12/10/2009 1:00AM

Hollywood roundup



Time to start taking Live Sundays seriously. The Chuck Jenda trainee has come into his own and continued his ascent to win his fifth straight in an optional claimer at 7 1/2 furlongs last Wednesday, Dec. 2. He was the longest shot in the small field of four at 5-1, mainly because his three foes had just run one-two-three in the On Trust Handicap. But that made no difference to Live Sundays, who was the only 3-year-old of the bunch. Under Alex Solis he went right to the lead, took constant pressure from Enriched, looked beaten when that rival put his head in front in midstretch, but came back to get the lead and was actually edging away at the wire. He must be respected in any Cal-bred sprints he targets.

Seven more wins this past week brought rider Joe Talamo to within one of leading rider Joel Rosario (23-22). However, Talamo had his momentum broken and was to miss all this week's action. It's nothing bad mind you - he left for Japan Sunday to ride in a jockey competition. From there he goes to Hong Kong to rides California Flag in the $1.8 million Hong Kong Sprint on Sunday. California Flag, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, is trained by Brian Koriner.


Crossing the Line, who hasn't raced since winning the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on turf in August 2007, came back in a six-furlong turf race for $32K claimers in Friday. The result likely wasn't what trainer John Sadler had in mind.

The 7-year-old gelding, who was sidelined by a bone chip in an ankle, got bumped and squeezed back at the start of the sprint, sat back, and never mustered a run as the 6-5 favorite, finishing sixth. He surely needed the race, but considering he came back for a tag he's not close to being what he once was.

That was part of quiet week for Sadler, who went just 1 for 16. Sadler's strong start to the meet gave him enough cushion so he remained clear atop the training standings with 11 wins. Mike Mitchell and Jeff Mullins had seven each.


Speed continues to do very well here but Friday was downright ridiculous. Five of the six main-track races were won in wire-to-wire fashion, and speed dominated in the one that wasn't. The winner of that maiden sprint was only a length off the lead at the first call and just a half-length off the lead at the pace call. She took command into the lane.

By Sunday, however, the track was completely fair as horses won on the lead, stalking, and from well back.

The speed factor in turf sprints has simmered down some this meet, going from domination (6 of first 12 were won wire to wire) to simply a significant edge. After a week with no wire-to-wire winners in five turf sprints the tally was 6 for 17 (35 percent).


Lava Man, once the dominant force in the handicapping division in Southern California, is coming out of retirement to make his return as an 8-year-old in Saturday's Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

Lava Man, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup three consecutive times, has won 17 of 46 starts and earned over $5.2 million. He's still the only horse to have won Grade 1's on synthetic, dirt, and turf. He had stem cell therapy on his front ankles. Lava Man is still trained by Doug O'Neill, as in his glory days.

This is a tough spot. He has not raced since July 2008, is just weeks from turning 9, and is coming back from injury, plus he has to face the likes of Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid.


St Trinians looked like a stakes filly romping by seven lengths in a 7 1/2-furlong allowance race here Dec. 3. Trained by Mike Mitchell, she stalked the pace under Joel Rosario as the 4-5 favorite, took over into the lane, and drew off to win easily, earning a Beyer of 89. She also romped in her only other U.S. start, a four-length victory going a mile at Santa Anita on March 14. She earned a Beyer of 91. St Trinians came to the U.S. from England where she did plenty of good work on synthetic footing.

Mitchell said his next goal with St Trinians is to make her a stakes winner.

Zardana gave trainer John Shirreffs his fifth win in the Grade 2 Bayakoa and may have stamped herself a big player in the filly-mare division for this coming season, particularly as stablemate Zenyatta is headed off to the breeding shed.

She stalked the pace of defending champ Briecat, angled outside that rival into the lane, took over, and drew clear to win comfortably. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was a brisk 1:42.24 for a 99 Beyer, easily her best. This marked Zardana's first graded stakes win after winning three minor stakes in Brazil and the restricted Swingtime on the turf at Santa Anita.


Spirit Seeker

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Last race: Dec. 3, 5th

Finish: 2nd by a neck

She did everything right in the restricted Starine but didn't get the money. A Calder invader trying turf for just the second time, she chased runaway pacesetter Summers Peace, moved up eagerly to challenge and took over from that rival into the lane, but was nailed on the line by hard-charging Saucey Evening. Considering it was her first run in nearly two months, it was a fine effort. She can be all the more dangerous next time on turf, and there's no reason she shouldn't handle synthetic either.

Flaming Eyes

Trainer: Antonio Soto

Last race: Dec. 4, 6th

Finish: 3rd by 3/4

Considering how the track played, this 2-year-old colt had no chance. Five of the six main-track races on the day were won in wire-to-wire fashion so it's to his credit he closed from well back after a slow start to finish a close third. He hadn't done much in his first three starts, hence he was 87-1 in this spot, but he may well be getting things figured out and may enjoy this Cushion Track footing more than the dirt at Fairplex or Santa Anita's Pro-Ride. If he can find a day where this track plays more fairly he may be ready to post an upset.

Floating Heart

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: Dec. 5, 8th

Finish: 4th by 2 1/4

Beautifully bred filly (by a six-time Group 1 European monster out of a Grade 1 stakes-winning filly) may be putting it all together. In the Grade 2 Bayakoa she got away slowly, was content to lag well back early, and produced a late run. Her style has not played well here but may be more effective when the action switches to Santa Anita later this month. She has won 3 of her last 5, from a mile to 1 1/2 miles, on dirt, turf, and synthetic, and while she may not want anything to do with Life Is Sweet she can do some damage elsewhere.