12/13/2011 5:18PM

Hollywood Park: Balladry gets stakes tryout in optional claimer

Benoit & Associates
Uncle Sam, trained by Bob Baffert, will try to end a winless streak on Thursday at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The first half of December has already proven to be a success for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable and trainer Eoin Harty.

Last Saturday, their 2-year-old Out of Bounds won a seven-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park in a style that suggested the colt is a prospect for the 3-year-old stakes at Santa Anita in 2012.

He may have a 4-year-old stablemate racing at that level in coming months.

Balladry could move closer to his stakes debut, if he runs well in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

“It’s in the back of my mind, this race, the San Fernando, or the Strub,” Harty said.

The $150,000 San Fernando is run over 1 1/16 miles for 4-year-olds on Jan. 14. The $200,000 Strub Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds on Feb. 4. Those races are key preps for the Santa Anita Handicap, the meeting’s main race for older horses.

It has only been in the last few months that Harty has entertained such races for Balladry.

A colt by Unbridled’s Song, Balladry has won 2 of 10 starts and $82,220. He is part of a field of five on Thursday that includes Dynamic Host and Uncle Sam, who were second and third to Kettle Corn in an optional claimer Nov. 17. Kettle Corn returned to win the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 3.

Uncle Sam, trained by Bob Baffert, has placed in three stakes in his nine-race career, including a third in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes here in July. He is winless in six starts since an optional claimer at Santa Anita in April.

Other starters in Thursday’s race are Bonfire Knight and Megastar.

Balladry, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, has won two of his last four starts. After winning a maiden race at Hollywood Park in July, Balladry was sixth twice at Del Mar. He rebounded to win an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Oct. 28, closing from last in a field of six.

“I think Bejarano was part of the success in his last race,” Harty said. “I thought he was a horse that needed to be on the lead. He ran the race of his life. He’s always a horse that has shown plenty of ability. He’s a big horse. He’s 17 hands.”