11/18/2012 4:45PM

Hollywood Park: Golden Ticket returns to turf for Hollywood Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Golden Ticket (right), who finished in a dead heat for first with Alpha in the Travers, will make his second lifetime start on turf in next Sunday's Hollywood Derby.

NGLEWOOD, Calif. – The well-traveled Golden Ticket has run at six tracks in as many starts in Kentucky and on the East Coast since February. He starts at yet another new venue next Sunday, in the $250,000 Hollywood Derby at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Golden Ticket is best known as the dead-heat winner with Alpha of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 25. For the next stage of his career, he starts for the first time in a stakes on turf in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

The Hollywood Derby is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf, and will be Golden Ticket’s second start on turf. He was second in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 1. The prestige of the Hollywood Derby appeals to trainer Kenneth McPeek, who is not concerned about the surface.
“He’s handled all that we’ve thrown at him,” McPeek said. “We were more interested in the Grade 1. We’re pretty confident that he’ll run big.”

Owned by Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, Golden Ticket was third in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Sept. 22, his only start since the Travers. He finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Handsome Mike, another expected starter in the Hollywood Derby.

The result of the Pennsylvania Derby left McPeek disappointed. The pace was slow, and Golden Ticket could not keep up in the final furlong after racing within a length of the lead under jockey David Cohen.

“I think he should have won the Penn Derby, but the pace unfolded a little funny,” McPeek said. “David hesitated and let them get away from him.”

Golden Ticket will be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith in the Hollywood Derby. Sunday at Santa Anita, Smith worked Golden Ticket in 1:01 for five furlongs. Golden Ticket has been based in California since earlier this month.

McPeek hopes that Smith can keep Golden Ticket near the front in what is expected to be a crowded field.

“He’s a really handy horse,” he said. “He can lay right off the pace if he needs to. He got speed and you can put him up close. We’re really proud of him.”

The Hollywood Derby will have a maximum field of 14 and may draw that many runners. The other probable starters are All Squared Away, Big Bane Theory, General Logan, Groovin Solo, Grandeur, Lucky Chappy, Rjwa, Silentio, Smart Ellis, Speaking of Which, Summer Front, and Unbridled Command.

Grandeur, Speaking of Which, and Smart Ellis were the first three finishers of the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.
The Hollywood Derby is one of three $250,000 turf races at Hollywood Park on Friday and Sunday. Friday, Ultimate Eagle, the winner of the 2011 Hollywood Derby, makes his first start since March in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.

Sunday, Dayatthespa, who won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 13, can win her sixth consecutive race in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes over a mile.