05/02/2013 11:52AM

Hollywood Park: Liaison enters Mervyn LeRoy on upward trajectory

Benoit & Associates
Liaison wins the Santana Mile at Santa Anita in his first start of the year.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Kentucky Derby is not the end of the line.

Occasionally, the first Saturday in May is a mere glitch. For some horses, the best is still ahead.

Proof is offered Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park, where survivors from the 2011 and 2012 Derby fields resume campaigns as leading contenders in two stakes.

Liaison, sixth in the 2012 Derby, makes his second start of 2013 in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap. Liaison faces graded stakes winners Guilt Trip, Tres Borrachos, Blueskiesnrainbows, and Kettle Corn in the mile and a sixteenth race for older horses.

Comma to the Top, last of 19 in the 2011 Derby, continues his million-dollar career as a favorite in the $70,000 Cool Frenchy Stakes, race 5, at five furlongs. He faces stakes winner Ain’t No Other, along with Italian Rules and Centralinteligence.

First post Saturday is 11 a.m.; the Mervyn LeRoy is race 10 of 11. The $150,000 race kicks off Hollywood’s three-race handicap series which includes the Grade 2 Californian on June 1 and Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 6.

Bob Baffert trains Liaison, whose 3-year-old campaign did not resemble his good 2-year-old campaign in which he won three straight, including the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in December. Liaison entered winter among the top Derby prospects based in California.

Liaison did not hit the board any of three winter starts, yet finished sixth in the Derby. By August, after running ninth in the Travers, Liaison was done. Baffert put him away. Liaison’s 2012 record: eight starts, zero wins.

Seven months away from the races served him well, and Liaison returned in peak form March 31 at Santa Anita. He won a minor route stakes with a 104 Beyer Figure, and enters spring as a fresh horse. Martin Garcia rides Liaison.

Baffert also starts 120-pound topweight Guilt Trip, the winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes prior to a fifth-place effort in the Big Cap.

Joe Talamo rides Guilt Trip, who will be making his first start on a surface other than dirt.

The horse to beat in the Mervyn LeRoy could be an ex-Baffert charge.

Blueskiesnrainbows won the Grade 2 Swaps last summer, defeating Liaison. He was transferred to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer early this year, and enters the Saturday race off a powerful allowance win and impressive workouts over the Hollywood surface. Tyler Baze rides.

Midnight Transfer finished a close second to Liaison last out; Tres Borrachos is an 8-year-old gelding who won the 2008 Swaps at Hollywood.

Comma to the Top is the likely favorite in the Cool Frenchy. Two years ago he pressed the pace before finishing last in Kentucky Derby 2011.

His record through the Derby was 6 for 14. Since then, he is 6 for 15 (overall record 12 for 29) and has topped the million-dollar mark for trainer Peter Miller.