07/13/2009 11:00PM

Swaps is Grazen's main summer goal

Benoit & Associates
Grazen comes into Saturday's Swaps on a three-race winning streak.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For several years, the $300,000 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park has been overshadowed on the 3-year-old summer schedule by more lucrative races in New York and New Jersey in August.

In the case of Grazen, this year's Swaps Stakes on Saturday is all trainer Mike Mitchell wants.

Grazen will start in the Swaps on a three-race winning streak at this meeting - a maiden race, an allowance race, and the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap. If Grazen were to win the Swaps, Mitchell insists he is not interested in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park or the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

"I'm not looking at that with him," he said. "I don't know if I've got a race picked out. We're so excited about being in a graded race and being one of the horses to beat, I haven't given the next race a thought."

Instead, Mitchell may give Grazen a light schedule during Del Mar, perhaps focusing on the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes over a mile on the main track on Sept. 5 as a prep for more prestigious races in California in the fall, such as the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita in early October.

"Is he good enough to run against older horses in the Goodwood?" Mitchell said. "I'd really doubt I'd ship him out of town. I think I've got a nice young horse that will get better the older he gets."

At the least, Grazen will be the horse to catch in the Grade 2 Swaps, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track. In the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed, Grazen led throughout and pulled clear in the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Misremembered.

"There will be no problem with that," Mitchell said of the distance.

Grazen has won 3 of 4 starts and $134,400. The Swaps will be the toughest test of his brief career.

The Swaps has a probable field of six, including Advice and Conservative, the first two finishers of the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April; Massone, who was third in the Cinema Handicap on turf last month; and Misremembered and Scorewithcater, who were second and fourth in the Affirmed. Dover Street Art and Quindici Man are possible.

The Swaps is the richest race on the final weekend of the Hollywood meeting.

Stauffer says he'll try to relax

Hollywood Park track announcer Vic Stauffer will return to racecalling on Thursday after suffering what doctors described as a "mini-stroke" last Saturday.

Stauffer was hospitalized overnight on Sunday. His place in the announcer's booth was taken by Los Alamitos track announcer Ed Burgart.

The 50-year-old Stauffer, who also works as an agent for leading rider Joel Rosario, has called races at Hollywood since 2001.

Stauffer said he saw two doctors on Monday. He was given medication, told to reduce stress, and not work as much.

"I'm doing much better," Stauffer said Tuesday. "My inner sense is that this is stress-related. I don't know how to leave the agenting part at the door and then pick it up the next morning, especially in the last three weeks since we had a chance to win the title."

During the Del Mar meeting that begins next Wednesday, Stauffer will focus on representing Rosario. Trevor Denman calls the races at Del Mar. When the Hollywood Park fall meeting begins in November, Stauffer admits he must learn to balance work and time off. He said he "absolutely" will call races and work for Rosario.

"I will learn to reconcile with it," Stauffer said. "I put my heart and soul into all of my jobs, but I can't literally do that. I have to step back and have times to relax."

Far fewer claims this season

In a clear sign that the horse racing economy is far from healthy, claiming activity at the Hollywood Park spring-summer is nearly half that of the 2008 meeting.

Through Sunday, with four days remaining at the meeting, 97 claims had been submitted for a gross price of $2,462,500, an average of $25,386. Last year, for the entire meeting, there were 195 claims for an average of $26,635.

In addition to a tough economy, there are other factors that have contributed to fewer claims. There will be 56 days of racing compared with 60 days at the 2008 meeting.

Claiming became more expensive at Hollywood Park as of July 1. A countywide half-cent sales tax increase, to finance transportation costs, took effect earlier this month, raising the sales tax to 10.25 percent in Inglewood. That hasn't stopped some owners and trainers from investing in recent weeks, preparing for the start of Del Mar.

Hollywood Park paymaster Susan Winter, whose office handles the financial side of claiming, said activity started later than normal this summer.

"We always get busy at this time because people want horses for Del Mar," she said.

$60K carryover for super high five

The $1 super high five has a carryover of $60,795 for Thursday's eighth race, and is likely to be the final carryover for the bet at this meeting. The super high five rarely has a carryover.

The wager requires bettors to correctly select the first five finishers of the day's final race. The bet carried over on Sunday after Bob Benoit ($24.80) pulled an upset in Sunday's 10th race, edging 15-1 outsider Raise the Heat. The fifth-place finisher was 90-1 Chadlington.

Thursday's final race is a maiden claimer for California-bred 2-year-olds over 5 1/2 furlongs. The race has drawn a maximum field of 12, including Cat Calloway, who was third in a similar race on June 26, and Phabulous Phil, who was fifth in the same race and is adding blinkers for Thursday's race.