06/10/2010 12:00AM

Hollywood roundup



Trainer Mike Mitchell is on a tear. In a three-week span from May 19 through June 6, he won 10 races from 15 starters and rocketed to the top of the standings. Mitchell entered the June 9 card with 16 wins from 39 starters. His return on investment for each $2 win bet was $2.66. Doug O'Neill ranked second at the meet with 15 wins from 100 starters and a $1.23 ROI.

Brice Blanc entered the week 10th in the jockey standings (11 for 72), and no rider is giving bettors more bang for their buck. Blanc's mounts have produced a generous flat-bet profit, a $2.78 return for each $2 win bet, leading the local colony. Blanc won two races during the abbreviated June 4-6 week. As expected, both were on turf - Blanc is 7 for 41 on grass. Redondo Beach winner Turning Top and Charles Whittingham Handicap third-place finisher Brushburn are his top mounts. Brushburn was making his third start of the meet.

"He's run his butt off three times in a month, and what else can I say − he's just a hard-tryer," Blanc said.


The curious campaign of Loup Breton has hit a stall. His dull fourth in the Whittingham shows what happens when good horses are strangely managed. Once considered the top turf horse in the West, Loup Breton switched surfaces in March for an ill-advised experiment on synthetic and finished 11th in the Santa Anita Handicap. Rather than regroup, Loup Breton was sent on the road and finished third in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 1 at Churchill Downs.

Jammed back a month later in the Whittingham, Loup Breton was unresponsive and finished fourth. Maybe he was overrated from the start, but Loup Breton's odd campaign prevented him from a fair chance this year. Julio Canani trains Loup Breton. He was ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

"I tried to get him up into position to make a run from the five-eighths, but he was just one-paced," Bejarano said. "When I asked my horse at the half-mile, he didn't move. He was just running at the same pace."


Rather than start Santa Anita Oaks runner-up All Due Respect against Blind Luck in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 6, trainer Kathy Walsh chose the path of least resistance and entered All Due Respect in a first-level allowance the same day. The conservative placement cost All Due Respect an easy chance to win a graded stakes. Hammered to 3-5 favoritism in the 1 1/16-mile allowance, All Due Respect made odds-on look like an overlay. She set a strong pace (46.96 and 1:11.27), widened through the lane, and won by 10 1/4 lengths in 1:42.55. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104, highest of the meet in a two-turn race on Cushion Track.

The Oaks win by Switch was soft relative to the allowance win by All Due Respect. The fractions were slow (50.11 and 1:14.50), and the 1:44.54 time was nearly two seconds slower than the allowance. Switch earned a 90 Beyer Figure. She is fortunate that All Due Respect was not in the race.

As for Blind Luck, the Kentucky Oaks winner, her 1 1/4-length defeat was phenomenal under the circumstances. She closed six lengths by running the final five-sixteenths in about 28.80 seconds, over a track favorable to speed. Blind Luck's trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, said after the race that jockey Rafael Bejarano "could have laid a little closer." It is not that easy. Blind Luck is a deep closer. Changing her style to suit the dynamics of a Grade 2, $150,000 race would not have been in her best interest. Ultimately, the Hollywood Oaks will go down as a loss for Blind Luck (7 for 11), but it does not suggest her ability is diminished.


Apprentice rider Alex Gonzalez, 18, has relocated from Northern California and was scheduled to begin riding Wednesday at Hollywood Park. Gonzalez won 64 races from 349 mounts (18 percent) during the Golden Gate winter-spring meet, fifth in the standings. Gonzalez, who has a five-pound allowance, was born in Hollywood, Fla., and will be represented by agent Vince DeGregory. Ariel Smith, the leading apprentice in 1999, has returned to Hollywood, according to the track publicity department. He did not have a scheduled mount Wednesday or Thursday.

Grade 1 winner Georgie Boy has returned to the Hollywood stable of trainer Kathy Walsh, who said Georgie Boy is still a long way from a race. Georgie Boy has not raced since winning the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap on Feb. 21, 2009. He spent much of the last year at Pegasus Training Center in Redmond, Wash., to recover from problematic feet. Georgie Boy, owned by George Schwary, has won six races and $788,634 from 11 starts.


