05/04/2012 2:51PM

Hollywood Park: Unusual Heatwave will step up in class for Affirmed


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Unusual Heatwave won the second-richest race for 3-year-olds of 2012 in California in the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-breds at Betfair Hollywood Park on April 28.

Only the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes in March and the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby in April had early-season purses for the division that were equal to or greater than the Snow Chief Stakes. Those races were won by Creative Cause and I’ll Have Another, entrants in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Such a race was never considered for Unusual Heatwave, who won his first stakes in the Snow Chief. He may face that caliber horse later this spring or summer.

Friday, trainer Alexis Barba said that Unusual Heatwave will make his next start in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap on June 3, a Grade 3 for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles.

“We’ll see how good we are at that distance,” Barba said.

The Affirmed might be a good place for Unusual Heatwave’s graded stakes debut, if some of the top California-based 3-year-olds are being rested or running elsewhere.

The Snow Chief Stakes was run over 1 1/8 miles, and was the second win in nine career starts for Unusual Heatwave. A colt owned by Peter and Ellen Johnson and Teresa McWilliams, Unusual Heatwave was fourth in the Pasadena Stakes on turf in his stakes debut at Santa Anita on March 23.

In the Snow Chief Stakes, Unusual Heatwave, a 5-2 chance, closed from ninth in a field of 10 to beat 9-5 favorite Stoney Fleece by a half-length. Unusual Heatwave trailed by two lengths with a furlong remaining.

The victory marked the second time in three years that a foal out of the Candi’s Gold mare Miss Alphie won the Snow Chief. The Johnsons, McWilliams, and Barba won the 2010 running with Alphie’s Bet, by Tribal Rule. Alphie’s Bet, third in the 2010 Affirmed Handicap, has not started since finishing third in the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar in 2010.

“Alphie’s Bet is back in training,” Barba said. “I had him ready to run at Del Mar and he had a setback.”

Hollywood Oaks next target for Willa B Awesome

Willa B Awesome, the winner of three stakes this year, will be sent to co-owner Terry Lovingier’s Southern California farm this weekend for a two-week break, trainer Walther Solis said on Friday.

The brief vacation is expected to end in time for Willa B Awesome to be considered for the $150,000 Hollywood Oaks on June 23.

“We’ll bring her back and maybe go for the [Hollywood] Oaks,” Solis said. “It all depends on how she does.”

At Santa Anita earlier this year, Willa B Awesome won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. She won the $300,000 Melair Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park on April 28, her fifth win in 13 starts. Willa B Awesome has earned $593,896.

“She’s a tough filly for as many races as she’s run,” Solis said. “The way she comes back is amazing.”

Solis won with three of his first nine starters at the meeting, including two maiden races for juveniles over 4 1/2 furlongs.

On April 26, Awe Golly Molly, by Awesome Gambler, beat California-bred fillies in her career debut. On April 29, Lovmeister, by Nineeleven, beat California-breds by a half-length, closing from fifth of seven.

Awe Golly Molly will be pointed for the $100,000 Cinderella Stakes on June 16, the same day that Lovmeister is expected to start in the $100,000 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes.

Bejarano accepts three-day ban

Rafael Bejarano, who rode Unusual Heatwave in the Snow Chief Stakes, has withdrawn an appeal of a three-day suspension he was given for causing interference in a race at Santa Anita on March 11.

In a ruling issued Friday by Hollywood Park stewards, Bejarano has been suspended for three racing days - May 12-13 and May 17. Bejarano rode at Churchill Downs earlier this week and has six mounts on a nine-race program at Hollywood Park on Sunday.