06/13/2013 3:27PM

Hollywood Park: More Chocolate, Lady of Fifty better than their last

Shigeki Kikkawa
More Chocolate has had good workouts on Cushion Track, but has yet to race on a synthetic surface.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A muddled cast of fillies and mares race for a $250,000 purse on Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park, where the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap offers a chance at redemption for two key starters.

More Chocolate and Lady of Fifty are among the favorites in the 1 1/8-mile Vanity, even though both enter off disappointing efforts.

More Chocolate completely misfired six weeks ago at Churchill Downs. She finished fifth of seven in the Grade 2 La Troienne. The lackadaisical effort still puzzles trainer John Sadler.

“For some reason, she was really dull in the paddock and just didn’t really pick her feet up,” Sadler said. “Maybe it was the shipping. For whatever reason she didn’t fire. She just didn’t run.”

Lady of Fifty lost her Grade 2 comeback at Hollywood, her first start in three months. Bettors expected more from the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee. Favored at odds-on, Lady of Fifty missed by a length.

[VANITY HANDICAP: Get Hollywood PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

Assistant trainer Dan Ward thought she ran well.

“She made a big move from 10 lengths back to a half-length, and she got tired,” Ward said. “And she’s huge, the biggest horse we have.

“You’d expect improvement.”

The Vanity, however, is deeper than More Chocolate and Lady of Fifty.

Hollendorfer-trained Esentepe could post a mild upset over a surface she loves. Open Water is out to show her Grade 2 Marjorie Everett upset at 1 1/16 miles was not a fluke.

“I think it’s even all the way around,” Open Water’s trainer, Eric Guillot, said. “And a mile and an eighth suits her – she’s a grinder. The farther she goes the better.”

Royal Tiger and Byrama also entered the six-runner Vanity. More Chocolate, winner of the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes in January at Santa Anita, will start as the 119-pound top weight. According to Sadler, she is training like she will fire.

Of a recent best-of-the day workout, Sadler said, “She had a bullet Monday, trained like herself, with good energy. I look for her to get back to her good form,” Sadler said.

“But it’s kind of weird that she’s 4, and she’s never had a race on synthetic.”

More Chocolate has won 3 of 10, and while good works on Cushion Track suggest she could like it, the Vanity will be her first actual race on synthetic. Her performance will determine the direction of her campaign.

“If she runs well we can look at the Clement Hirsch,” Sadler said, referring to the Aug. 3 race at Del Mar. “Or, we always have the option of taking her back to turf.”

Garrett Gomez rides More Chocolate.

Lady of Fifty has won 6 of 14, but tailed off in winter on dirt.

“She’s better on synthetic,” Ward said. “So we stopped and said let’s wait until over here.”

The trainer called her runner-up finish last out “just a prep for this one.”

Lady of Fifty, whose career-best effort was at Hollywood in the Grade 2 Bayakoa in fall, will roll late under Rafael Bejarano. She will have to catch Hollendorfer-trained stablemate Esentepe, who will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.

“Tactically,” said Ward, Esentepe might be in a better position.”

Is she good enough? Esentepe arrived last year from Europe with high expectations, and winter workouts at Hollywood were terrific. Her winter races on turf were not so good. She finished third, second, and fourth.

Finally, Hollendorfer found an allowance race on Cushion Track for Esentepe. At 2-5, she crushed. That race was May 9. Since then, Ward said “she’s been training specifically for this race.”