Updated on 09/18/2011 1:40AM

Sensational Score hard to figure


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Sensational Score's last two starts make assessing this 3-year-old colt difficult. He won the Pomona Derby at Fairplex Park on Sept. 23, but returned to finish seventh in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park a month later.

Trainer Mike Machowsky is convinced that Sensational Score is as good as his win in the Pomona Derby. His opinion will be tested when Sensational Score starts in an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Friday. A win would propel him into stakes at the upcoming Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

Sensational Score's last race can leave a bettor with doubts.

In the Oklahoma Derby, Sensational Score finished 7 1/4 lengths behind Mr. Pursuit, who returned to win the minor Governor's Cup Stakes at Remington Park on Nov. 28.

"He was never comfortable the whole way," Machowsky said. "He never relaxed. Maybe he was too sharp."

On Friday, Sensational Score breaks from post 4 in a field of eight. Sensational Score is the only 2006 stakes winner in the field.

Sensational Score has won 2 of 8 starts. He beat maidens in his career debut at the 2005 Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, then lost five consecutive races before his 13-1 upset in the Pomona Derby.

Machowsky thinks that Sensational Score, who is by Wild Rush, is only now maturing.

"A lot of Wild Rushes don't come around till later," he said. "I would like to have him around for his 5-, 6- and 7-year-old seasons."

Machowsky hopes Sensational Score runs well Friday as a prep to the Strub series.

"I can freshen him for the San Fernando," Machowsky said, referring to the Grade 2 race at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 13.

To win on Friday, Sensational Score must beat County, Direct Male, and Steal Your Thunder.

County, trained by Neil Drysdale, is winless in seven starts, but was second in his last four, including a head loss here on Nov. 11.

Direct Male and Steal Your Thunder have been racing on turf. In recent weeks, several turf horses have made successful transitions to Hollywood Park's synthetic main track surface.

Direct Male was fourth in his last start on Nov. 10, the day he was claimed for $62,500. A 6-year-old gelding with three wins in his last six starts, Direct Male is now trained by Doug O'Neill. Steal Your Thunder will be trying to end an eight-race losing streak.