the CashCall Mile program (12,764) or American Oaks (9,017).

Conversely, Santa Anita drew an ontrack crowd of 43,024 for the Santa Anita Handicap program on March 3, which featured Gold Cup entrants Lava Man and Molengao. Last August, Del Mar drew an ontrack crowd of 32,039 to witness Lava Man's win in the Pacific Classic.

This year, Hollywood Park officials have loaded the CashCall Mile and American Oaks programs with several promotions, including a free $5 bet and a car giveaway Friday, and a cap giveaway and a $1 million guaranteed pick six on July 7.

There is a $100,000 winner-take-all handicapping tournament over those two programs.

Saturday's Gold Cup program features a beach towel giveaway and a $400,000 guaranteed pick six pool, a standing attraction on Saturdays in the second half of the spring-summer meeting.

"It's a pretty special card," assistant general manager Mike Ziegler said of Saturday's 11 races. "It's about the racing."

He declined to predict Saturday's ontrack crowd.

Full plate for Michael Baze

The one constant among the jockeys riding on Saturday's program is Michael Baze. The leading rider at this meeting, Baze is the only jockey with mounts in every race on the program.

Being so active is ideal for Baze, who says the high workload will not wear him down.

"I like to stay busy," Baze said. "If I sit around, I get bored and tired."

He may need a big day to hold onto the lead. Through Wednesday, Baze had 56 wins, 5 more than apprentice jockey Joe Talamo, who trailed by 13 after the June 15 program.

Baze has mounts in all four of Saturday's stakes - Super Strut in the Korbel Handicap, Out of Control in the $250,000 American Handicap, Another Aleyna in the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes, and Big Booster in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.

"Even riding all the stakes is pretty amazing," he said.

Johnston to receive Pincay Award

Bud Johnston, owner of Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., will be presented with the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award at Hollywood Park on Saturday for his contribution to racing.

The award, launched in 2004, is presented to an individual who has served the sport with integrity and dedication.

Pincay, the retired Hall of Fame jockey, will make the presentation to Johnston during Saturday's program. Pincay and Johnston were a formidable team during Pincay's career. Johnston said that he has "about 170" win pictures of his horses that were ridden by Pincay.

Old English Rancho was founded by Johnston's late father, Ellwood B. Johnston. The farm was first located in Ontario, Calif., and was later moved to its current location in central California.