06/17/2011 12:42PM

Hollywood Park: Baffert has pair of Desert Stormer contenders

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Reed Palmer Photography
Irish Gypsy, winner of the Valid Expectations last time out at Lone Star Park, is part of a solid two-horse entry for Bob Baffert in the Desert Stormer.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The depth of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s powerful stable has pushed him near the top of the standings at the current Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, and may provide him with his fifth stakes winner of the season in Sunday’s $70,000 Desert Stormer Handicap.

Baffert, who was one win behind Mike Mitchell through Thursday, has two of the six runners in the six-furlong Desert Stormer – Fund Raiser, unraced since October, and expected favorite Irish Gypsy, who won the Valid Expectations Stakes at Lone Star Park last month.

“We’ve got one coming off the bench and one coming off a win,” Baffert said.

Fund Raiser is the 120-pound starting highweight, assigned one pound more than Irish Gypsy.

Irish Gypsy won the first stakes of her career at Lone Star Park, rallying from fourth to win by a head under jockey Martin Garcia, who has the mount on Sunday.

“She ran well down there,” Baffert said. “It was a big effort.”

Fund Raiser, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was third in the 2010 Desert Stormer Handicap. She won the minor CERF Stakes at Del Mar last September, and was taken out of training following a third in the Louis Rowan Stakes at Hollywood Park last fall. Fund Raiser has worked fast recently, including six furlongs in a sharp 1:11.80 at Hollywood Park last Sunday.

While the Baffert-trained mares have had different schedules, they have the same style, racing from just the pace. In the Desert Stormer, they are likely to be in pursuit of Warren’s Blossom, a winner of 5 of 7 starts. Trained by Jorge Gutierrez, Warren’s Blossom won an allowance race over six furlongs on turf on May 27.

“She’ll be right on the front or lay off them,” Gutierrez said. “It depends on how they come out of the gates. If we set the pace, fine. She’s won on this track.”

Trainer Bruce Headley starts All the Love, an allowance race winner on May 12 who has worked quickly this month. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has two hopefuls in the stakes winners Washington Bridge and U R All That I Am, who revert to sprints after racing around two turns in recent starts.

Washington Bridge could return for the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap on July 16.

“She could finish strongly,” said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s assistant. ”If we get a good race, we can shoot for the A Gleam. She’s had some good sprints.”