Main-track favorites are on a roll. Through Sunday, favorites on Cushion Track had won 43 percent (81 for 188) of the races. At the most used distance of six furlongs, favorites won 46 percent (23 for 50). On turf, favorites won at a normal 32 percent rate (27 for 84).

Two-turn speed has been deadly in main-track races at 1 1/16 miles - eight of the last 10 races at the distance (May 21 through June 6) were won wire to wire. The other two were May 23 winner Taro, who was a head off the lead at both pace calls, and Hollywood Oaks winner Switch.

The pick six June 4 began with a $150,594 carryover, and an additional $915,968 was wagered into the pick six, which began easily enough with a predictable maiden claiming win by Fantando ($2.80). But the sequence got tougher from there, as favorites lost the next five races. The remaining winners were It Tiz ($15.40), Ann's Seven ($32.60), Stick to the Plan ($9.80), Sweet Hanni ($10.40), and Surefire ($7). There were 10 winning tickets, each worth $65,911.80. The winning payoff was more than double a mythical $2 win parlay.


The 3-year-olds are in the spotlight June 19 and 20. Who's Up returns June 19 to the scene of his biggest win -- turf at Hollywood. Winner of the Grade 3 Generous Stakes last fall, he posted a huge six-furlong work Sunday under Victor Espinoza (1:11 with a bullet). He will face the Arkansas Derby winner, Line of David, in the Grade 3 Will Rogers at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Golden Itiz gets tested for class June 20 in the Grade 3 Affirmed at a 1 1/16-mile on the main track. An improving 3-year-old by Tiznow, Golden Itiz won an April 28 allowance race by 11 1/4 lengths. Despite the margin of victory, there is hesitation to stamp him as a star. The fractions he set (49.36 and 1:13.44) were slow.


Hollywood Park has adjusted its weekly schedule, switching the dark days for the final three weeks of the meet. There is no racing on the final three Wednesdays (June 30, July 7, July 14), and racing will be conducted the final three Thursdays (July 1, 8, 15). Evening post time July 1 is 7:05 p.m. A concert by 1980s band Devo will follow the program. Crack that whip!

Jockey Mike Smith, winner of the Belmont Stakes and regular rider for Zenyatta, will be Kurt Hoover's guest on the Inside Scoop on June 12. Smith and Hoover will discuss the Belmont win by Drosselmeyer, and Zenyatta, who will try for a third consecutive victory in the Grade 1 Vanity on June 13. The Inside Scoop begins at noon at the paddock tote board.


Warren's Swap Fox

Trainer: Greg Matties

Last race: June 4, 5th

Finish: 2nd by 1/2

A slow pace compromised this 3-year-old claiming filly, who rallied from next to last in a sprint won by an easy-trip front-runner. She was claimed by Matties from a stable that was 2 for 38 at the meet, and she can win a sprint claimer with a legitimate pace to run at.


Trainer: Carl O'Callaghan

Last race: June 4, 6th

Finish: 6th by 6 3/4

This $25,000 maiden claimer was pitched over his head in a $40,000 maiden claimer for California-breds and finished last after a slow start from the rail. He previously finished a close third despite trouble in his debut one back and can upset bottom-level maidens with an outside draw.

Red Door Drive

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Last race: June 6, 7th

Finish: 2nd by a nose

An improving 5-year-old, he ran the best race of his career in a turf route. Forwardly placed behind a hot pace (46.09 and 1:09.81), he made the lead in midstretch but got collared on the wire by a last-to-first winner. This pace-pressing 19-start veteran has never been better and is worth a long look if he moves up in class into a turf stakes.

Titus Aurelius

Trainer: Doug O'NeillLast race: June 4, 8th

Finish: 2nd by 1/2

This class-dropper broke slowly in a $25,000 maiden claimer and was unable to catch the perfect-trip winner while finishing more than four lengths clear of third. Claimed by O'Neill off the runner-up finish, he can win a similar maiden claimer with a clean break.