05/10/2006 11:00PM

Thunder Touch can fire fresh


NEW YORK - The West is the best when it comes to Saturday's stakes schedule, with the $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap topping a stakes tripleheader at Hollywood Park. Also on the Hollywood card are the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, and the Los Angeles Times Handicap.

The other big race Saturday is the $300,000 Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park.

Los Angeles Handicap

One of the important keys to this race is whether Pure as Gold and Siren Lure can transfer their sharp recent turf sprint form to the main track. And while there is evidence they can - Pure as Gold won a $50,000 claimer the last time he went turf to dirt, and has improved since moving into Doug O'Neill's barn, and Siren Lure beat a short field in a small off-the-turf stakes two starts back - there is a small problem: Even if you're right, you might not get justly rewarded, because without a lot of other really appealing ways to go in this race, their odds don't figure to be all that great.

With that in mind, I'm going with Thunder Touch. Thunder Touch ran some races in New York last year that would be good enough to win this, namely a blowout score at Saratoga in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110, and a third in the Bold Ruler Handicap off a layoff not dissimilar from the one he brings into this race. I like his outside post position, because that means he will be able to stalk the pace comfortably, and his steady workout line. Thunder Touch's new trainer, Vladimir Cerin, is off to a flying start at the Hollywood meet, and has excellent statistics in some pertinent categories, such as with newcomers to his barn and with horses off layoffs of three to six months.

Lone Star Derby

Wanna Runner ships in from Southern California, is backed by the powerful Bob Baffert barn, is coming off a going-away victory, and projects to sit an ideal pace stalking trip. But Wanna Runner's major claims to fame are his win over a field of dubious quality in the WinStar Derby, and a third in a four-horse field behind Brother Derek and Stevie Wonderboy three starts back in the San Rafael. At expected odds of around even money, Wanna Runner is an underlay.

Admiral's Arch's recent form is comparable to Wanna Runner's, and he will be a better price, so he is the play. Admiral's Arch began this year with three narrowly beaten seconds at Oaklawn Park, and all were solid efforts. But as is often the case with horses who might have trouble closing the deal, the addition of blinkers made a significant difference for Admiral's Arch last time out in the Northern Spur. Despite running up behind horses going into the first turn and again on the backstretch, Admiral's Arch produced a strong wide rally and this time went by the leader in the stretch to score. Moreover, the 94 Beyer he earned for that victory was only 4 points lower than Lawyer Ron's winning Beyer later in that card in the Arkansas Derby. It was 9 points higher than Admiral's Arch's previous career best, and is certainly competitive with Wanna Runner's best figures.

Jim Murray Memorial Handicap

Seven are entered, but the two best horses on paper by far are King's Drama and Grey Swallow. Although King's Drama beat subsequent San Juan Capistrano winner T. H. Approval when he won the San Luis Rey in March, I prefer Grey Swallow.

Grey Swallow, winner of the 2004 Irish Derby, has not raced since he finished third in the Canadian International last October. But in this instance, I think the layoff is actually a plus. When Grey Swallow returned from a similar layoff in his first start last year, he won the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland in a performance that might have even topped his Irish Derby score. When Grey Swallow won that race, he beat a top-class trio in Bago, Ace, and Azamour, each of whom could dominate this race even if they gave the rest a sizable head start.


Lone Star Park: Lone Star Derby
3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles

Approximate post: Eastern-5:51 p.m., Central-4:51 p.m., Mountain-3:51 p.m., Pacific-2:51 p.m.; Grand Prairie, Tx., forecast: Partly cloudy, 87¦

1Wanna Runner9276997-5
2Rain On Monday89806910-1
3Admiral's Arch9485845-2
4Red Raymond6889887-2
5Wait in Line82627315-1
6Mr. Pursuit8587866-1

Track morning line odds

Hollywood: Jim Murray Memorial Handicap
3 and up, 1 1/2 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-6:50 p.m., C-5:50 p.m., M-4:50 p.m., P-3:50 p.m.; Inglewood, Ca., forecast: Partly cloudy, 72¦

2Brecon Beacon90799120-1
3Grey Swallow100n/an/a6-5
4Golden Rahy89909410-1
5One Off10195999-2
6Runaway Dancer76949210-1
7King's Drama10499n/a2-1

Odds by Michael Hammersly

Hollywood Park: Los Angeles Handicap
3 and up, 6 furlongs

Approximate post: E-8:20 p.m., C-7:20 p.m., M-6:20 p.m., P-5:20 p.m.; Inglewood, Ca., forecast: Partly cloudy, 72¦

1Pure as Gold10096983-1
3Cigar Pal9798938-1
4Siren Lure95991017-5
5Secret Ridge92n/an/a20-1
8Thunder Touch99941087-2

Odds by Michael Hammersly