05/19/2010 11:00PM

Hollywood roundup



An appealing aspect of spring at Hollywood Park is 2-year-olds, and Belleofthebridle set the tone April 21 when she won an opening-day maiden race by almost six lengths in 51.59 seconds. The clocking, for 4 1/2 furlongs, earned an Beyer Speed Figure of 81.

But one month later, almost nothing has changed. Belleofthebridle remains the fastest 2-year-old winner of the meet. Her figure remains seven points higher than next-fastest Hi Ho Yodeler (74 Beyer, May 2). The juvenile crop has been ordinary.

Through May 16, Belleofthebridle's trainer, Walther Solis, has won 5 of the 13 races for 2-year-olds, while Mike Harrington has won three, including two with second-time starters. Post-time favorites are 4 for 13, and the median winning Beyer is a tepid 53.

Figures are always a key barometer in evaluating 2-year-olds, but a first-time starter who earned a mere 49 Beyer could be one of the ones this spring. J P's Gusto, a Successful Appeal colt trained by David Hofmans and ridden by Joel Rosario, was favored at 9-5 in his May 9 debut. Hofmans soft-pedaled the colt's performance.

"He broke terribly, and he finished up okay," Hofmans said. "He's a nice colt, he'll be okay."

He might be better than that. J P's Gusto broke last from post 9, raced wide into the turn, cut to the inside and got stopped, found a seam, split foes, finished with run, and galloped out super. What price will he be when he make his second career start in June? Try even money or less.


It was only a fourth-place finish by Acclamation, but it was a good one. Chasing the fastest turf pace of the meet (45.42 seconds and 1:09.28) in the one-mile Inglewood Handicap on April 25, Acclamation missed by less than three lengths in a race dominated by closers. Acclamation stretched out to 1 1/2 miles May 15 in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap, which figured to unfold at a soft pace.

Acclamation set the pace with a 49.43-second first half, followed by six furlongs in a slow 1:14.85. Then he was gone. Acclamation won by 7 1/2 lengths under Christian Santiago-Reyes and returned $31. The win was the first in a graded stakes for Santiago-Reyes, 20, whose apprentice allowance expired Sunday. Acclamation, trained by Don Warren, won the day before the four-year anniversary of his foaling date - May 16, 2006.

Two recent pace casualties are worth upcoming consideration - Warren's Pepe and Working Capital. Warren's Pepe raced 1 1/16 miles on May 12 in a second-level allowance/optional claimer on the main track. He went too fast, racing the opening half-mile in 46.55, followed by the quickest six-furlong split of the meet, 1:10.78. Warren's Pepe led into the stretch, then tired to third. Trained by Julio Canani, he is worth a big look next time on the front end.

Working Capital is tentatively scheduled to run Sunday in the seven-furlong Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes. Based on his huge runner-up finish April 24 in the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief Stakes, Working Capital must be considered. He sizzled the opening half-mile in 46.48 and six furlongs in 1:11.51, then tired to second. According to pace expert Tom Brohamer, the Quirin-style pace figure Working Capital earned exceeded par for a Grade 1. If he shortens to seven furlongs Sunday in the Barrera, Working Capital has a shot at a price.


Trainer Jack Van Berg won two races from his first 110 starters this year and then suddenly scored with back-to-back bombers. Fortunate Victory ($70.60) keyed a record $78,703.90 trifecta payoff on May 15, and a day later on May 16, Van Berg-trained first-time starter Court Hero sprang a $44.80 upset in race 9.

A.C. Avila trainees continue to outrun expectations. Former claimer Made for Magic ($21.60) won the Grade 2 Milady Handicap on May 16, the 19th Avila-trained winner this year from 72 starters (26 percent). The first four weeks at Hollywood, Avila won 6 races from 14 starters, with payoffs that included $14.20 (One Vote), $22.80 (Fantasy Free), and $62.40 (Carbon Hoofprint). It is an amazing streak, to say the least. Avila's 2010 return on investment is $3.66 for each $2 win bet.


Zenyatta apparently has little competition to worry about when she returns June 13 in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. The older fillies and mares in the Vanity "prep race," the Grade 2 Milady on May 16, needed 1:43.48 to complete 1o1/16 miles. The half-length victory by Made for Magic earned an 86 Beyer, the lowest recorded Milady figure since at least 1992.

