05/08/2013 1:21PM

Hollywood Park: Half Strike starting to live up to pedigree

Benoit & Associates
A son of champion Halfbridled, Half Strike had to be dropped in with maiden claimers to win.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It was only after Half Strike lost his first two career starts in 2012 that trainer Richard Mandella decided to drop the well-bred ridgling into a $50,000 claiming race for maidens at Santa Anita last October.

The maiden claimer was not the sort of race that Mandella or owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer envisioned for Half Strike, who is by Smart Strike out of Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2003.

The class drop worked. Half Strike won the maiden claimer by 2 1/2 lengths in his last start of the year. Earlier this year, Half Strike finished second in two optional claimers at Santa Anita, leaving Mandella hopeful that Half Strike can win the second race of his career at Betfair Hollywood Park on Friday.

Half Strike will be favored in Friday’s seventh race, an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles. Opinions at the Mandella barn about his long-term prospects have changed since the win in the maiden claimer.

“I’m glad I got away with it,” Mandella said. “For some reason since then he’s started to develop. I think he’s developing late.

“He was kind of a scrawny baby growing up. He’s just starting to turn into something. There is a lot of breeding there.”

In his last start April 14, Half Strike was beaten a nose by the stakes winner Rousing Sermon, who was eighth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Half Strike was second throughout, trailing by as many as five lengths, but closed well.

In Friday’s race, Half Strike is part of a field of six that includes two geldings who won their last start – God Of War and Mind the Master. The other runners are Call Me Kelly, Fast Track, and Unstopper Topper.

God Of War, trained by John Sadler, won an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles at Golden Gate Fields on March 23 and is entered for a $40,000 claiming price Friday. A 5-year-old, the speedy God Of War won a $25,000 claimer at Hollywood Park last December.

Mind the Master, trained by Peter Eurton, is best racing as a stalker. A 4-year-old, he won a $25,000 claimer over a mile on turf at Santa Anita on April 12, his second win in his last three starts. Mind the Master won a $20,000 claiming race for maidens on the main track at Santa Anita in February.