05/18/2009 11:00PM

U S Ranger on verge of breakout race

Benoit & Associates
Life Is Sweet must take on stablemate Zenyatta in the Milady.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It was 19 months ago on another continent when U S Ranger last won a race, in Ireland on Sept. 30, 2007. Yet when he starts Monday in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, U S Ranger enters with proper credentials to win the $250,000 race.

Neil Drysdale trains U S Ranger, a listed stakes winner in Europe and runner-up by a head last July at Newmarket in the Group 1 July Cup. The 5-year-old's U.S. campaign has been slow to develop, but Drysdale believes he is sitting on a big effort after a good third-place finish in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap.

"I liked his race, and he should improve," Drysdale said.

The Inglewood was his third start in the U.S., following a sixth-place comeback prep March 21 and fifth-place finish Oct. 25 in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"He's coming around, he's progressing," Drysdale said.

U S Ranger will have a different jockey, Rafael Bejarano, when he faces at least five in the Shoemaker. The field is expected to include Ventura, Garrett Gomez; Whatsthescript, Joel Rosario; Hyperbaric, Victor Espinoza; Dixie Chatter, Tyler Baze; U S Ranger, Bejarano; and Tiz West, Joe Talamo.

Life Is Sweet 122, Zenyatta 126

Life Is Sweet faces two major hurdles Saturday in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap. One is her unbeaten stablemate Zenyatta. The other is reproducing her outstanding Santa Anita Pro-Ride form on the Cushion Track at Hollywood.

"Pro-Ride seemed to favor turf horses a little bit," trainer John Shirreffs said at his Hollywood base. "This track obviously is a little different, so you don't know. [Life Is Sweet] has that big kick at the end, like a turf horse."

Life Is Sweet won three consecutive graded stakes during the Santa Anita winter meet, and is scheduled for her first start in two months Saturday in the Milady. She was assigned 122 pounds; Zenyatta was given 126 pounds.

Shirreffs may have preferred keeping Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet apart. Asked again Tuesday if both will run in the Milady, Shirreffs replied, "It looks like it."

It looks like six are likely to enter: Zenyatta, Mike Smith, 126; Life Is Sweet, Gomez, 122; Anabaa's Creation, Tyler Baze, 115; Champagne Eyes, Michael Baze, 114; Allicansayis Wow, Talamo, 113; and Hot N' Dusty, undecided, 110.

Siren Lure poised for milestone

One more start and one more furlong could put Siren Lure over the $1omillion mark. An 8-year-old gelding, Siren Lure finished a closing fourth Saturday in the six-furlong, Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap won by Red Arrow.

"I ran out of track," said Siren Lure's trainer, Art Sherman, and he's right. Siren Lure closed from last, missed by 1 1/2 lengths, and is on the brink of a milestone.

With earnings of $994,244 from 15 wins in 37 starts, Siren Lure will try to top the seven-figure mark when he runs July 5 in Grade 1, $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap, a seven-furlong race he won in 2006 as a mere 5-year-old.

Another live O'Neill juvenile

Trainer Doug O'Neill predicted it. "We have a pretty good inventory of 2-year-olds," he said.

O'Neill aims for his fifth consecutive victory with a 2-year-old maiden Thursday in race 3. Lover's House (by first-crop stallion Limehouse, produced by Lovers Bend), makes her career debut in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint for $40,000 maiden claimers.

Rafael Bejarano rides the filly from post 2. She will try to join O'Neill-trained Track N Attack, Repo, Classical Slew and Southern Fireball as maiden winners at the meet.

Keep an eye on this Barrera entrant

It was an oversight that Bet on Victor was not nominated to the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes. Trainer Vladimir Cerin suggests bettors not make the same mistake by overlooking the gelding when he makes his stakes debut Sunday in the seven-furlong Barrera for 3-year-olds.

Bet on Victor finished second in a highly rated allowance race Marcho11 at Santa Anita, then ran a dull sixth when he stretched to two turns April 26 at Hollywood. Did he have an excuse?

"He didn't," Cerin admits, "but he's trained superbly since, and seven furlongs should be ideal for him."

Gomez will ride Bet on Victor in a field expected to include 5-for-7 stakes winner Backbackbackgone, 2-for-2 Canonize, 2-for-2 Golden Gate shipper Carbonite, stakes winner Charlie's Moment, Leedstheway, Position A, Quindici Man, and trouble-prone Ventana.

* Gomez, the national leader with earnings this year with more than $6.9 million, will return to California this weekend for live mounts in all three stakes. He rides Life Is Sweet on Saturday in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap, Bet on Victor in the Barrera, and the mare Ventura on Monday in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.

* Two jockeys who found California a tough circuit to crack have left for greener pastures. Channing Hill won just two races from 53 mounts in Southern California and has left for Monmouth; Jesus Rios won 13 races from 163 mounts and left for Calder.