05/11/2013 1:43PM

Hollywood Park: Half Strike flashes stakes potential

Benoit & Associates
Trainer Richard Mandella says he liked the way 4-year-old Half Strike cleared his first allowance condition Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Half Strike may have won only a first-condition optional claimer at Betfair Hollywood Park on Friday, but the style of the win and the 4-year-old’s behavior in recent months have left trainer Richard Mandella optimistic that he could have a new stakes horse this summer.

“He’s definitely getting better,” Mandella said on Saturday. “He’s really turned it around.”

By Smart Strike out of Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2003, Half Strike won Friday’s race over 1 1/16 miles by 2 3/4 lengths under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Half Strike was fourth for the first half-mile while racing wide behind a slow pace. Bejarano moved Half Strike closer to the leaders on the turn, his mount took the lead in the stretch, and drew off late to win easily. Half Strike ($3.40) earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure.

“I didn’t try to rush it,” Bejarano said. “I knew we were going a slow pace. He’s going to be really good.”

The victory was Half Strike’s second in six starts. He won a $50,000 claimer for maidens at Santa Anita last fall when Mandella was trying to boost his confidence.

“He’s just bloomed out,” Mandella said. “Let’s hope that he goes all the way.”

Half Strike is likely to start in an allowance in his next start before a stakes is considered.

Follini may get shot at Del Mar stakes

Earlier on Friday, Follini won a maiden race on turf that could lead to a stakes appearance at Del Mar.

Making his turf debut, Follini ($8.60) led throughout a six-furlong race for maidens to win by a length over 20-1 Lucky Cotton. Follini got a 77 Beyer Figure for winning his third career start.

The result was a turnaround from Follini’s second start, when he finished eighth in the Echo Eddie Stakes for California-breds at Santa Anita on March 30. He emerged from that race with an excuse, trainer Mark Glatt said.

“He grabbed a quarter and tore half his foot off,” Glatt said.

In Friday’s race, Follini fought off a challenge from Tribal Dude in early stretch and a late threat from Lucky Cotton to win by a length under Joe Talamo. The race was a test to see how he handled turf.

Glatt was impressed with Follini’s stretch run, especially since the colt drifted to the inside in early stretch and nearly struck the rail. He recovered and maintained his stride.

“He was a little scatterbrained out there,” Glatt said.

With Friday’s win, Glatt has options to run Follini on different surfaces. One consideration is the $200,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds over seven furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 2.

Follini did not start at Del Mar as a 2-year-old in 2012 because of a tender shin, Glatt said.

Tilde bred to Creative Cause

Tilde, who won three stakes for California-breds as a 2-year-old in 2012, has been retired and bred to Creative Cause, owner-trainer Mike Harrington said on Friday.

Tilde won 4 of 9 starts and $345,060. She won the CTBA and Generous Portion stakes for sprinters at Del Mar last summer, and the California Cup Juvenile Fillies over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita last fall. By Swiss Yodeler, Tilde finished 11th in the Evening Jewel Stakes in her last start, at Santa Anita on March 30.

Creative Cause, trained by Harrington for Heinz Steinmann, went to stud in Kentucky this year after a career of 4 wins in 10 starts and earnings of $1,039,000. Creative Cause won three stakes and was third in the 2012 Preakness.