07/13/2011 4:05PM

Hollywood Park: Shirreffs will pit Star Billing against Nereid in American Oaks

Benoit & Associates
Star Billing, winning the Grade 3 Senorita, is one of two fillies John Shirreffs plans to run in Saturday's American Oaks.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Trainer John Shirreffs has a deep team of 3-year-old turf fillies this summer in the stakes winner Star Billing and the improving Nereid.

With the Southern California calendar offering frequent opportunities for that division, some trainers would be tempted to split the two, running one in Saturday’s $250,000 American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park and another in the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap over a mile at Del Mar on July 24.

But since both Star Billing and Nereid have excelled on Hollywood Park’s turf course this summer, Shirreffs will start them against each other on Saturday in the Grade 1 American Oaks.

“It’s a Grade 1, $250,000, and we get to run here,” he said on Wednesday morning. “That makes this a better spot.”

Shirreffs won the 2010 American Oaks with Harmonious, who made her fourth start in that race. Star Billing and Nereid are also lightly raced.

Star Billing won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes over a mile on May 7 in her stakes debut, and second career start. By Dynaformer, Star Billing was second by a half-length as the 9-5 favorite to Sarah’s Secret in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on June 11. Sarah’s Secret is being pointed for the San Clemente, trainer Kathy Walsh said earlier this month.

Nereid will make her stakes debut and fourth start in the American Oaks. By Rock Hard Ten, Nereid has won her last two starts – a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on May 7 and an allowance race over a mile on June 2. Both fillies will be making their first starts over 1 1/4 miles, which does not concern Shirreffs.

“It’s going to suit them both,” he said. “One is by Dynaformer, the other is by Rock Hard Ten. They’ll both like the distance.”

They will be tested in a race with a projected field of six. The field includes Cambina, a three-time stakes winner, and Bizzy Caroline, the winner of the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in her stakes debut on June 18.

The $200,000 A Gleam Handicap on Saturday has an expected field of nine, and there is much more at stakes than the first-place purse of $120,000. The winner of the Grade 2 seven-furlong receives a fees-paid berth for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs in November.

Much of the betting focus will be on Ultra Blend, who was promoted from second to first in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap here on May 21 after being forced to the inside in the final furlong by original first-place finisher St Trinians. She won the B Thoughtful Stakes for statebred female sprinters here on April 23.

Killer Graces, the winner of the Cinderella Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on June 11, is the leading contender in Saturday’s $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over six furlongs.

Mr. Commons tunes up for Oceanside

Mr. Commons, third in the Santa Anita Derby in April and eighth in the Preakness Stakes in his most recent start on May 21, is on course for next Wednesday’s $100,000 Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar after a five-furlong workout in 1:00 at Hollywood Park on Wednesday.

The traditional opening day feature race at Del Mar, the Oceanside Stakes is run over a mile on turf and is restricted to horses that have not won a first-place purse of $50,000 or more this year.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was aboard Mr. Commons, who worked alone. The Oceanside will be Mr. Commons’s first start on turf since a win by 5 1/2 lengths in a maiden race on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course on Jan. 15.

That race has given Shirreffs confidence that Mr. Commons can be a factor in the Oceanside, which may draw enough entries to be split into two divisions.

“He was very impressive when he broke his maiden on turf,” Shirreffs said.

Alienation retired as result of injury in Prioress

Alienation, who placed in three graded stakes for fillies in the last year, has been retired, trainer Bob Baffert said.

A 3-year-old by Rock Hard Ten, Alienation was third in the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park on July 4. An injury was detected following that race, Baffert said.

Owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, and George Bolton, Alienation won 2 of 6 starts and $160,800. Last summer at Saratoga, Alienation was second in the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes and Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes.

Jaycito goes slow and easy six furlongs

Wednesday, Baffert worked the 2010 Grade 1 winner Jaycito six furlongs in 1:13.40 from the gate.

“It was an easy drill,” Baffert said. “We’ve got no plans yet, though. He’s still got a way to go to get fitter.”

Plagued by foot problems in April, Jaycito has not raced since finishing second in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March. He won the Grade Norfolk 1 Stakes last October when trained by Mike Mitchell.