06/29/2012 2:50PM

Hollywood Park notes: Called to Serve fulfilling his promise going into Swaps

Benoit & Associates
Nonios, winner of the Affirmed, is one of the top contenders Called to Serve will face in the Swaps.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – When Called to Serve makes his stakes debut in Wednesday’s $150,000 Swaps Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park, he will fulfill an expectation that owner Marc Ferrell has had for nearly two years.

Ferrell, 42, paid $290,000 for Called to Serve at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, which he admits was a big ticket for his racing operation.

“I generally wouldn’t spend that much for a yearling, but he had everything you had to have,” Ferrell said. “He was the whole package.”

To get Called to Serve to the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds, Ferrell and trainer Peter Eurton faced a difficult decision earlier this year. After the colt lost his first three starts, including a last-place finish of 11 in a maiden race on turf at Santa Anita in February, Called to Serve was gelded.

“It was a decision we had to make,” Ferrell said.

Called to Serve, by Afleet Alex, has not lost since. He won a maiden race at Santa Anita on April 14 by 3 1/2 lengths and an allowance race against older horses by a half-length over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on May 28. The Swaps Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles.

“He’s still learning and still looking around a little bit,” Ferrell said.

Ferrell and his wife, Vinka, have invested heavily in racing in recent years, through bloodstock acquisitions and the developments of Vinmar Farms in Versailles, Ky. The farm opened this spring and houses the couple’s 15 broodmares, young horses, and a few lay-ups. They have 20 horses in training at the track with Eurton in California and Steve Asmussen in the Midwest.

Asmussen trains Well Deserved, who is owned by Ferrell and won the 2009 Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park and was the recent winner of an optional claimer at Churchill Downs.

Ferrell has been focusing on racing in recent years, since he sold his company, Vista Healthcare, which managed hospitals in Southern California. He describes himself as “semi-retired.”

Thursday, Ferrell was at Hollywood Park, watching his maiden claimer Above Par win the second race for Eurton.

If Called to Serve runs well in the Swaps Stakes, the gelding is likely to be traveling in coming months, with races in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia under consideration. Spotlight races such as the Haskell Invitational and Travers Stakes are likely to be avoided.

“We’ll try to duck everybody,” Ferrell said. “We’ve got ideas of what we’re hoping to do. The game with him is purses.”

The Swaps Stakes is expected to be led by Nonios and Liaison, the first two finishers of the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 3. Other candidates are Blueskiesnrainbows, Empire Way, Holy Candy, and Rousing Sermon.

Big day for filly and rider

It’s hard to say what Thursday’s program will be best remembered for – jockey Rafael Bejarano winning five of the eight races, or the career debut of the 2-year-old filly Executiveprivilege.

Executiveprivilege, trained by Bob Baffert, overcame a poor start under Bejarano to win a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:04.71.

Bejarano said the filly was anxious in the gate, and actually benefited by breaking slowly. Racing off the rail, she made progress on the leaders on the backstretch, rallied four wide on the turn, and took the lead in the final furlong. Bejarano did not use his whip.

Bejarano said that Baffert wanted him to get her “to relax and make a run.”

“She can run,” Bejarano said. “I didn’t ask her in the stretch.”

Purchased for $650,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales 2-year-old in training sale, Executiveprivilege is owned by Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman and Karl Watson. The filly is by First Samurai.

Bejarano won the first four races on Thursday’s card. Through Thursday, he had a commanding lead in the jockey standings with 57 wins, 23 more than Joe Talamo.

◗ The HRTV network will present a documentary on the late racing executive Marjorie Everett on Sunday at 11:30 p.m. Eastern. Everett, who led Hollywood Park from the early 1970s until 1991, died earlier this year.