05/11/2009 11:00PM

Hard Bill tunes up for Triple Bend


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hard Bill's American graded stakes debut has been postponed, at least until the summer. A 6o1/2-furlong optional claimer at Hollywood Park on Thursday is more appealing to trainer Mike Puype this week than Saturday's Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap.

If Puype's expectations are correct, Hard Bill will win on Thursday, and will be ready for the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap on July 5.

"He's got a good record," Puype said. "It's hard to deny that kind of horse when he's in the right spot."

Owned by a partnership that includes Little Red Feather Racing, Hard Bill has won 8 of 10 starts in Chile and the United States. He had a four-race winning streak interrupted with a second-place finish in his U.S. debut at Santa Anita on March 7. In that race at 6 1/2 furlongs, Hard Bill closed from fourth in a field of eight to finish second by 1 1/4 lengths.

Hard Bill rebounded to win a seven-furlong allowance race by a nose at Santa Anita on April 4, closing from 10th in a field of 12 to lead at the wire. The victory left Puype impressed, and expecting bigger things this summer.

"He didn't bounce off his first race when he was not quite ready," Puype said of the April 4 race.

Hard Bill is part of a field of five on Thursday, joined by Big Bad Leroybrown, Davos, Usurp, and Z Humor. Davos and Usurp are also nominated for the Los Angeles Handicap.

Davos, a closer trained by Doug O'Neill, was fourth in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on April 4, finishing three lengths behind Soul City Slew.

Usurp has not started since late June 2008, but has a fine career record for trainer Ron Ellis. The 4-year-old Usurp has won 2 of 5 starts and finished second in the other three races. Usurp has shown speed in the past, and should be a factor from the start on Thursday.

Big Bad Leroybrown and Z Humor will be longer prices. Big Bad Leroybrown, entered to be claimed for $62,500, started in 10 consecutive stakes from November 2007 until April 25, when he finished seventh in the Tiznow Stakes for statebreds here.

Z Humor is winless in 11 starts since a dead-heat victory in the 2007 Delta Jackpot Stakes.