06/02/2011 3:46PM

Hollywood Park: Rosario, Smith plan to ride at Royal Ascot

Benoit & Associates
Jockey Joel Rosario plans to ride at the Royal Ascot meeting later this month.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jockeys Joel Rosario and Mike Smith will ride in New York for Belmont Stakes weekend and then travel to England for the Royal Ascot meeting beginning June 14, they said Thursday.

The absence of Rosario, in particular, will have an effect on the jockey’s standings at the current Hollywood Park meeting. Through Sunday, Rosario led all riders with 31 wins, six more than Rafael Bejarano and Joe Talamo. Rosario is scheduled to ride at Belmont Park next Friday and Saturday and then travel to England. He is scheduled to resume riding at Hollywood Park on the evening of June 17, according to his agent, Ron Ebanks.

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Rosario, 26, said the chance to ride arguably the world’s most prestigious flat racing festival is too good to pass up. Rosario is expected to have mounts for American trainer Wesley Ward, who has sent nine horses to Europe this spring.

“It’s exciting,” Rosario said. “It would be nice to be there.”

Rosario acknowledged that the journey could hurt his business in California, but said that after discussing the trip with Ebanks that the opportunity to ride at a world-famous meeting is worth taking.

“We want to go,” Rosario said. “It could cost me a couple of mounts, but we have to do it.”

Smith rode Gentlemans Code to a maiden win for Ward at Folkestone, England, on May 26, the first time he had ridden in that country. During a trip that lasted nearly a week, Smith rode workouts for trainer Luca Cumani in Newmarket, England.

“I had a wonderful time over there,” he said. “It was so refreshing to tell the truth.”

A Hall of Famer best known as the regular rider for 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, Smith, 45, plans to ride Gentlemans Code for Ward at Royal Ascot, but hopes to add to that.

“I’m hoping to pick up some other business,” Smith said.

Smith has emphasized riding major races in recent weeks at Hollywood Park. Aside from England, Smith has ridden in Kentucky and Maryland in the last month, including a third aboard Astrology in the Preakness Stakes on May 21.

Through Sunday, Smith had three wins from 21 mounts at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting. Ward said last month that he would wait until early June before selecting Royal Ascot races and jockey assignments for his stable.

Awesome Gem targets Gold Cup repeat

The top finishers from Saturday’s Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park will have a veteran waiting for them in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9.

Defending champion Awesome Gem ended a six-race losing streak since the 2010 Gold Cup with a one-length win in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas on Monday, leaving trainer Craig Dollase confident that the 8-year-old gelding will be competitive next month in the richest race of the spring-summer meeting.

“He’s something else,” Dollase said. “I’ll try to defend my title.”

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Awesome Gem, a winner of 8 of 43 starts and $2,508,270, made his fourth start of 2011 in the Lone Star Park Handicap.

The Gold Cup field is expected to include Jeranimo, winner of the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita in December, but third or fourth in four subsequent turf stakes this year. Trainer Michael Pender said the Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles on the main track has an appeal.

“I think he’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse,” Pender said.

Owned by B.J. Wright, Jeranimo has won 5 of 19 starts and $510,400.

Smiling Tiger works for True North Handicap

Smiling Tiger, winner of graded stakes for sprinters at Santa Anita and Oaklawn Park earlier this year, worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds under Rosario at Hollywood Park on Thursday and is being pointed to the $250,000 True North Handicap at Belmont Park on June 11, trainer Jeff Bonde said.

Smiling Tiger was a troubled sixth as the 5-2 favorite in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on May 7, losing by 2 1/4 lengths to Aikenite. Third in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs last fall, Smiling Tiger, 4, won the San Carlos Handicap and Count Fleet Sprint Stakes earlier this year.

Bonde said that Twice the Appeal, winner of the Sunland Park Derby in March and 10th in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, has been turned out. Bonde said the colt, a winner of 3 of 11 starts and $449,920, will be pointed to races in the fall.

“I’ll give him a couple of months off,” he said.

Sway Away, who finished 12th in the Preakness Stakes after sweating profusely in the saddling area, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Hollywood Park on Thursday. Bonde said he did not have a race in mind for Sway Away, who has one win in six starts and earnings of $126,600.