It was hard to believe in 2008 when the maiden Harlene scored a $69.80 upset in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes. Two years later, it is perfectly clear that the Snow Chief upset by Harlene was an anomaly. Harlene now runs for an $8,000 claiming price, and on May 13 he finished last of six. Harlene's record is now 2 for 35.


Grass is the game over the Memorial Day weekend, with two Grade 1 turf races - the Shoemaker Mile on May 31 and the Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares May 29. The 1 1/8-mile Gamely is shaping up as one of the best grass races of the year. Tuscan Evening, winner of four graded stakes at Santa Anita, returns against a stellar lineup, including Medaglia d'Amour, whose three straight wins include the Grade 3 Wilshire; Well Monied, a Grade 2 winner last year at 3 and recent winner of her 4-year-old debut; and the consistent Grade 2 winner Gotta Have Her.

The lineup for the Shoemaker Mile is expected to include Compari, winner of six straight; Mr Gruff, a winner of four straight stretching back to last year; Inglewood winner Gallant Sun; and Monterey Jazz, who is 3 for 3 on the Hollywood turf.

In the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap on June 5, Red Sun will try to stretch his speed 1 1/4 miles, while allowance-class Hyades will be considered.

The Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 6 is expected to include Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck and Crisp. Evening Jewel, runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks, will run in either the Hollywood Oaks or the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on turf May 31.


The record $1 trifecta payoff ($78,703.90) in race 7 on May 15 was triggered when Fortunate Victory ($70.60) won a maiden-claiming sprint by a neck over 33-1 shot Outrageous Fortune, with 42-1 shot Souvenir Summer finishing third. The winning numbers were 16-13-11, and the combination was tough to find. Fortunate Victory, a 6-year-old, was 0 for 29 going in. The second- and third-place finishers each finished next-to-last in their previous start. The payoff more than doubled the previous record of $35,563.10 set May 1, 2007, when Truckee Thunder ($71.80) won race 6.

After 18 racing days through May 16, the pick six has carried over only twice. The pool on May 15, Preakness Day, was just $154,456 and produced a carryover into May 16 of just $85,742. Eight of the 18 pick sixes the first four weeks of the meet have been won by a single ticket-holder.

How important is speed at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track? No less than 20 of the 24 winners were within three lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile.

At the most frequently used distances through May 16 - six furlongs and 6 1/2 furlongs - favorites are a combined 24 for 53 (45 percent). Main-track favorites overall won 43 percent (49 for 113), while turf favorites won 30 percent (13 for 44).


J P's Gusto

Trainer: David Hofmans

Last race: May 9, 4th

Finish: 6th by 2 1/4

This precocious 2-year-old was tons best in his debut. A son of Successful Appeal bet to favoritism off a string of sharp works, he broke last in the 4 1/2-furlong race, lost ground into the turn, cut to the inside and was blocked behind runners, searched for a seam, took hold late, finished full of run, and galloped out super. He should crush in his next start in early June.


Trainer: Bob Baffert

Last race: May 15, 5th

Finish: 3rd by 3 1/4

A promising comeback by this 3-year-old maiden sets him up for a next-start win. Unraced in nearly six months, he pressed the pace while pinned on the rail, shook off his pace foe and remained in the hunt until deep stretch, then tired to third. This was his first start since transferring to Baffert. He has plenty of upside.

Kevlar Kid

Trainer: Carla Gaines

Last race: May 15, 5th

Finish: 1st by 2 3/4

A 3-year-old gelding by Rock Hard Ten, this second-start maiden was impressive winning a sprint. He pressed the moderate pace, took control passing the eighth pole, kicked away strongly late, and galloped out full of run. Acts like he wants to go long and will get that chance in a first-level allowance next time. He can win right back.


Trainer: Ben Cecil

Last race: May 15, 10th

Finish: 4th by 2

Although off the board at a mile on turf, he could have made it a race with a better trip. Blocked and buried in last while saving ground, he remained blocked behind horses in the lane and then finished strongly along the rail. He wants 1 1/8 miles or more, and the N2X allowance colt looms a threat even if he jumps up into a stakes.