11/11/2009 12:00AM

Field size a concern as Hollywood meet opens


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The fall meeting at Hollywood Park that opens Friday is highlighted by five Grade 1 races concentrated on two weekends over the next six weeks.

While the glamour races will draw some of the circuit's best horses and perhaps even the region's best 2-year-olds, the day-to-day entries of the 27-day meeting will be closely followed by participants eager to gauge the health of the sport in a tough economic time.

Reflective of financial conditions facing Thoroughbred racing, Hollywood Park has taken a conservative approach to this meeting. Overnight purses in some divisions were reduced, while some stakes, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup, were not scheduled this year.

The opening-night program will be the first live racing in Southern California since the close of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Sunday.

Hollywood Park officials are hoping that the small break will help boost field sizes in the first few weeks of the meeting. Beginning next week, there will be four consecutive weeks of racing on a Wednesday-Sunday basis. The final week will have four days of racing, from Dec. 17-20.

Last spring and summer, the track eliminated nine Wednesday programs due to a horse shortage.

Racing secretary Martin Panza said the brief break this week "certainly does help."

"Will we struggle some days?" he asked "Sure. Will it brutal? I hope not. We'll try to keep the field size up, so that on the big days we'll have some good fields. You have to stay optimistic but you have to be a realist, too.

"It's a short meeting. In this economy, I don't know of a whole lot of trainers that can sit on their horses. Most owners are like, 'Hey, there's a race. Let's run.' "

The Autumn Turf Festival will be held Nov. 27-29. It was cut from six races to five this year with the elimination of the Turf Express for sprinters. Each of those three days features a Grade 1 - the Citation Handicap on Nov. 27, the Matriarch on Nov. 28, and the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29.

The final weekend of the meet features the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19, which may include Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Lookin at Lucky, and the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet for 2-year-old fillies on Dec. 20.

"The CashCall Futurity is the anchor of the meeting for the 2-year-olds," Panza said. "We're working to see if we can get some of these big horses in there. It's a little early to say after the Breeders' Cup."

Friday's feature race is about turf sprinters and whether Wiredfortwotwenty can return from nearly a year-long layoff.

Wiredfortwotwenty is only the second-best turf sprinter in Brian Koriner's stable. This month, that is not a bad role to have.

The leader is California Flag, who gave Koriner the biggest win of his career in last weekend's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. Wiredfortwotwenty has yet to win a stakes but has shown sufficient promise to merit support in Friday's feature, an optional claimer over six furlongs on turf.

"He could be as quick as [California Flag] early," Koriner said. "We just hope to contain it. He's so fast. He's coming off a shin injury, and I didn't want to work him too hard in the morning. He's been 100 percent since he's been back."

Owned by A&R Stables and Class Racing Stables, Wiredfortwotwenty has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in November 2008. He has been first and third in optional claimers on turf.

"Hopefully, he matures and can come along," Koriner said.

Friday's optional claimer drew a field of nine, including Victory Kid, the winner of the Bull Dog Stakes at Fresno last month who has never run on turf; the improving Cadillac, who is trained by John Sadler; and the 9-year-old veteran Shadow of Illinois, who has won 4 of his last 6 starts.

Cadillac, a 7-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding, won an allowance race on Santa Anita's hillside turf course on Oct. 4. It was Cadillac's first win in six starts since arriving from New Zealand in the winter of 2007-08.

"We've had to stop on him a couple of times," Sadler said. "He had a foot problem. He's a pretty nice horse. Right now, he's doing better than ever."