06/24/2011 2:12PM

Hollywood Park: Top two in Beverly Hills have excuses for last

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Benoit & Associates
Cozi Rosie, with Mike Smith Riding, wins the Buena Vista.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The leading turf fillies Cozi Rosie and Malibu Pier had alibis when they performed below expectations in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap last month at Hollywood Park.

Cozi Rosie finished third as the favorite; Malibu Pier was a dull fifth as second choice. They meet again Sunday in the Grade 3 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park, a 1 1/14-mile turf race with ramifications that exceed the $100,000 purse.

“This is a pivotal race,” Malibu Pier’s trainer, Carla Gaines, admits. “We’re using this as a stepping-stone to get her back.”

A similar hope applies to Cozi Rosie. Trainer John Sadler, who is frustrated by her recent losses, replaced Mike Smith with Joel Rosario. Sadler seldom openly criticizes a jockey, and said the move was because Rosario is his main rider. The reason is polite.

And yet Smith is main rider for Jerry and Ann Moss, Cozi Rosie’s owners. Sunday is the first time the 4-for-11 filly will have another jockey. While she may be positioned closer to the pace with Rosario, Cozi Rosie also may prefer shorter than 1 1/4 miles.

Cozi Rosie’s last-out rally was negated by the race shape – front-runners dominated the nine-furlong Gamely. One-run closers perform best when they lag behind a hot pace and blast home. Cozi Rosie’s two major wins – Grade 2 Buena Vista and Grade 3 Senorita – were mile races in which she rallied from the back.

While the 1 1/4 miles and slow pace of the Beverly Hills could prove Cozi Rosie’s downfall, both factors benefit Malibu Pier. Her tactical speed produced two graded wins at long distances including 1 1/4 miles. But last out, Malibu Pier tossed in a dud.

“I believe she had a legitimate excuse,” Gaines said. “She wasn’t herself, and came out of the race like she didn’t even run.”

Relatively speaking, Malibu Pier did not run. A winner 5 of 10, Malibu Pier came up completely empty and finished fifth. Gaines declined to state the nature of the publicly glitch, nut said “We tried something different, and it did not work.”

In the Beverly Hills, Gaines is confident the unspecified hiccup will not reoccur. “It was just an off day,” she said. Malibu Pier worked super early this week, and should be long gone under Brice Blanc.

Three other allowance-caliber runners entered – Neil Drysdale-trained Restless Soul and First Settler, and Timezone.