05/05/2010 11:00PM

Hollywood roundup



Jockey Tyler Baze is on a roll, and so are the maidens he rides. Baze went 15 of 50 the first two weeks of the spring meet, more than double the seven-win total of Rafael Bejarano and Joel Rosario. Five of the 10 winners Baze rode in Week 2 were maidens; overall, six of his 15 winners were maidens. It matches the racing program - 26 of the 71 races the first two weeks at Hollywood were for maidens.

Brice Blanc is erasing the memory of a long winter; he was 6 of 118 at Santa Anita. Two weeks into the Hollywood meet he had nearly matched that total. Blanc rode four winners from his first 20 mounts and proved again that it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Blanc picked up mounts from injured Omar Berrio on two A.C. Avila-trained winners: Carbon Hoofprint ($62.40) and Stanford Dolly ($6.20).

Avila is still on a roll - he was 5 of 9 the first two weeks. Doug O'Neill led the standings with six wins while starting more than three runners per card (25 overall). Bob Baffert (four wins) and Ron Ellis (three) each finished first or second with seven of their 10 runners. Walther Solis had three wins, all with 2-year-olds.


Christian Santiago-Reyes, 2009 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding apprentice rider, won four races from 37 mounts the first two weeks. Not bad. But things are about to get a lot tougher. Santiago-Reyes loses his five-pound allowance and becomes a journeyman May 16. Is another apprentice in the wings? Not yet. Apprentice riders Luis Negron, Johnny Gihua, and Jesus Velasquez were a combined 0 for 28 to start the meet.

Hard to believe trainer Mike Harrington did not win a race the first four months of 2009. When 2-year-old first-time starter Hi Ho Yodeler (by Swiss Yodeler) scored at $16.20 in the first race May 2, it was Harrington's first win from 38 starters this year and snapped an 0-for-58 drought. His previous winner came Nov. 25, 2009. The spring meet is young, and Harrington is loaded again with 2-year-olds, most sired by Swiss Yodeler.


Handicappers appreciate the reliability of the Hollywood main track. Cushion Track is the most consistent synthetic surface in Southern California, and the only one that is bias-free most of the time. Yes, front-runners win. When the pace gets extreme, closers win. The track variant is stable; speed and pace figures are relevant. Tom Brohamer, author of "Modern Pace Handicapping," wrote in his weekly report: "It's great to be back at Hollywood Park, where the pace figures have greater meaning."

Regarding the value of speed, Cushion Track resembles dirt. As a general rule, speed is an asset, particularly around two turns. Four of the first five Hollywood routes at 1 1/16 miles were won by the pacesetter. By contrast, at the Santa Anita winter meet pacesetters lost 21 consecutive races at 1 1/16 miles before the first wire-to-wire winner.

Eight days of racing might seem too early to predict how the Hollywood track will play the remainder of the season. But based on early results and a review of the 78 main-track races last spring at 1 1/16 miles, expectations are that speed will continue to win its fair share. Last spring, 28 percent of races at 1 1/16 miles were won by the pacesetter.

The bottom line is that most route races on Cushion Track at Hollywood are won by front-runners or pace-pressers, unlike the general profile on Pro-Ride and Polytrack. The anti-speed bias on those surfaces is most conspicuous around two turns. Although horses with speed can make it through a Pro-Ride/Polytrack sprint, around two turns front-runners labor over surfaces considered demanding, and they fade. Sprints at Hollywood are won with a variety of styles, but most are won by horses who were forwardly placed.


Golden Itiz might be a stakes colt. A son of Tiznow, he crushed allowance foes April 28 by 11 1/4 lengths in his first start around two turns, earning a career-best 88 Beyer. Ron Ellis trains Golden Itiz, who is 2 for 3 and will target the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 13.

The knock on Golden Itiz's win was a slow pace. Racing 1 1/16 miles, he crawled on the lead in 49.36 and 1:13.44, then stormed home in a shade more than 30 seconds. Is the slow-pace issue nitpicking? It might be. After all, Golden Itiz previously won a maiden sprint in 1:15.09.

