11/19/2010 3:52PM

Victor's Cry eyes rebound in Citation

Benoit & Associates
Victor’s Cry (left) outfinishes Karelian in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Victor’s Cry won the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile here in May in a career-defining win. Unfortunately for owners Bob and Michele Billings and trainer Eoin Harty, Victor’s Cry’s three subsequent starts have been less satisfying.

After a decent second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, Victor’s Cry was ninth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and fifth in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile at Hollywood Park last month. Those results will make him an outsider in an ultra-competitive running of the $250,000 Citation Handicap on turf next Saturday.

Despite the recent losses, Harty insists that Victor’s Cry’s chances as a deep closer should not be summarily dismissed.

“He’s been a victim of circumstances,” Harty said. “At Woodbine, he wasn’t far off the pace, he was a length or so off the pace. In his last start, when [expected pacesetter] Sidney’s Candy scratched, it changed the whole complexion of the race.”

Victor’s Cry’s fifth-place finish in the Oak Tree Mile ended any chance of a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs, which did not bother Harty after he watched Goldikova romp to victory.

“In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go,” he said.

An expected big field in the Grade 1 Citation may help Victor’s Cry. The list of probable starters includes Court Vision, who won the Woodbine Mile and finished fifth in the BC Mile; Bruce’s Dream, Colgan’s Chip, and Liberian Freighter, the first three finishers of the California Cup Mile on Oct. 30; Violin Sacre, who won the Knickerbocker Handicap at Belmont Park last month; as well as Enriched, Meteore, Proudinsky, and Ryehill Dreamer.

As of Friday, Harty did not have a rider for Victor’s Cry. Corey Nakatani, who has ridden Victor’s Cry in his last four starts, is booked to ride Ryehill Dreamer.

“I think he’ll run a good one,” Harty said of Victor’s Cry. “I have no reason to think otherwise.”

Autumn Turf Festival on horizon

The Citation is one of three Grade 1 races in the five-race Autumn Turf Festival next Friday through Sunday and is the toughest race of the weekend.

Friday’s $250,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile on turf is led by the European import Special Duty and Wasted Tears, the winner of the Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes at Del Mar in August.

Other candidates are Camille C, Go Forth North, Gypsy’s Warning, Lilly Fa Pootz, and Westwood Pride.

Sunday’s $250,000 Hollywood Derby is not as deep as past runnings. Fantastic Pick and Blue Panis, the first two finishers of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby on Oct. 16, are expected to face Center Divider, Citrus Kid, Haimish Hy, Juniper Pass, Lions Story, and Sebastian Flyte.

Baze on schedule for comeback

Jockey Tyler Baze is on schedule for a comeback at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, five months after suffering facial injuries in an incident before the start of a race at Del Mar in July.

Baze’s agent, Vic Stauffer, said Thursday that Baze continues to undergo therapy on his vision with Los Angeles-area eye doctor Gary Etting and could resume exercising horses in coming weeks.

“He’s making great strides, but it’s been fairly slow,” Stauffer said. “We’ll point for Santa Anita.”

Baze was struck by the head of his mount before a race on July 24 and later underwent surgery to have a fractured bone stabilized near an eye. Baze had hoped to return to riding before the end of Del Mar in early September and again before the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting in late September but abandoned those plans and focused on a comeback for the Santa Anita-winter spring meeting.

Baze, 28, was a contender for the Del Mar riding title when he was injured. Stauffer says a top five finish at Santa Anita this winter is possible.

“He’s got too many people that like and admire him and too many people that he’s won a ton of races for and that will help,” Stauffer said. “He’ll have to earn his way back into the upper echelon – the top five and top three – but he’s ready to recommit himself.”

Indian Firewater points to Mailbu

Indian Firewater won his first stakes in his 12th career start in Thursday’s $58,900 Nashville Stakes at Hollywood Park and has earned a trip to the $250,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Indian Firewater ($5) led throughout the Nashville Stakes for 3-year-olds, holding off a late run from Paris Vegas, who broke slowly and rallied wide to finish a half-length behind the winner. Indian Firewater, ridden by Joel Rosario, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:29.65.

“He’s starting to run,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s starting to mature a little bit.”

The Grade 1 Malibu is run over seven furlongs for 3-year-olds. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Indian Firewater has won 2 of 12 starts and $137,120.