05/29/2012 3:38PM

Hollywood Park notes: Belle Royale coming into her own

Benoit & Associates
Belle Royale, with Joel Rosario riding, wins the Gamely.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – There was a time when Dubawi Heights, the two-time Grade 1 winner, was considered by trainer Simon Callaghan to be the best turf female he has trained.

That was before Belle Royale’s rise in prominence in Southern California in the last two months.

Callaghan won the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes in 2011 with Dubawi Heights, who later won the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes and was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs.

Callaghan was back in the winner’s circle of the Gamely on Monday with Belle Royale at Betfair Hollywood Park. Her remarkable rally led Callaghan to say that Belle Royale has usurped Dubawi Heights in his personal rankings.

“I think she could be better,” he said.

The basis is her unbeaten record in two starts in the United States, and a five-race winning streak, which began with wins in three minor handicaps in England last August and September.

Callaghan will have a chance to prove his point when Belle Royale starts in the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 18.

Last year, Dubawi Heights was second in that race.

Dubawi Heights was raced by Michael Tabor, who also owns Belle Royale.

Callaghan considers Belle Royale as a long-term prospect for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

“I think she will have the same program that Dubawi Heights did last year,” he said. “Hopefully, she’ll be good enough to go to Santa Anita at the end of the year.”

In the Gamely, Belle Royale closed from seventh in a field of eight to win by a half-length over Quiet Oasis, the winner of the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap on April 29. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Belle Royale made up 2 3/4 lengths in the final furlong.

Callaghan considered the Wilshire for Belle Royale, following her win in the American Beauty Stakes at Santa Anita on April 7, but opted for more time between races.

“I think it was beneficial for her to have seven weeks after her first start from Europe,” he said.

Belle Royale, by Val Royal, has won 10 of 26 starts and $358,231.

Liaison looking for rebound

A fast workout at Hollywood Park on Monday by Liaison has left owner Arnold Zetcher with hope that his Grade 1 winner can turn around a disappointing 3-year-old season in Sunday’s $100,000 Affirmed Handicap.

The winner of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity here last December, Liaison was winless in three starts at Santa Anita during the winter-spring meeting, including a sixth behind I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby. In the Kentucky Derby, Liaison was sixth, beaten seven lengths by I’ll Have Another after a wide trip.

“We were very happy with the Derby race,” Zetcher said. “He was sixth with a bunch of good horses.”

The Affirmed could lead to a start in the $150,000 Swaps Stakes on July 4, and eventually major stakes around the country in the second half of the year.

“We want to get on the right path and go on,” Zetcher said.

Monday, Liaison worked five furlongs in 58.60 seconds, the fastest of 56 recorded works at the distance. Trained by Bob Baffert, Liaison worked at Hollywood Park, where the stable’s division is led by assistant Mike Marlow.

“Mike thought he was moving really nicely,” Zetcher said. “The plan is to go ahead on Sunday.”

Liaison is likely to be favored in the Affirmed, which is run over 1 1/16 miles. His main rival will be Holy Candy, who was fourth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes in his stakes debut at Keeneland on April 14.

Apprentice suspended

Apprentice jockey Eswan Flores has been suspended for three days for causing interference in the second race on Sunday.

Flores was cited for his ride on Living Our Dream, who finished first in a $12,500 claimer over 1 1/16 miles, a nose in front of even-money favorite You’llalwaysbemine. The stewards reversed the first two finishers, citing Flores for letting Living Our Dream drift to the outside through the stretch.

The suspension covers racing days on Sunday, and June 7 and 8.