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Ward's Ascot feats applauded at home
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The handicapping notebook is full again, with stuff like this:
* The country's fastest 2-year-old won June 13 at Churchill Downs, and Hot Dixie Chick's 99 Beyer was no surprise out in California. Steve Asmussen trains the Dixie Union filly produced by brilliant 7-for-10 stakes winner Above Perfection. She was one of the last top fillies bred in California by Old English Rancho.
* Speaking of quick 2-year-olds, the country's fastest male is Grand Times, who earned a 93 Beyer on May 2 at Calder. He is trained by - who else? - the international fad, Wesley Ward.
* The reaction among California horsemen this week to Ward's two Royal Ascot winners was a refreshing surprise. People do like to knock, but as word spread at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, most trainers were genuinely delighted at Ward's achievement. The consensus reaction: very cool.
* Nice win by 2-year-old Well Deserved in the Cinderella Stakes on June 11 at Hollywood, but how much best was runner-up Repo? She got mugged at the break and was away last, made an extended run to get within a neck, then tired and missed by a length. The rematch is July 12 in the Landaluce Stakes.
* Write it down: Denim n' Motion. The 2-year-old filly acts like the real deal, and posted four bullet works at Hollywood, including a 59.20 on June 11. Gary Sherlock trains Denim n' Motion, a daughter of Unbridled's Song aiming for a debut in early July. Denim n' Motion worked five furlongs Thursday in 1:00.20. Stay tuned.
* Handicappers probably will forget about it by next April when 2-year-olds race 4 1/2 furlongs again. As for the final 2009 tally, the inside post won 5 of 14 at the short distance. A flat win bet on the rail would have produced $54.20 in returns from just $28 wagered. Good angle to file away for next spring.
* Teamwork became the fourth next-out maiden winner from race 10 on April 25 at Hollywood. Sure seems there are lots of "key races" this meet; nine that produced three or more winners. Is it because of a declining number of fresh horses?
* An unexpected name popped up in the company line of a maiden-claiming filly Saturday in race 2 at Hollywood. Mar Fina runs for the first time since June 2008 at Churchill Downs. That was a special-weight maiden race won by a second-time starter named Rachel Alexandra.
* Santa Anita horsemen have noticed an odd absence at Clocker's Corner. A variety of wild birds used to poke around for table scraps and pick for nutrients on the dirt track. But synthetic was installed nearly two years ago at Santa Anita, and now the birds are gone. It is quiet, and weird.
* The problem with the impossible trip by Rumba Along (June 12, race 3 at Hollywood) is everyone saw it. The $32,000 claimer was blocked full of run for the final quarter-mile of the turf race, and never had a chance. Rumba Along ran fourth, was claimed by Eric Kruljac, and will be overbet the next time he runs.
* Speaking of underlays, second-time starter Zip Quik runs Saturday in the last race at Hollywood. Only 16 days ago he ran a huge third in his debut in the Willard Proctor Stakes. Zip Quik finished full of run, and galloped out in front of the field of winners. If he is a good colt, he will win Saturday. But at what price? If he goes short, second-time starter Amore Di Aleyna is worth a look off a better-than-looked debut.
* Godolphin missed the mark with Derby prospects Vineyard Haven, Jose Adan, and Midshipman. All won graded stakes their final start in the U.S., and then disappeared because of injury or form decline in Dubai. Here's hoping the latest 3-year-old purchase, Lazaro Barrera winner Charlie's Moment, fares better.
* Hard to believe it has been nine years since Tiznow won the Affirmed Handicap, which is run on Saturday at Hollywood. Even harder to believe is that Tiznow paid $23.60, highest in his 8-for-15 career.
* It was incorrectly reported here May 23 that Affirmed entrant Misremembered was already conceived when owner-breeder-trainer Bob Baffert bought her dam. In fact, Beyond Perfection, winner of the 1990 Del Mar Debutante, was empty when she was purchased. Baffert and George Jacobs bred her to Candy Ride and hit the jackpot with Misremembered. Nonetheless, the Affirmed pick is Cape Truth.
* I want everyone to know how smart I am, so here goes. Like most handicappers, I believed Indian Blessing would win the Desert Stormer last weekend. But I also thought Coco Belle had a longshot chance to wire the field, and I bet accordingly: one-way exacta Coco Belle over Indian Blessing. Coco Belle paid $18.60; Indian Blessing is still running. What a moron.
* If the filly Life Is Sweet wins the Hollywood Gold Cup, it is a virtual certainty Zenyatta will end her career this fall in the Breeders' Cup Classic, isn't it? Zenyatta toyed with Life Is Sweet in the Grade 2 Milady.
* Like father, like son? Sultry Song posted a $21.80 upset in the 1992 Hollywood Gold Cup. New Mexico shipper Song of Navarone, by Sultry Song, finished fourth by a length last weekend in the Californian and will stay for the Gold Cup. Song of Navarone would be the first Gold Cup winner sired by a Gold Cup winner. In a dreadfully weak division, who's to say it won't be Song of Navarone's turn next time?
* For a second straight year, East Coast trainer Tom Albertrani will ship the Grade 2 Sands Point winner from Belmont to Hollywood for the Grade 1 American Oaks. A year ago, Raw Silk finished eighth; this year Albertrani brings a better filly in Gozzip Girl. She could start favored in an American Oaks that looks mighty shallow after you get past local fillies Well Monied and Mrs. Kipling.
* The improving Globetrotter is likely to have another local start before aiming to the Arlington Million on Aug. 8. Can he win the Million? Not based on his runner-up finish June 6 in the weak Charles Whittingham Handicap. However, few expected Globetrotter's stablemate Coco Belle to defeat Indian Blessing by more than five lengths a week ago, either.