06/11/2013 1:25PM

Hollywood Park: Autrey set to spend summer in California


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A win by Congenial on Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park would be the first West Coast win in nearly six years for Midwest trainer Cody Autrey.

Chances are it would not be his last.

Oaklawn Park-based Autrey has relocated his entire stable to California for a six-month stay through fall. Congenial, a gelding by Pulpit, gives Autrey a winning chance in race 6, a second-level optional $62,500 claiming race on the main track. Congenial is expected to set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile race.

“That’s where he’s most comfortable, when he makes the lead,” Autrey said. “He relaxes and shuts it down. A lot of Pulpits are the same way.”

Edwin Maldonado rides Congenial again Thursday, and the pace scenario favors the 4-year-old. A close third after dueling for the lead one month ago in a similar race, Congenial could shake loose.

Autrey also starts comebacker Grandstand, who needs a prep race.

“I don’t know if I have him tight enough,” Autrey said. “It might be too short.”

Grandstand is prepping for a marathon. His options include the Grade 3 Sunset Handicap on turf July 14 at Hollywood, or the Grade 3 Cougar Handicap on Polytrack on July 26 at Del Mar.

Congenial, meanwhile, is well meant Thursday. And it would be nice for Autrey to get the monkey off his back – 12 starters this meet have produced 2 seconds, 2 thirds.

“Three of them should have won already, but didn’t. That’s history,” Autrey said.

Autrey will have plenty of chances in the weeks ahead. His 31-horse stable includes six claimed at Hollywood, more than a dozen older Oaklawn shippers, and a host of unraced 2-year-olds Autrey will unveil at Del Mar.

Autrey, 33, has trained for 13 years. And though his career rate is 22 percent (726 wins from 3,257 starters), summers in California have been tough. The 2013 meet will be his fourth at Del Mar; Autrey had 18 starters last summer, six in 2008. His most recent win in California was at Del Mar in 2007 when he won 2 of 26.

This year, Autrey arrived early and set up his stable at Hollywood. By the time Del Mar begins, most of his older runners, including out-of-state shippers that would have been eligible to the Del Mar bonus program, will have had a comeback start.

“I know we’re wasting Ship-and-Win money, but I feel they do better with a (prep) race,” Autrey said.

The 2013 season will be the longest stay in California for Autrey, whose wife and two young sons will join him at Del Mar.

“We’ll probably stay to October or November, maybe through the Breeders’ Cup, then go back and get ready for Oaklawn,” he said. For now, “everything I have is in California.”

Autrey finished fourth this spring in the Oaklawn standings, winning 17 of 81.

In the Thursday feature, Congenial may be the controlling speed facing Rousing Sermon, runner-up last time and a head in front of Congenial.

Saint Loup won a first-level turf allowance last time. A Group 3-placed import from France, Saint Loup posted a best-of-the-morning workout (five furlongs in 59.80 seconds) June 2 on Cushion Track.

Other starters include first-level allowance winner Half Strike, stretch-out Golden Itiz, turf horse Achilles, and closer Majestic Moment.

Race 7 is a first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf. Could Be Trouble goes long again following a sharp sprint win vs. California-breds. Her rivals include debut winner Blingismything, dropper Lilbourne Eliza, and Sweet Red Cat.