05/06/2013 11:18AM

Hollywood Park: Liaison, Comma to the Top enjoy big Kentucky Derby Day

Benoit & Associates
Liaison makes it two straight stakes scores Saturday in the Mervyn LeRoy.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Two veterans with experience in the Kentucky Derby were the stars at Betfair Hollywood Park on Saturday.

Liaison, who finished sixth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, won the fourth stakes of his career in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap for older horses. A few hours earlier, the speedy Comma to the Top, who was last of 19 in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, won the eighth stakes of his career in the $80,740 Cool Frenchy Stakes for sprinters.

There are further similarities between the two. Comma to the Top won the Real Quiet Stakes and Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in fall 2010, the same races that Liaison won a year later.

Both will be back in action at the Hollywood Park meet.

Liaison, who races for Arnold Zetcher, is a candidate for the $150,000 Californian Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on June 1, a key prep for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles on July 6. Trained by Bob Baffert, Liaison won his second stakes of 2013 in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy, having won the Santana Mile at Santa Anita on March 31 in his first start since a ninth in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga last August.

“He came back so well after the break we gave him,” Zetcher said Sunday.

Zetcher and his wife, Ellen, watched the Mervyn LeRoy via iPad in the Midwest, where they were traveling.

“We wanted to be there,” Arnold Zetcher said. “He looked awfully nice.”

Liaison, ridden by Martin Garcia, won the Mervyn LeRoy by 1 1/2 lengths over Kettle Corn.

Liaison has won 5 of 14 starts and $721,794, and has won 3 of 5 starts on Hollywood Park’s synthetic main track.

As accomplished as Liaison is, he has a ways to go to equal the career stakes results of Comma to the Top, who had little difficulty winning the Cool Frenchy Stakes over five furlongs.

Ridden by Edwin Maldonado for trainer Peter Miller, the 5-year-old Comma to the Top repelled an early challenge from L.A. Weekend to take a clear lead on the turn. He was not threatened in the stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Italian Rules. Comma to the Top is expected to start in the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap over six furlongs May 27.

Since the final day of the 2012 Del Mar meeting last September, Comma to the Top has won five stakes in eight months, including the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita in December and the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct on March 2. He was fourth in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes at Santa Anita on April 6 in his start before the Cool Frenchy.

The Cool Frenchy Stakes was Comma to the Top’s fifth start of the year and 30th of his career, which includes 13 wins and earnings of $1,233,406.

A 5-year-old gelding owned by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara, Comma to the Top thrives on activity.

“He always has,” Miller said. “We learned that in the fall of his 2-year-old year when he won the Real Quiet, Generous, and CashCall Futurity.”

Those three races were run in a little more than six weeks, with the Generous Stakes on turf between the two synthetic-track races. Comma to the Top will not be as busy this spring and summer, but he figures to be a formidable runner in the sprint division.