06/07/2009 11:00PM

Rail Trip will go for lead in Californian

Benoit & Associates
Trainer Ron Ellis said Rail Trip will be prominent early in Saturday's Grade 2 Californian at Hollywood.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When Rail Trip made his graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 9, he failed to make an early lead and wound up losing for the first time in his six-race career.

The tactics are changing for Saturday's $250,000 Californian Stakes, a Grade 2 race at 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Ron Ellis plans for Rail Trip to be prominent early, most likely on the lead, and hopes the 4-year-old gelding can show a career-best performance.

"I think he's a little better as a free-running horse," Ellis said.

Owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, Rail Trip was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Ball Four in the Mervyn LeRoy at 1 1/16 miles. He was within a half-length of the lead on the final turn but was no closer in the stretch.

"It was the first time he was in a little bit of a battle, and it might have caught him off guard," Ellis said. "He's trained well since that race."

Rail Trip is one of nine probable starters in the Californian, a key prep for the $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles on July 11. Ball Four is part of a field expected to include Aitcho, Awesome Gem, Dakota Phone, Informed, Limestone Edge, the New Mexico invader Song of Navarone, and Ukiah.

On Sunday, Rail Trip worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds. Three other probable starters worked six furlongs - Aitcho in 1:13, Informed in 1:14, and Dakota Phone in 1:15.

Life Is Sweet might try Gold Cup

Life Is Sweet, whose three-race winning streak in stakes was interrupted by a second to reigning older female champion Zenyatta in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap on May 23, could start in one of three stakes in late June or early July.

One race that owner Marty Wygod and trainer John Shirreffs are considering is the Hollywood Gold Cup.

More than likely, Life Is Sweet will run on the weekend of June 27-28 - in the $300,000 Vanity Handicap, against Zenyatta, at 1 1/8 miles on the main track on June 27, or the $150,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf on June 28.

"I think we'll leave all the options open," Shirreffs said.

Regarding the Gold Cup, Shirreffs said, "I think [Wygod] just wanted to nominate. You don't know who is coming. She's definitely a mile-and-a-quarter horse.

"I think he wants to look at the weights of the Vanity. There are plenty of opportunities."

Earlier this year, Life Is Sweet, 4, was the top older female of the Santa Anita meeting, winning the El Encino and La Canada stakes and the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap.

Redondo Beach crew may meet again

Tuscan Evening's front-running win in the Redondo Beach Stakes will not scare off many rivals for the $250,000 Royal Heroine Mile July 1.

The second- through fifth-place finishers of the Redondo Beach - Gotta Have Her, Charming Legacy, Bahama Mama, and Gorgeous Goose - are expected to return in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine.

After the Redondo Beach, Jenine Sahadi, who trains Gotta Have Her, was ruing the circumstances that forced Gotta Have Her to rally four wide on the turn, closing from eighth with a quarter-mile remaining to lose by a half-length.

"She ran an amazing race," Sahadi said.

Sahadi expected Tuscan Evening to be challenged in the first half-mile.

"I was flabbergasted that everyone took back," she said.

Mike Puype, who trains Gorgeous Goose, gave up on his chances after early fractions of 23.89 and 46.97 seconds.

"I was a little disappointed there wasn't more speed in there," he said.

The winner of 4 of 16 starts, Tuscan Evening won her first stakes in the Redondo Beach for William de Burgh and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. In 2008 she was second in the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas.

Noble Court aimed at Breeders' Cup

It is difficult for Joy Ride Racing and trainer John Sadler to plan too far in advance with Noble Court, the winner of the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap on Saturday.

Noble Court has won 6 of 11 starts and $335,778, but has been plagued by a tendon injury and twice by foot problems that led to lengthy layoffs.

His win in the Ack Ack was only his second start of the year and fourth in 21 months. Despite the horse's sketchy record, Sadler has a clear goal for Noble Court - the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in November.

"I want to keep him sound for the Breeders' Cup race down the hill," Sadler said.

The Ack Ack was Noble Court's third stakes win, and his first graded stakes since the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita in February 2007.

Noble Court rallied from 10th in a field of 11 to win by a half-length over Rush With Thunder. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Noble Court's closing style worked well. He broke from the rail, and was well off a ridiculous pace of 21.66 and 43.54 seconds set by Lukhu's Dancer and Mutak Gold.

"We didn't want to run him out of there," Sadler said of the rail draw. "You get in no-man's land."

Sadler is planning one more start for Noble Court at this meeting, the $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap, a Grade 1 at seven furlongs on July 5.

Tote incident still being probed

An incident in which the tote betting system failed to stop taking bets on a Hollywood Park race in May after the race began remains under a review by the company that operates the system, the California Horse Racing Board was told last Friday.

Officials with Scientific Games Racing said they were continuing to investigate the cause of the incident, which occurred after the start of the Los Angeles Handicap on May 16. Bets were not shut off from 33 satellite locations outside of California.

Racing board officials said that the error was quickly realized and that bettors were not able to profit from the system failure.

Approximately $100,000 in bets were refunded to customers at those locations, which included Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Canterbury Park, Keeneland, and betting sites in Canada.

Dave Haslett of Scientific Games told the racing board an electronic "stop betting" message was not received by those satellite locations.

"We don't know why it happened," he said. "We're continuing to investigate and we're running tests in our lab. That is still continuing so we can identify why that message did not get to some locations while some of them did."