12/15/2010 1:50PM

Hugs to All needs things his own way on front end


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Hugs to All is best when allowed to set his own pace, a style that has worked for wins in three of his last five starts.

A 4-year-old gelding, Hugs to All will be after another win in a first-level optional $40,000 claimer at Hollywood Park on Friday, utilizing a style easy to predict. What is not certain is whether he will face enough early pressure to compromise his chances.

“He likes to be on the lead,” trainer Marty Jones said. “When he gets in front, he settles a little bit. When he’s behind horses, he doesn’t rate. Hopefully no one will try to go with him, but we’ll see.”

Owned by breeder John Harris, Hugs to All has won back-to-back races, a starter allowance over 6 1/2 furlongs on Oct. 11, in which he pulled away to win by 3 1/4 lengths, and an allowance race for statebreds over seven furlongs on Nov. 6, which he won by a half-length.

Friday’s race will be more difficult. Hugs to All faces open company and will race over 7 1/2 furlongs, the longest race of his career, which includes 3 wins in 7 starts. The recent success is an improvement from Hugs to All’s first two starts, when he was fourth and fifth in maiden special weight races and was dropped into a $40,000 claimer for maidens in August, a race he won.

Jones said that Hugs to All is best suited to races around one turn.

“This is what we’ve been looking for,” Jones said. “He’s had trouble with the turns a little bit, but I think he can run a little further.”

Hugs to All, who will be ridden by Corey Nakatani, could face early pressure from Working Capital, who has led in recent starts ranging in distance from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, but has not been able to sustain the advantage. Concerto’s Thunder, who has been racing around two turns for most of this year with moderate results, has also shown speed.

Working Capital and Lease of Life, who has not started since July, are entered for $40,000 claiming prices.

The field of eight includes Victory With Honor, who won his last start against maidens on Nov. 13; and Boulder Creek, who was unplaced in two Grade 3 stakes last spring and is making his first start since June.