Ruination was expected to win a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance for California-bred fillies and mares April 23. She delivered like a top filly. Hounded through fast fractions (46.80 and 1:20.40), Ruination shook off pace rival Alpine Yodel, who finished last, and rolled by 1 3/4 lengths. Darrell Vienna trains Ruination, a 4-year-old daughter of Ferrari who is 2 for 3.


St Trinians, who was 4 for 4 in the U.S., including a Grade 2, before she finished sixth in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, is preparing for a comeback. She is working once a week for trainer Mike Mitchell, and her five-furlong drill May 3 in 1:01.80 was the best work in her sequence. St Trinians soon faces another tall order: Her next start is the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on June 13. That happens to be the next scheduled start for Zenyatta.

The marathon turf division is shallow while San Juan Capistrano winner Bourbon Bay gets a vacation. But his trainer, Neil Drysdale, has a European ace up his sleeve in Scintillo, a 5-year-old who won a Group 1 in Italy as a 2-year-old and a Group 2 in France in May 2009. Scintillo is working once a week for his U.S. debut. He is 5 for 27 and possibly a candidate for the Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap at 1 1/2 miles June 15.

This weekend's stakes include the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at 1 1/16 miles Saturday, when Rail Trip is expected to return as the favorite. Favorites are 12 of 29 in the Mervyn LeRoy. Sunday, 3-year-old fillies race seven furlongs in the Grade 3 Railbird. The expected favorite is Santa Paula Stakes winner Tanda. Favorites are 21 of 48 in the Santa Paula.


Tappin Tough was five days old when his dam accidentally kicked him in the right eye. The eye could not be saved; his right socket is covered. "It's completely closed," trainer Walther Solis said. The injury did not prevent Tappin Tough from being trained as a racehorse, however, and his early foaling date (Jan. 19) gave him a head start.

Fast forward two years, and Tappin Tough was ready for his debut at Hollywood on May 1. Despite Solis's reputation as a top 2-year-old trainer, bettors were not impressed.

"Everybody saw the slow works and thought he wasn't pumped up," Solis said. "But that's the way he works. We trained him that way. We schooled him behind horses."

Solis told jockey Christian Santiago-Reyes, "Don't let him get too far back." A large colt who already measures 17 hands, Tappin Tough rallied from fifth and won by a head at $14.80. The 53.06-second final time was the slowest of the meet for 4 1/2 furlongs, and he earned a 38 Beyer.

"He's going to be a mile or mile-and-a-sixteenth horse," Solis said.

Because of the slow clocking, Tappin Tough will be a big price next out wherever he runs. Having already beaten the odds, who is to say Tappin Tough cannot do it again?


Tiz Golden

Trainer: Ron Ellis

Last race: May 1, 8th

Finish: 4th by 4 3/4

A 3-year-old by Tiznow, this colt ran super in his career debut at 6 1/2 furlongs. Crowded and steadied at the break to be away last of 12, he reached contention on the turn, angled out for the drive, and then lost his punch. Sure to improve running long, he can win a maiden race next out at any distance.

Heartless Vixen

Trainer: Ron Ellis

Last race: April 28, 7th

Finish: 3rd by 2

A slow pace was too much to overcome, but it was a solid sprint effort in her second start off a long layoff. She settled comfortably and allowed the front-runner to cruise on an easy pace, swung out three wide for the drive, then finished third in a race won by the pacesetter. An improvement over her comeback; she can win next out with pace to run at.

Gray Zulu

Trainer: Peter Eurton

Last race: April 25, 3rd

Finish: 2nd by 3/4

This speedster ran too well to lose in a maiden-40 starter allowance opening week. He sped to the lead, took heat while setting the fastest fractions of the meet for a six-furlong race, put away his pace rival, and opened up, but he got collared late while finishing two lengths clear of third. He should win next time at a short price.

Working Capital

Trainer: Doug O'Neill

Last race: April 24, 6th

Finish: 2nd by 2 1/4

This improving 3-year-old outran his 18-1 odds in the Snow Chief at 1 1/8 miles and looms an interesting pace play next out. He rolled to the front, set fast fractions, and held off all except odds-on winner Alphie's Bet.