05/24/2012 3:42PM

Hollywood Park: Rookie trainer takes shot with Barney Rebel in American Handicap


At 30, Dan Blacker is a rookie trainer, trying to gain a foothold on the competitive Southern California circuit.

He has six horses based at Hollywood Park, not as many as he would like, which has led him to work at times for trainer John Shirreffs as an exercise rider in recent months.

That may not last much longer. Blacker expects more horses in coming weeks, and could attract the right kind of attention if the outsider Barney Rebel runs well in Saturday’s $150,000 American Handicap.

“He’s a nice horse and I’m lucky to have him in my first year of training,” Blacker said.

Owned by Dan Capen, the Irish-bred Barney Rebel won an optional claimer at Santa Anita on April 22, his second start in the United States. In Britain last year, Barney Rebel won twice. The Grade 2 American Handicap will be his graded stakes debut.

The American will be a tough test. Barney Rebel races near the front and could be fighting for the lead with the graded stakes winners Compari and Liberian Freighter. They will all have to hold off the multiple stakes winner Mr. Commons, who will be favored.

”It looks like they might be a bit of speed,” Blacker said. “The race doesn’t look as kind to us as I hoped it would.”

For the youthful-looking Blacker, a win would be a dream result, although he admits that will be difficult. If he chooses to celebrate, he says he must remember to take his ID.

“I still get carded when I go out for a drink, which isn’t often,” Blacker said.

◗ O’Neill will make a public appearance with television host Kurt Hoover in the Hollywood Park paddock to discuss Saturday’s card and I’ll Have Another.

The 30-minute program will begin at noon.