05/07/2013 1:40PM

Hollywood Park: Esentepe looks for breakthrough win


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Handicappers overestimated Esentepe during the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita, where the European import lost twice as the favorite in turf allowances.

Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park, she changes surfaces while trying to avoid being labeled a classic underachiever. Esentepe tops the race-7 feature, a main-track allowance that is the richest on the card but from a wagering perspective the least attractive.

Only five fillies and mares entered the 1 1/16-mile race, for nonwinners of two other than. For the third time in four U.S. starts, Esentepe is expected to start favored. She is the 6-5 preliminary favorite. Perhaps she will deliver this time, or not.

Esentepe appeared to be a top prospect March 14 when she made her U.S. debut for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The reasons were valid. Esentepe was a Group 3 winner in England, with local workouts that suggested she was a good one.

She finished third in that race, a sprint that was considered too short. Two weeks later, she stretched to a mile and missed by a nose. Nice try. In her most recent start April 28, Esentepe finished a close fourth in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap won by stablemate Halo Dolly.

A two-length loss in a Grade 3 should be good enough to win a second-level allowance, and Esentepe has been training all spring on the surface she runs on for the first time – Cushion Track. Burdened once again by high expectations, the 2-for-19 filly will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.

If Esentepe underachieves, identifying the winner is no easy task.

Sister Glady Oh La is a 9-for-20 veteran entered for the optional $62,500 claim tag; Miss Radiance can improve second start back; Unkept Rendez Vous and Plaza de Indias will try to upset.

The best races Thursday are 2-year-old maiden races, including race 4, a 4 1/2-furlong sprint that marks the debut of Willie B Awesome. Walther Solis trains the son of Awesome Gambler who is a full brother to Grade 1-winning filly Willa B Awesome.

The consistently optimistic Solis said the colt has shown more promise than his older sister, who won her career debut as a 2-year-old and retired having won five races and $648,896 from 19 starts, including an upset victory in the 2012 Santa Anita Oaks.

Martin Pedroza rides Willie B Awesome, whose rivals include Street Icon, Alpine Luck, and Raise the Hoof.

Pedroza also rides the horse to beat in race 2, a $50,000 maiden-claiming sprint for 2-year-old fillies. Divine Way, trained by Doug O’Neill has posted fast works and should be tough to beat as the 2-1 preliminary favorite by track linemaker Russ Hudak.