06/17/2010 11:00PM

Golden Itiz enters with momentum


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The ease with which Golden Itiz won an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on a sleepy Wednesday in April has pushed him into the spotlight for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Handicap.

Golden Itiz won the optional claimer by 11 1/4 lengths April 28, powering clear in the final furlong. The Affirmed, run over 1 1/16 miles, will determine whether the hype is justified.

"It will be interesting to see how good he becomes," trainer Ron Ellis said.

There are several 3-year-olds in the Affirmed Handicap with more prestigious wins than Golden Itiz, but none with as flashy a recent win.

Alphie's Bet won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for statebreds here April 25 but was ninth against older horses in the Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf May 15. Ranger Heartley won the California Derby in January but was scratched from an optional claimer last month. Gallant Gent won the minor C.B. Afflerbaugh Stakes at Fairplex Park last September.

Golden Itiz has won 2 of 3 starts for Mace and Samantha's Siegel's Jay Em Ess Stable. Golden Itiz was third in his debut at Santa Anita in February but returned to win a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs by two lengths. That was followed by his two-turn debut in late April.

Earlier this week, Ellis questioned the depth of the field Golden Itiz beat April 28 but was also quick to say, "You can't fault him for winning by 11."

Ellis said he was encouraged that Golden Itiz rallied from sixth in a field of 10 to beat maidens and yet was comfortable leading throughout the optional claimer.

"He showed at Santa Anita he will sit off horses," Ellis said. "He's a good-minded horse. He's always been like that."

The Affirmed has nine entrants. Three of the starters ran in the Santa Anita Derby in April: Skipshot, Alphie's Bet, and Thomas Baines, who finished fifth through seventh.

Alphie's Bet has worked well in recent weeks since the Murray, in which he was beaten 15 3/4 lengths by Acclamation.