11/12/2009 12:00AM

Hollywood Park roundup



The 2009 autumn racing season at Hollywood Park is underway this weekend with an opening-week schedule (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) that makes way for five-day-a-week racing (Wednesday through Sunday) next week.

Many handicappers consider the Hollywood main track the most consistent and formful of the three synthetic surfaces in Southern California. Del Mar has Polytrack, Santa Anita has Pro-Ride, and Hollywood has Cushion Track.

Generally speaking, speed holds better on the Hollywood main track than it does on the other two synthetics. It means some of those front-runners that popped and stopped this fall at Oak Tree could get brave on the lead at Hollywood.


Trainer Bob Baffert led the Oak Tree standings with 24 wins from 71 starters and said he has "a lot" of 2-year-old maidens to run this fall at Hollywood. Mike Mitchell is stabled at Hollywood, and his momentum from Oak Tree should continue at his home track. Mitchell was 12 for 48 at Oak Tree and ended on an 8-for-25 run. Doug O'Neill, who had a quiet meet at Oak Tree (6 for 67), is expected to rebound this fall.

Kentucky-based trainer Ken McPeek has expanded his operation and will keep a stakes-quality string in California. McPeek-trained Noble's Promise, who missed a workout with a leg infection two weeks before a good third-place finish in the BC Juvenile, will target the biggest 2-year-old race of the meet - the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19.

Todd Pletcher also will keep a string in California. His good 2-year-old Eskendereya, who had a tough trip finishing ninth in the Juvenile, will stay for the Futurity. Make Music for Me, the graded-stakes-placed maiden trained by Alex Barba, is expected to run in a two-turn maiden race early in the meet. He also could show up in the Futurity.

The fall stakes schedule at Hollywood includes the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet for 2-year-old fillies on Dec. 20 and three Grade 1 turf races: the 1 1/16-mile Citation Handicap on Nov. 27, the one-mile Matriarch for fillies and mares Nov. 28, and the

1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds Nov. 29.


Winning was easy at the Breeders' Cup on Saturday. All a bettor had to do was back the horse whose last-race speed figure was highest in the field. The high-fig starters Friday went 0 for 6, but Saturday was a bonanza. California Flag ($8.80) had the top last-race fig in the Turf Sprint; Dancing in Silks ($52.60) had the top last-race fig in the Sprint; and Furthest Land ($44.60) had the top last-race fig in the Dirt Mile. It must be an easy game.

The Saturday pick six pool was $3,313,244, and the only winning ticket returned $1,838,305 to a bettor whose wagers came through Royal River Racing, an OTB in a South Dakota casino. Good score in a sequence that included three winning favorites (Goldikova, Conduit and Zenyatta), two last-race high-fig winners (Dancing in Silks, Furthest Land) and a Group 1-placed European (Vale of York) in a race where favorite Lookin at Lucky was compromised by his post. Yep, it's always an easy game after the fact.

It is horse racing, not jockey racing. Nonetheless, the Breeders' Cup offered a new wager this year based on jockeys - pick the jockey who will win the most Breeders' Cup races. There were 13 jockeys offered; No. 14 was "all others," favored at 9-5. Garrett Gomez was the most heavily fancied individual at 4.20-1; Julien Leparoux was second choice at 5.60-1. Bettors virtually ignored the bet; only $117,559 was wagered into the pool. Although Leparoux led the individuals by winning races, "all others" had more winners and returned $5.60.

Bullsbay started at 6-1 in the Dirt Mile, although his recent third-place finish was in the year's biggest negative key race - the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 5 at Saratoga. Every horse exiting the Woodward returned to disappoint. Macho Again (runner-up) came back to finish fourth by 12 lengths at 5-2; Asiatic Boy (fourth) lost by more than 54; It's a Bird (fifth) lost by 20 at 3.40-1; Past the Point (sixth) returned to finish ninth; Cool Coal Man (seventh) finished fifth at 2.90-1; and Da' Tara (eased) finished third at 4.60-1.

Bullsbay was the final Woodward starter to race this fall. He finished next to last. The Woodward winner, of course, was Rachel Alexandra.


* "We got the worst luck at the worst time on the biggest day."

- Trainer Todd Pletcher, referring to Quality Road throwing a fit and being scratched at the gate of the $5 million Classic.

* "The major stumbling block to me was the money; it was a hell of a gamble. He put up $160,000 for a 25-1 shot."

