07/02/2013 3:32PM

Hollywood Park: Swaps a showcase for Chief Havoc's speed


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – For the improving Chief Havoc, winning a stakes race may never be as simple as the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes on Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“We’re the only speed,” trainer Peter Miller said.

That is not Chief Havoc’s only attribute, but Thursday it is the most important. Just three others entered the $150,000 Swaps, and all are closers – Grade 1 winner Java’s War from Kentucky and locally based Grade 3 winners Tiz a Minister and Dice Flavor.

The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds is unappealing from a betting perspective, and it will be out of the way early. The Swaps is race 3, a business decision, according to track racing secretary Martin Panza.

“There is no show wagering and no superfecta wagering,” Panza said.

“When you lose a bunch of pools . . . you don’t want to run a four-horse field as the seventh or eighth race.”

Chief Havoc, beyond a conspicuous pace advantage, enters the Swaps with the highest Beyer Speed Figure, a 101 last out winning a first-level allowance. He also carries 6 to 8 pounds less than his rivals and has improved with each start in the United States.

“He’s started to relax,” Miller said. “He was a little uptight when he first came over. It’s more an acclamation thing.”

Paul Makin owns Chief Havoc, sired by Giant’s Causeway and produced by graded stakes winner La Reina. Chief Havoc lost twice in England before shipping to Belmont and finishing last in the Champagne, returned to England, and arrived at Miller’s barn in winter.

“It took a couple months to kind of get acclimated,” Miller said. “I thought he was Derby quality, and maybe if I had gotten him a month or two earlier. . . . But it didn’t work out, and we didn’t want to force the issue.”

Chief Havoc romped over maidens in April, finished second in an allowance, and last out won an allowance by nearly five. Rafael Bejarano worked Chief Havoc on Saturday and will ride in the Swaps.

Next out, the competition will be tougher.

“One possibility might be the Pacific Classic, depending on how he trains” at Del Mar, Miller said. “Other possibilities might be the Haskell, the Travers.

“We have a lot of options.”

Java’s War arrived Monday from Kentucky and will be making his first start since finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby. In the spring he won the Blue Grass Stakes on the Polytrack at Keeneland and on Saturday will try Cushion Track.

“He came out the Derby a little bit thin,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “He’s doing really well, and obviously he’s won on the Poly, so this seemed the logical spot.”

Java’s War began his career last year, winning two his first three starts, all on turf. McPeek said he and owner Charles Fipke have discussed a return to turf for Java’s War and also will consider the Travers.

Tiz a Minister won the Grade 3 Affirmed last out at Hollywood, but trainer Paul Aguirre recognizes the Swaps challenge with the speedy Chief Havoc and the late-running Java’s War in the field.

“I don’t like our chances,” Aguirre said. “There’s a lone speed horse who is getting good, and then there’s a dead closer that’s won a Grade 1 and is probably better than us.”

Aguirre claimed Tiz a Minister for $40,000 last summer. Since then, he has earned more than $400,000.

“This horse, you never know when he’s going to win,” Aguirre said. “On a given day, horses better than him he is able to beat. And on a given day, horses not as good as him are able to beat him.”

Tiz a Minister will be considered for the 3-year-old turf series at Del Mar, with an outside chance he could go to Mountaineer Park for the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 3.

Dice Flavor, winner of the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, also may end up on turf at Del Mar. He finished fourth in the Affirmed, his first start since an eighth-place finish two months earlier in Dubai.

“His comeback race was a nice enough race – the last part of the race he was making up ground on them,” trainer Paddy Gallagher said. “This summer, he may be back on the grass again.”