06/03/2011 3:25PM

Hollywood Park: Mitchell enjoying very good meet

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Benoit & Associates
St Trinians will try to give trainer Mike Mitchell a Grade 1 win later this month in the Vanity.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Mike Mitchell’s lead in the trainer standings at Hollywood Park was halved to two wins on Thursday when trainer Bob Baffert won twice.

Mitchell was not too concerned about that statistic early Thursday afternoon, focusing more on his success that day. Mitchell had one starter, The Whammer, who overcame trouble to win a $25,000 claimer for sprinters, the stable’s 16th win of the meeting from 35 starters. There were no claims.

“I didn’t lose him,” Mitchell said. “It was a good day.”

It has been a better meeting, Mitchell showing a 45 percent strike rate. Baffert, by comparison, has won with 26 percent of his starters and had several occasions when he ran more than one horse in a race.

Mitchell, 63, may not have the stable size to win the title at the current spring-summer meeting for the first time since 1997, and his first at any meeting since Fairplex Park in 2008, but his stable is positioned to remain prominent through the end of the meeting on July 17.

Sunday, Mitchell has three starters – Achak, who tries for his third consecutive win in the first race for $32,000 claimers; Desert Flight, who plunges in class from a $16,000 claimer to an $8,000 claimer in the seventh race; and Talktoomuch in the Redondo Beach Stakes.

Talktoomuch, 7, was sixth in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap on April 30, losing by 2 1/4 lengths to Dubawi Heights, who returned to win the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes last Monday. Owned by the Indizguys Stable partnership, Talktoomuch is reliant on a quick pace in the one-mile turf race to help her late kick.

“I’m hoping for some speed,” Mitchell said. “She’s got the style of sitting back there and waiting. The last couple of races were paceless races.”

Regardless of whether he wins the training title, Mitchell may have a Grade 1 win in the final month of the meeting. He starts St Trinians in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap on June 18, a race in which she was second to the Horse of the Year Zenyatta last year.

Rafael Bejarano will ride St Trinians for the first time in the Vanity. St Trinians finished first in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap under jockey Joe Talamo on May 21, but was disqualified and placed fourth for causing interference in the stretch.

Talamo remains part of Mitchell’s stable. He was aboard Camp Victory for Mitchell in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap last Monday when that horse was promoted from second to first following the controversial disqualification of Amazombie. Talamo rides Talktoomuch and Desert Flight on Sunday, and is expected to ride Camp Victory in the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap over seven furlongs on July 2.

The race has taken on added importance from Mitchell’s perspective.

“It looks like we’ll go forward and try him in the Triple Bend,” Mitchell said. “I think seven-eighths will work for him. My big horse now is Camp Victory.”

Nereid earns shot at Oaks

Nereid is likely to make her stakes debut in the $150,000 Hollywood Oaks on June 25 after winning her second straight in an allowance race on turf on Thursday.

Trainer John Shirreffs said that Nereid has trained well on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track synthetic surface and deserves a chance in the Grade 2 Oaks, which is run over 1 1/16 miles.

“She definitely acts like she likes it in the morning,” he said.

Owned by Eric Kronfeld, Nereid, by Rock Hard Ten, won a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on turf by a nose on May 7 and Thursday’s race over a mile by 1 1/2 lengths, pulling clear in the final furlong.

“We ran her in this race because the timing would be good” for the Oaks, Shirreffs said. “It’s hard to make that step from winners to first condition.”

Kronfeld has another promising filly in training with Shirreffs, the 2-year-old Eblouissante, by Bernardini. She is a half-sister to Zenyatta, who was bred by Kronfeld.

Tyler Baze laments loss of ‘best friend’

Tyler Baze remembered his late cousin Michael Baze as “my best friend” at a memorial service in the Hollywood Park clubhouse Thursday evening.

Michael Baze, who was found dead in his car on the backstretch at Churchill Downs on May 10, was the leading rider at Hollywood Park in 2007 at the age of 20, the youngest jockey to win the title since Bill Shoemaker in 1950.

Michael Baze, who struggled with depression, his family said, last rode in Southern California on a regular basis in early 2010. He rode at Oaklawn Park earlier this year.

Tyler Baze recalled the two growing up together in the Pacific Northwest and how fortunate they felt to be competing as jockeys as young adults.

“I loved riding with him,” Tyler Baze said. “We’d walk out of the jockeys’ room for the same race and we’d say, ‘Let’s get the exacta.’ I don’t know how many times we got the exacta, but it was a lot.

“He was a good person and will be missed for a very long time.”