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Full brothers at top of record book
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The stallion Tiznow and dam Hepatica are cornering the market on track records at Hollywood Park.
Slew's Tizzy set a Cushion Track record for 1 1/8 miles Saturday when he won the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap in 1:46.78, nine days after his full brother Slew's Tiznow set the track record for 1 1/16 miles winning the War Chant Stakes in 1:40.34.
Slew's Tizzy, 4, and Slew's Tiznow, 3, are trained by Doug O'Neill and owned by Joseph LaCombe, whose son Joseph Jr. commented: "It's so rare to have two really good ones in a row."
How about five in a row?
One hour after Slew's Tizzy became the second in his family to set a track record, Champs Elysees won the Hollywood Turf Cup by a half-length to become the fifth foal out of the mare Hasili to win a Grade 1 in the United States.
Bobby Frankel trains Champs Elysees, a son of Danehill who is a full brother to Grade 1 winners Cacique (Man 'o War, Manhattan), Intercontinental (Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Matriarch), and Banks Hill (BC Filly and Mare Turf). A half-sister Heat Haze (Beverly D, Matriarch) makes it five to win Grade 1s in the United States.
Champs Elysees and Slew's Tizzy have more in common than following family footsteps. Those two, and Slew's Tiznow, have emerged as key players in the handicap division leading toward the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
Joseph LaCombe Jr. said Slew's Tizzy would aim to the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 10, while Slew's Tiznow will go in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes for 4-year-olds on Jan. 17. And though they faced each other in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (10th and 11th), LaCombe said "More than likely, we wouldn't run them both in the Big Cap. It will be spring, and there will be other options."
Despite setting records, neither Slew's Tizzy nor Slew's Tiznow earned big numbers. The main track this fall at Hollywood Park has played extremely fast. Slew's Tizzy earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure; Slew's Tiznow earned a 102.
As for Turf Cup winner Champs Elysees, he has started twice on the main track and trainer Bobby Frankel is likely to try him on it again. He broke slow in the 2008 Big Cap and finished third. In his most recent main track start, he finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"He loves [synthetic], he runs good on it," Frankel said.
Pending a final decision by owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms, Frankel expects Champs Elysees to campaign next year at age 6.
Briecat targeting El Encino
Was the wire-to-wire upset by Briecat ($28.80) in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap on Sunday at Hollywood Park a legitimate race or merely a function of the speed-favoring nature of the Cushion Track surface?
The filly's trainer Vladimir Cerin could be biased, he believes Briecat is simply getting better.
"She won last time on grass [at Turf Paradise], and she broke her maiden at Santa Anita," Cerin said. "Of course, that was three surfaces ago."
Briecat will try to reproduce her form when she makes her next start Jan. 18 in the Grade 2 El Encino for 4-year-old fillies at Santa Anita. The challenge will be the surface. Pro-Ride is not favorable to Briecat's front-running style.
"She can adjust," Cerin said.
As for even-money favorite Model, the Bayakoa runner-up, she ran well despite refusing to allow blinkers to be put on in the paddock. After warming up on the track, blinkers were added at the gate. "She's done that before," trainer Neil Drysdale said.
Model, however, was unable to overcome the speed-favoring track profile and finished second. In Cushion Track races this fall at Hollywood, the pacesetter has won 16 of the 46 races at the Bayakoa distance of 1 1/16 miles.
An improving 4-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway, Model would be one of the top guns this winter at Santa Anita in filly-mare handicap races such as the Grade 1 Santa Maria and Santa Margarita. Drysdale was asked if Model would campaign as a 5-year-old.
"I hope so," he said.
Model has won 4 of 14 and is owned by Abergwaun Farm.
Wynning Ride supplements to Starlet
Two-year-old fillies Toro Bonito and Wynning Ride worked five furlongs in company Sunday at Santa Anita, but the Bob Baffert trainees will be less friendly when they meet Saturday in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.
Although stakes-placed Toro Bonito is more accomplished, Baffert and Wynning Ride's owner Arnold Zetcher are gambling Wynning Ride will improve when she stretches out for her third start. Wynning Ride will be supplemented to the Starlet for $20,000.
"I think she'll love two turns," Baffert said.
Wynning Ride was transferred to Baffert after winning her debut for Ron McAnally. She finished fourth in the seven-furlong Moccasin, and Baffert said she is a better filly now.
"She wasn't showing a lot in the morning, but now she is showing a lot," he said.
Toro Bonito and Wynning Ride were given five-furlong times of 1:00.80, but Baffert said the team actually worked six furlongs in 1:13. Toro Bonito has won 1 of 5 for owners Hal and Patti Earnhardt; she finished second in the Sharp Cat Stakes on Nov. 1.
A field of six is expected for the 1 1/16-mile Starlet. Alpha Kitten is expected to be favored under jockey Mike Smith, but front-runner Laragh and jockey Edgar Prado will have the speed-friendly track profile in their favor. Other expected runners and jockeys include Toro Bonito, David Flores; Wynning Ride, Joe Talamo; Pomona Ball, Rafael Bejarano; and Dave's Revenge, Kent Desormeaux.
Pioneerof the Nile, Indian Blessing work
Baffert also worked two of his top runners Sunday, including 2-year-old colt Pioneerof the Nile, the expected favorite for the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20. Pioneerof the Nile worked without the blinkers he wore in a bullet six-furlong drill last time, and he slowed down Sunday under Corey Nakatani. He was given a six-furlong work time of 1:13.60.
"He worked really well, he doesn't need blinkers," Baffert said, adding that Pioneerof the Nile actually worked seven furlongs, one furlong farther than the recorded distance.
Nakatani also worked Indian Blessing for Baffert. She worked seven furlongs and was given a six-furlong work in 1:11.60.
Garrett Gomez will ride Pioneerof the Nile in the Futurity and Indian Blessing in the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita.
Tyler Baze targets Dec. 26 return
Optimistic jockey Tyler Baze has targeted Dec. 26 for his comeback after suffering four broken ribs and a hairline fracture of his right shoulder blade in a spill at Hollywood Park on Friday. Baze was re-examined Saturday, and though found to have one more broken rib than originally believed, his doctor said a quick recovery was possible.
"He [the doctor] thinks I can be back by opening day," Baze said, referring to the Santa Anita winter meet that begins one day after Christmas. "Nothing is displaced, and as long as I take it easy, I can start light exercise [later this] week."
Baze was riding Pink Diamond in Friday's fourth race, a turf sprint, when she spooked after crossing the wire second.
"It was like she saw a ghost or something and took a left," Baze said. "When she hit the rail, it kind of tipped her sideways."