06/13/2012 3:12PM

Hollywood: Shrug on improve entering Friday optional-claiming feature

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The 4-year-old colt Shrug has a leading chance to win Friday’s seventh race at Betfair Hollywood Park, as long as he doesn’t mind racing at night.

“I hope he’s a night owl,” trainer Carla Gaines said on Wednesday.

Shrug is part of a field of six in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs in the seventh race on an eight-race program that begins at 7 p.m. The seventh race has a post time of approximately 10 p.m.

The late post time is one of few concerns Gaines has with starting Shrug, a winner of 2 of 12 starts and $103,930. Owned by Swift Thoroughbreds, Shrug is winless in his last eight starts, but ran second, beaten a neck, in an optional claimer over seven furlongs on May 19.

“He’s been slowly improving,” Gaines said.

Last Saturday, Shrug worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Santa Anita, the fastest of 28 recorded works at the distance. Fast works are customary for Shrug, who has not always displayed that talent in races.

“The horse has always shown a lot of ability in the morning,” Gaines said. “He’s been very disappointing in the afternoons. His races as of late have been improving.”

Shrug could get an ideal trip in the optional claimer. Close to the Edge, claimed for $40,000 by trainer Kristin Mulhall on May 25, has speed and has drawn the rail. Batti Man, an Argentine-bred winless in his first two starts in this country, may set the pace from the outside.

Bet on Victor, the winner of an optional claimer in a 20-1 upset at Santa Anita in April, will race close to the lead.

Trainer Bob Baffert has two starters in C J Russell and Sinai.

C J Russell, who also has speed, was fifth in an allowance race at Santa Anita on March 22, his most recent start. Sinai, a colt by Rockport Harbor, has not started since finishing fourth in the Uniformity Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita last October.

In recent weeks, Sinai has worked quickly at Hollywood Park, including six furlongs in 1:11.40 from the gate on June 8.

Shrug will be in pursuit of the pacesetters. Gaines said the colt is more patient than he was earlier in his career.

“Before he was going out there and batting heads,” she said. “That’s the one thing, he seems like he’s matured a little bit.”