05/26/2012 2:40PM

Hollywood Park: Rail Trip back in California, preps in Los Angeles Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Rail Trip returns to California racing in Monday's Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The conversation between owner Samantha Siegel and trainer Ron Ellis was quick and to the point.

Rail Trip, a four-time stakes winner with Ellis in 2009 and 2010, had lost his rider at the start of a minor stakes at Aqueduct last November when Siegel decided she had seen enough. A winless five-race campaign for Rail Trip in New York was about to end. The gelding was on his way back to California and Ellis.

“I told him, ‘How would you like to have Rail Trip?’ ” Siegel recalls. “I kind of knew the answer.”

Ellis accepted, and Rail Trip was soon at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Monday, for the first time since July 2010, Rail Trip starts in California, in the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap over six furlongs. The Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap is the start of a late spring and summer campaign designed to have the 7-year-old racing around two turns by Del Mar.

A 7-year-old, Rail Trip could be effective in the Los Angeles Handicap, his first start in a sprint since a win in an allowance race over 6 1/2 furlongs here in December 2008. In November 2008, Rail Trip won his debut in a six-furlong race in 1:07.94.

“People forget that he ran 1:07 and four when he broke his maiden,” Ellis said.

In the Los Angeles Handicap, Rail Trip has drawn the rail in a field of eight.

Rail Trip will draw support because of his reputation, but Ellis envisions the race as a prep for the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap over seven furlongs on June 30.

“I’m not looking to make a sprinter out of him,” Ellis said. “The timing is right.”

The timing also suits Roman Threat, a rapidly improving 4-year-old gelding trained by Bob Baffert.

A maiden race winner in his career debut at Santa Anita on March 11, Roman Threat was second to 2011 champion sprinter Amazombie in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on April 7. Amazombie won by three-quarters of a length and appeared to have the race in his control in the final furlong, but Roman Threat was an impressive runner-up.

In the Los Angeles Handicap, Roman Threat will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard for the maiden race win. A gelding capable of leading, Roman Threat starts from post 7, allowing Bejarano to gauge the runners to his inside before committing to the lead.

Monday’s field also includes the stakes winners Camp Victory and Sway Away, third and fourth in the Potrero Grande; and the Ellis-trained Centralinteligence, an allowance race winner over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on March 22, his only start this year.

There is only one millionaire in the field, and that is Rail Trip, who has earned $1,116,790 by winning 8 of 17 starts. If he wins the Los Angeles Handicap, it will be his first victory since the Grade 2 Californian Stakes in June 2010.

“I’m very happy to have him back home,” Siegel said. “He looks like a 5-year-old. The horse is very happy. Let’s see where we are at.”