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Headley and Solis team splits
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Time has nearly expired for the long-familiar trainer-jockey combination of Bruce Headley and Alex Solis. Headley confirmed Tuesday that Solis is no longer first-call rider for the stable, and that David Flores will replace Solis on Street Boss when the improving sprinter makes his stakes debut Saturday in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Solis has been Headley's main rider more than a decade; together they won dozens of stakes, including Grade 1's with Kona Gold, Got Koko, and Bertrando as well as graded stakes with Arson Squad, Softshoe Sure Shot, Kalookan Queen, and Magnificience.
But the past few weeks, the typically loyal Headley quietly replaced Solis on most of his starters. Headley declined to specify the reason for the split.
"We're just taking a break for a little while, that's all," he said. "I'm not a knocker, and I don't want to hurt [Solis]. I don't want to make this a big deal."
Flores will be riding Street Boss for the first time; Solis has ridden the 4-for-8 sprinter in every start, including a devastating last-start allowance win. Flores also will replace Solis on Magnificience, the 2-for-2 filly expected to return later this month.
But one Headley trainee that Solis is expected to keep is Surf Cat, whom he rode to victory April 26 in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap. Surf Cat runs May 31 in the Grade 2 Californian.
Intangaroo may get turf experiment
The upset by California-based Intangaroo in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Saturday at Churchill Downs all but stamped the filly's ticket to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. To get there, trainer Gary Sherlock will consider an unconventional next race for the main-track sprinter - the $750,000 CashCall Mile, a two-turn grass race at Hollywood on July 5.
"If you're going to step outside the box, now would be the time," Sherlock said, with a valid reason for switching surfaces and distance. Sherlock is concerned about the Del Mar main track, where Intangaroo ran the worst race of her career last summer.
But if she ran well on turf in the CashCall, it would afford the option of a summer grass start at Del Mar. It also would open up the possibly of using the Autumn Days Handicap, a turf sprint on opening day of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, as a prep for the Breeders' Cup. Intangaroo has never raced on grass.
The CashCall "gives us another option," Sherlock said, while admitting that the Grade 2, seven-furlong A Gleam on June 28 is still "penciled in." Intangaroo, upset winner of the Grade 1 Santa Monica in February at Santa Anita, earned a career-high 99 Beyer Figure winning the Humana Distaff under Alonso Quinonez. The race in Kentucky "legitimized her win in the Santa Monica," Sherlock said. Intangaroo has won 4 of 11.
Zenyatta points for Milady
The mighty Zenyatta will stay home for her next start, according to trainer John Shirreffs. After running her record to 4 for 4 with a crushing April 5 victory at Oaklawn Park in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, Zenyatta is aiming for the Grade 2 Milady Handicap on May 31 at Hollywood Park.
That will be big day for Shirreffs, owners Jerry and Ann Moss, and jockey Mike Smith. Tiago, who won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap one hour after Zenyatta won the Apple Blossom, also will run May 31 at Hollywood in the Grade 2 Californian.
Heatseeker to face Tiago again
At 1 1/8 miles, the $250,000 Californian is shaping up as one of the strongest handicap races of spring. Heatseeker, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap before losing by a head to Tiago at Oaklawn, worked six furlongs Tuesday in 1:10.20 and also will stay home.
After considering another cross-country ship, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Heatseeker will stay in California for the summer.
"We were thinking about the Pimlico Special, but he likes this track at Hollywood Park, so we're going to shoot for the Californian, then the Gold Cup," Hollendorfer said.
Frankel has two in short Murray field
Bobby Frankel once had a lock on the Jim Murray Handicap, a turf stakes he won six times in its first 13 years. But since Hollywood bumped the Murray purse to $400,000 in 2003 (since reduced to $250,000), Frankel has yet to win the 1 1/2-mile stakes.
That is likely to change Saturday, when Frankel starts 119-pound Champs Elysees in a small field for the Murray, one of three stakes on the card. Champs Elysees will be heavily favored while making his first start since a troubled third in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 1. Frankel also will start comebacker Sudan. Boule d'Or and On the Acorn were the only other possible starters as of Tuesday.
The Saturday card includes the six-furlong Los Angeles Handicap, in which favoritism will go to Bilo, Sailors Sunset, or Street Boss. Sweeter Still is the likely favorite in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf.
One mile the limit for Sassou
Sassou would have been a contender April 27 in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds. The problem with that race was the 1 1/8-mile distance.
"I do not think he will stay," trainer Jean Pierre-Dupuis said, explaining why Sassou skipped the Snow Chief. "I think he's a miler; a mile and one-eighth, I don't think he could do."
After overcoming an impossible trip March 28 to win a Cal-bred allowance, Sassou is the horse to beat Thursday in race 5, a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds at a mile on turf.
"His best races so far have been on grass," Dupuis said. "I want to keep him on grass as much as I can."
Sassou has 3 wins and 4 seconds from 7 starts.
Artiste Royal aims for Whittingham
Artiste Royal, third in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, was already back jogging Tuesday at Hollywood Park, three days after his two-length loss on a rain-soaked course. Trainer Neil Drysdale believes he would have performed better on firm ground.
"I know he didn't like it, and he ran well," Drysdale said, adding that Artiste Royale will run June 7 in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham at 1 1/4 miles on grass.