06/09/2011 11:20AM

Hollywood Park: Coil tries two turns in Affirmed Handicap


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The $100,000 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday is a two-turn audition for Coil, the promising colt trained by Bob Baffert. A win in his first start around two turns could lead to appearances in the major 3-year-old stakes later this summer.

Coil won his 3-year-old debut in an optional claimer over six furlongs on May 6, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over stablemate Smash in the quick time of 1:09.16. The Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap is run over 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds and is a prep for the $150,000 Swaps Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on July 9.

“We’ll find out if he likes it or not,” Baffert said of the distance. “If he can go two turns, it will open up more options.”

The Affirmed is one of four stakes on Saturday’s program, including the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap on turf, the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on turf, and the $70,000 Cinderella Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over 5 1/2 furlongs.

Coil will be favored in a field of six, which includes the Baffert-trained Awesome Patriot, winner of the minor Alydar Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on May 8, a race in which he led throughout. Baffert does not expect his two runners in the Affirmed to bother each other.

“They’ve got different styles,” he said. “Awesome Patriot handled the two turns. It’s a good spot.”

Awesome Patriot is the only stakes winner in the Affirmed field, although Runflatout was beaten just a nose in a game performance in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes over seven furlongs May 15. In his only other start around two turns, Runflatout finished last of 10 in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on March 12, a loss that ended any chance of him starting in the Triple Crown.

Runflatout is the only horse in the field who lost his last start. Akkadian won an optional claimer over a mile on turf here April 28, Northern Indy won an allowance race over a mile at Golden Gate Fields on May 12, and Spud Spivens won an allowance race for statebreds over 1 1/16 miles here May 19.

Honeymoon: Star Billing going longer

Trainer John Shirreffs won the Grade 1 American Oaks last year with Harmonious and may have another candidate for that race on July 16 if Star Billing runs well in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

So far, the lightly raced Star Billing has ticked off wins in her first two starts, winning a maiden race in her debut at Santa Anita in March and her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes over a mile on turf May 7. Shirreffs sees the Honeymoon as a prep for the American Oaks and is not concerned about the added distance for Star Billing, who is by the staying sire Dynaformer.

“With her breeding, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “I hope she keeps on progressing.”

Star Billing, who races for breeder George Krikorian, will have her third different rider in as many starts, with Tyler Baze replacing Chantal Sutherland. Shirreffs declined to discuss the reason for the jockey switch earlier this week.

Baze will be aboard a filly who is likely to race near the front but is not reliant on having the lead. The Honeymoon drew a field of nine and includes the three-time stakes winner Cambina who was third in the Senorita; the unbeaten Sarah’s Secret, who is making her stakes debut; Senorita runner-up Entrustment; and Whisper Louise, who was second to Cambina in the Providencia Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita in April.

◗ Willa B Awesome, a sharp maiden race winner April 21, breaks from the rail in the Cinderella Stakes, the first stakes of the year for 2-year-old fillies in Southern California.

Trained by Walther Solis, Willa B Awesome worked quickly on several occasions in May and will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

The race features three first-time starters – Chloe W, Por Que’ Te Quiero, and Wild Truffles – and the promising Killer Graces, who was beaten a nose in a maiden race in her only start May 1.