06/30/2010 11:00PM

Hollywood roundup



Huge week for jockey Joel Rosario. While Rafael Bejarano held a comfortable lead in the jockeys standing before serving a five-day suspension, Rosario and Tyler Baze closed the gap, and Rosario's hat trick Wednesday, June 23, brought him even closer. Two more wins the following day helped, too, though Bejarano and Baze also booted home a winner.

Rosario continued his surge Friday evening, posting another hat trick. Bejarano slowed Rosario's charge a bit with a winner.

But Saturday, June 26, Rosario posted yet another hat trick. Baze won two, and Bejarano won one.

Bejarano's response came Sunday, when he won three while Rosario notched one win. At the end of the week, Bejarano had maintained his lead with 59 wins, with Rosario hot on his heels at 54. Baze was still in the mix, finishing the week at 53.


Could it be Royal Taat's best chances have come and gone? Once quite competitive with the best grass sprinting females on the circuit, she hadn't won since taking an N3X on the Santa Anita hillside turf course in January 2009. There had been several close calls since, but Wednesday's eighth race looked like her best opportunity in a while. Off a three-month hiatus, she returned for trainer John Sadler in a six-furlong optional claimer on grass. Under Rosario, she broke slowly, sat at the back of the pack, and barely picked up her feet, finishing sixth as the 3-1 second choice, about two lengths behind the 13-1 winner, Terrify.

The loss was Royal Taat's 10th straight, and she has finished out of the money in seven straight races, and eight of her last nine.

While trainer Doug O'Neill's four-win week put him atop the trainer standings with 27 victories through Sunday, June 27, six ahead of Mike Mitchell at 21, that status figured to change. O'Neill dropped an appeal of a 15-day suspension for a total carbon dioxide overage in Illinois in April. The penalty runs through July 14.


Judging by her smart win in last Saturday's Grade 3 Beverly Hills, Turning Top may have positioned herself to take a run at division leader Tuscan Evening. A 4-year-old daughter of Pivotal, Turning Top sat second behind Princess Taylor's snail-like pace, pounced on that rival into the lane, and edged clear to score her fourth straight win. She came to the U.S. for trainer Simon Callaghan from England, and after a dull U.S. debut on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride on Feb. 5 she has been dynamite in five straight starts since returning to turf March 14. That day she finished third to eventual stakes winner Medaglia d'Amour before starting this winning streak.

Turning Top may get her crack at Tuscan Evening. Callaghan said the Grade 1 John C. Mabee at 1 1/8 miles on the Del Mar turf Aug. 15 may be next, and that might be the next target for Tuscan Evening unless she goes in the Grade 1 Beverly D. the following weekend.

A couple of notable returns on Sunday. First, top grass horse The Usual Q. T, who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on this course last fall, won a mile allowance event. He stalked the pace, moved up nicely on the far turn to challenge, took the lead in midstretch, and held the others safe. Trainer Jim Cassidy said he hopes the win will be a springboard to a start in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar on July 24.

Later on the card, in the Robert K. Kerlan Handicap, top-class Australian sprinter Scenic Blast made his U.S. debut for John Shirreffs and finished fourth. The Kerlan was Scenic Blast's first start since he finished last of 14 in the $1.5 million Hong Kong Sprint last December. Scenic Blast bled in that race, and because of repeated bleeding incidents, he was briefly banned from racing in his native Australia, where he won two Group 1 sprints last year.

Scenic Blast ran on the anti-bleeding medication Lasix for the first time Sunday. The medication is not permitted in the countries where Scenic Blast had previously raced.

In the Kerlan, he was last early after breaking slowly from the gate, swung wide on the far turn and into the lane, and made some headway to finish fourth behind My Summer Slew. It was an encouraging first U.S. run and may set him up for improvement next time. The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in November is a long-term goal.


Awesome Gem is expected to take a swing at the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10, trainer Craig Dollase said.

"That's the plan," Dollase said. "He's been doing well since he got back from Lone Star."

Awesome Gem, a 7-year-old chestnut gelding, finished second in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 31, his 13th runner-up finish in 35 starts. He has won six times and earned $1.9 million. He ran third in the 2007 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic behind Horse of the Year Curlin and Hard Spun at Monmouth and ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, who was fourth.

Trainer Mark Glatt reported that Leroy's Dynameaux, upset winner of the Grade 3 Will Rogers Stakes June 20, came back in good order and will point for Del Mar's Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap on turf Aug. 1.

A big maiden win by 2-year-old filly Georgie's Sweetie in the nightcap Thursday stamped her as one to watch. Trained by Kathy Walsh and ridden by Mike Smith, she dogged pacesetter Faisca early and had no trouble putting her away, drawing off to win with ease. Based on Georgie's Sweetie's pedigree, it is easy to see why she ran so well and has such a bright future. She is a full sister to Georgie Boy, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, Grade 2 San Felipe, Grade 2 San Vicente and Grade 2 San Carlos, and was third in Grade 1 Malibu.


Everyone knows how good trainer Jeff Bonde is first time out, with a win rate of about 26 percent, so it was no surprise when he sent out 2-year-old firster Lucky Mr. K to victory in the third race June 23, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for California-breds.

What was eye-opening was the way Lucky Mr. K won. He is a son of Benchmark, a noted stayer who won two Grade 2 routes and produces horses who can go long, such as multiple Grade 1 route winner Brother Derek.

Lucky Mr. K backed up his scintillating works with an equally impressive performance. Under Victor Espinoza, he was away a bit slowly. He bided his time, made a smart three-wide run to reach contention turning for home, easily took command, and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths.

The win immediately vaulted him to the head of the 2-year-old division out West, and he could be scary in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile on July 5, should Bonde opt for such a quick turnaround; Bonde could also wait for the strong Del Mar 2-year-old program.

With his pedigree, which includes a strong stamina influence with Deputy Minister as his damsire, Lucky Mr. K may only get better with distance.


Sheeza Beast

Trainer: Mike Mitchell

Last race: June 23, 5th

Finish: 3rd by 1/2

Making her second start after a seven-month layoff, she tried winners and the turf for the first time, and neither was a problem. The problem was a tough start. She got away slowly in the 1 1/16-mile starter allowance, had to bide her time, ended up between horses, but came with a strong run through the lane. Figures to be even better next time.

Frequent Fame

Trainer: Marcelo Polanco

Last race: June 24, 6th

Finish: 1st by 3 1/4

This filly may have turned the corner. A well-beaten third June 4, she returned to defeat both horses who finished ahead of her that day. She was slow into her stride early, steadily advanced to the far turn, swung out into the lane, and blasted home to win in a romp. There's every reason to believe she can step up, maybe even multiple levels. That this win came at 18-1 may mean she won't be given ample respect at the windows next time.

Big Burly Boy

Trainer: Neil French

Last race: June 26, 9th

Finish: 3rd by 2 3/4

An encouraging first run from this son of two-time Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Skimming. He was a bit sluggish away from the gate but was quick to get into stride and had enough speed to stalk between horses in fourth, just a head behind eventual winner Bold Type. He went wide on the far turn to lose position but kept to his task well, chasing Bold Type home and losing the place only in the final strides. With this under his belt, he may be primed to get his diploma next time.