05/29/2012 11:29AM

Hollywood Park: Celestial Kitten, Imperialistic Diva face off in Thursday turf allowance

Benoit & Associates
Celestial Kitten is among the favorites in a turf allowance Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It is a reach to compare a Grade 1 that was run Monday at Betfair Hollywood Park to a second-level allowance that will be run Thursday. Aside from the fact both are turf races for fillies and mares, the similarities are few.

But trainer Ben Cecil found one more parallel linking the Gamely Stakes to the $57,000 allowance that is the feature race Thursday.

Who is the allowance-race favorite?

“I think it is Simon’s filly, again,” Cecil said.

Simon Callaghan defeated Cecil on Monday in the $250,000 Gamely, with Belle Royale outfinishing the Cecil-trained Quiet Oasis. While the purse is lower and distance shorter Thursday, the same finish order could be in store.

Callaghan-trained Imperialistic Diva and Cecil-trained Celestial Kitten are the principals in a turf allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Eight fillies and mares entered the race 7 feature, including Turf Paradise shipper Elvies Lane, stretch-out Miss Radiance, and front-runner Bwana Babe. The favorites are not strong, but they are logical.

Imperialistic Diva and Celestial Kitten have run well recently against better, and though Imperialistic Diva defeated her rival when they met Feb. 5 at Santa Anita, Cecil said Celestial Kitten should come back firing in her start since.

“She’s training really well,” Cecil said. “She had a couple minor issues, but she’s training great now. We will have no real excuses.”

Celestial Kitten has won two races and $186,951 from 15 starts, including an overnight stakes win in December at Hollywood Park and in-the-money finishes in three graded stakes. Victor Espinoza rides Celestial Kitten, a 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy filly owned by Triple B Farm.

Imperialistic Diva drops from stakes won by the subsequent Gamely one-two finishers Belle Royale and Quiet Oasis. In four U.S. starts in allowance races, Imperialistic Diva has a win and three seconds.

Callaghan trains the Irish import for owner Charles Winner. Rafael Bejarano rides the filly, who removes the blinkers she wore in her last two starts.

Two other non-claiming races Thursday also are on turf. Race 3 is an entry-level allowance sprint in which consistent Gnarly Dude meets synthetic-to-turf Doyouseemecoming. Front-runner A Toe By Three returns from a seven-month layoff as a first-time gelding.

Race 5 is a 1 1/16-mile turf route for California-bred maiden fillies and mares. Seven of the 10 starters met in a similar race May 6; the runner-up finish by Zanbo makes her the likely favorite Thursday.