07/12/2013 11:16AM

Hollywood Park: Marketing Mix takes on the boys in Sunset Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Marketing Mix may be the best female turf runner in the country, but she has never faced males nor run the Sunset's 1 1/2-mile distance.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The number of remaining sunsets is dwindling at Betfair Hollywood Park, which will be demolished after the Nov. 6-Dec. 22 autumn meet.

Meanwhile, the last Sunset at Hollywood will be run Sunday, closing day of the final spring meet at the storied racetrack. Five older horses and one top-class mare race 1 1/2 miles on turf in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sunset Handicap.

Before he sends Dhaamer to try for his second straight Sunset, trainer Mike Mitchell reflected on the end of an era. Opening day at Hollywood was June 10, 1938.

“It’s very sad,” Mitchell said. “I can’t believe our industry couldn’t have saved Hollywood. It’s been a home of mine and such a great racetrack. I’m excited about Del Mar, but sad Hollywood is going away. I’m really going to miss it.”

Summer racing begins Wednesday at Del Mar, where Mitchell is the all-time leading trainer. First he will try to win a second Sunset with Dhaamer, but unlike last year when Dhaamer crushed at 2-5, a new shooter has emerged for the finale.

Marketing Mix is a mare and also the horse to beat in the Sunset. A nine-time winner of more than $1.8 million, Marketing Mix has never raced against males. Does it matter?

[SUNSET HANDICAP: Get PPs, watch Sunday's full card live]

“If they are fast enough, no,” trainer Tom Proctor said.

Marketing Mix is fast enough. She also is top class. Runner-up in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, she is a two-time Grade 1 winner fresh from an impressive victory in the Gamely Stakes. As for facing boys, Proctor believes it is no big deal.

He started the mare Keertana against males in 2011 in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. She won by a nose, and gender never crossed Proctor’s mind.

“I never thought about it,” he said. “That filly was good, and this one’s probably better.”

In fact, Marketing Mix might be the best female turf runner in the country. Although the Grade 1 Beverly D. next month at Arlington was mentioned as a possible summer goal, Proctor is not using the Sunset as a practice-race prep.

“I’m not a ‘prepper’,” Proctor said. “We’re trying to win the race.”

The only void on Marketing Mix’s resume, relative to the Sunset, is distance. She has not raced beyond 1 1/4 miles. If she runs well Sunday at 1 1/2 miles, Proctor said “it opens the door” to a variety of options.

Gary Stevens rode Marketing Mix to victory in the Gamely and he rides again Sunday. Proctor was non-committal regarding the remainder of her campaign and mentioned the Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes on Aug. 11 at Del Mar as an option to the Beverly D.

While the mare is unproven at the distance, 6-year-old gelding Dhaamer is a marathon pro. He has won 6 of 17, including three 1 1/2-mile stakes at Hollywood. Mitchell hopes distance gives Dhaamer the advantage over Marketing Mix.

“Is he better than the filly? Is the filly better than him? Who knows?” Mitchell said. “One thing I do know is my horse can run all day.”

Julien Leparoux rides Dhaamer, who has started only twice his year and is a fresh horse into summer and fall.

With Sunset nominees All Squared Away and Slim Shadey awaiting the Grade 1 Eddie Read on July 20 at Del Mar, the Sunset looks like a two-horse race. Still, four others were entered.

Hawk’s Eyes won 4 of 10 in Brazil, including two Group 1’s. He is trained by A.C. Avila and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.

Only the Gold was claimed four starts back for $12,500; Extensive finished fifth in an allowance last out; Why Not Be Perfect won a $35,000 turf stakes in April at Turf Paradise at 1 3/8 miles on turf.

The final Sunset at Hollywood is race 5 on the 11-race closing-day card.