04/21/2011 3:35PM

Hollywood Park: Amazombie, the biggest star on Gold Rush Day, comes out early

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Amazombie is the star of the show Saturday at Hollywood Park, even though his contribution to the $845,000 Gold Rush card for California-breds will be complete before the day is even half-over.

The positioning of the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes early on the program – Amazombie will be heavily favored in race 4 of 10 – is a reminder that racing remains a profit-driven business, even when a goal of the Gold Rush is to showcase the best California-breds.

“Do I want to put a 2-5 shot at the back end of the card? Probably not,” racing secretary Martin Panza said. “When you have a prohibitive favorite like that, you’re not going to handle a lot of money.”

Handle increases later in the card, and yes, money drives the game, a truth understood by Bill Spawr, majority owner and trainer of Grade 2 winner Amazombie.

“Do you realize that if he wins, he will be over $500,000 in earnings?” Spawr said.

Not bad for a horse purchased in a two-horse bargain package for less than $10,000. And after being gelded in January 2010, the 5-year-old by Northern Afleet has crossed the wire first in 7 of 11 and emerged as one of the top sprinters in California.

Amazombie races 7 1/2 furlongs in the Tiznow, and is actually the second lopsided favorite relegated to an early Gold Rush slot. Ultra Blend will be a short price in race 2, the $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for fillies and mares at 7 1/2 furlongs.

The four-stakes package includes the $125,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, race 8. Shezabigbroad, a bred-to-route second-time starter, faces speedster Miles Rules in the 1 1/16-mile race.

The richest Gold Rush race is the $150,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds, a 1 1/8-mile race that is race 9. The unheralded field includes Chiloquin, Drink At Buster’s, Thirtyfirststreet, and Offlee Wild Boys.

Nine of the 10 races Saturday are for statebreds – three $60,000 maiden races and two $70,000 first-level allowances. While the wide-open nature of later races offer attractive wagering opportunities, the significance of the Tiznow is not lost on Amazombie’s main rivals – Bestdressed and Vadertore.

Bestdressed makes his first start for owner Jeff Sengara and trainer Mike Mitchell, who claimed him for $40,000 last out. Vadertore makes his first start at Hollywood for Northern California trainer Dean Pederson, who may make a full-time transition to Southern California.

“I’m not saying it’s the Hollywood Gold Cup, but yes, it’s important,” Pederson said. “It is if you’re serious about the possibility of staying down here.”

Vadertore has won 3 of 7, and shortens from a third-place finish at one mile. The gelding by Redattore should be right at home at 7 1/2 furlongs.

“It’s a tricky distance,” Pederson said. “A sprinter might not get it, and a router might face fractions he’s not used to.”

Martin Garcia rides Vadertore. Both know what they are up against.

“If [Amazombie] runs his ‘A’ race, we’re all running for second money,” Pederson said. “If he stubs his toe, we’re all in the ballgame.”

The assessment applies also to Bestdressed, claimed by Sengara and Mitchell with the Tiznow in mind.

“I’ve always liked him, and he ran some bang-up races for [previous trainer John Sadler] at Santa Anita,” Mitchell explained. “That track was such a speed-biased track; horses from that far out of it didn’t win.”

Bestdressed won a $32,000 claimer rallying from last Feb. 17. Mitchell and Sengara took the 7-year-old next out for $40,000.

“If you look at the success Jeff has had … he loves older horses,” Mitchell said.

Sengara previously campaigned Budroyale and Bluesthestandard with Ted H. West, and recently returned to the ownership game with Mitchell as trainer.

Bestdressed, 7 for 49 lifetime, finished second in the Tiznow one year ago; his closing style is expected to be more effective on the Cushion Track at Hollywood than it was on the dirt at Santa Anita. Rafael Bejarano rides Bestdressed.

The “now” horse, however, is Amazombie. Owned by Spawr and Tom Sanford, he won the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint in January, finished second to Quick Enough in a turf sprint, then won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande at 6 1/2 furlongs April 3.

Spawr was asked if the extra furlong Sunday was an issue.

“Six weeks ago it was, not now,” Spawr said.

The reason is because Amazombie has learned to settle. He conserves his speed in races, and finishes.

Other starters include stakes winners Quick Enough, a turf sprint specialist; Autism Awareness, All Saint, and Nikki’sgoldensteed. Longshots in the Tiznow are Mobilized, Scofield Barracks, Leaving New York, Sanger Silver, and Legal Separation.

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