- Trainer Carla Gaines, discussing the supplemental nomination paid by owner Ken Kinakin to get Dancing in Silks ($52.60) into the Sprint.

* "Horse racing won [Saturday]. When she hit the wire, horse racing won. She made us all leave here feeling good about our sport."

- Trainer Bob Baffert, after watching Zenyatta crush his Classic starter, Richard's Kid.

* "End of a long, hard year."

- Trainer Chip Woolley, explaining why Mine That Bird fell short this fall on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita. Woolley added, "We need to stay off this kind of surface."


1. Lookin at Lucky (Juvenile runner-up): The previously unbeaten colt started in post 13 with a short run to the first turn in the 1 1/16-mile race. He was trapped wide behind a slow pace, lost ground throughout, finished well, and missed by a head to the rail-skimming winner.

2. Presious Passion (Turf runner-up): Racing

1 1/2 miles, he set a fast pace (45.14 and 1:09.24), opened up 10 lengths, and looked like he would be swallowed into the far turn. But the 6-year-old fought back inside, gave favorite Conduit a battle to deep stretch, and held second in the most courageous performance of the weekend.

3. Ventura (Filly and Mare Sprint runner-up): A one-run closer at the mercy of the pace in the seven-furlong race, she raced next-to-last behind tepid fractions (23.23 and 45.95), was briefly blocked on the turn, rallied wide into the lane, narrowed the gap, but fell short by 1 1/4 lengths behind the perfect-trip winner.

4. House of Grace (third in Juvenile Fillies Turf): Speed dominated; the first two finishers raced two-one throughout. House of Grace was the only closer to make a legitimate late run, missing by four lengths in a race that unfolded all wrong for her closing style.

5. Midshipman (third in Dirt Mile): With only one sprint behind him in the year since he won the 2008 Juvenile, he raced the fastest six furlongs of the meet at the mile distance (1:11.08) but weakened in deep stretch. This was a huge effort, against the grain.


Santa Anita went synthetic two years ago, and outside posts at 1 1/16 miles remain death. Just ask Lookin at Lucky, who had post 13 in the Juvenile. Posts from 12 out are a combined 0 for -31 on Santa Anita synthetic. It doesn't get much better in post 11, which is 2 for 40, or in post 10, which is 4 for 60.

Speed is a liability at seven furlongs. Kays N Jays on Sunday became the first horse at the Oak Tree meet to lead every call at seven furlongs. She won the Cascapedia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies after a half-mile in 46.03. A day earlier, M One Rifle got the half in 44.74, leading to deep stretch before finishing third in the seven-furlong Damascus.


Noble's Promise

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Last race: Nov. 7, 5th at Oak Tree

Finish: 3rd by 1/2

A leg infection two weeks before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile forced McPeek to scrub a workout. The colt remained in training while he recovered, but preparations were less than ideal. Despite the setback, he surged to the lead a furlong out but weakened late. The effort puts the son of Cuvee on the short list of 2010 Derby candidates and makes him a leading contender for the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19.


Trainer: Bob Hess Jr.

Last race: Nov. 4, 5th at Oak Tree

Finish: 1st by 3

A first-time starter in a $25,000 maiden claimer, this son of Old Topper ran like he was worth a lot more than the claim price. He showed no early speed but picked up steam into and through the turn while slicing through traffic. He rallied outside and blew past the leaders late, then galloped out strong past the finish. If the race was not a fluke, he fits in a maiden-40 starter allowance for 3-year-olds and up.

Rainbow Goose

Trainer: Jack Carava

Last race: Nov. 4, 6th at Oak Tree

Finish: 2nd by 1/2

A hard-pulling gelding, he found his niche this fall as a turf sprinter but was foiled by a slow start in a $50,000 claiming sprint for

3-year-olds. He was squeezed between rivals at the start, rushed forward to chase the fast pace from fourth, battled between horses in the lane, and only got worn down by a deep closer while running a winning race. He can win a turf sprint claimer for 3-year-olds.

Asay Creek

Trainer: Jeff Mullins

Last race: Nov. 5, 3rd at Oak Tree

Finish: 3rd by 2

A low-level 3-year-old running for a $12,500 tag, he carved a pace that proved too tough to sustain on Pro-Ride. He raced the first quarter in 21.75 and the opening half in 44.92 before tiring late to finish third. His running style generally is more effective on Cushion Track at Hollywood, and he could be long gone out front next time out against similar.