12/06/2012 1:53PM

Weekend Warrior for Dec. 8, 2012: Lady of Fifty can control pace in Bayakoa


NEW YORK – Betfair Hollywood Park has the two big races of the day Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Starlet, which attracted an aspiring champion in Executiveprivilege, and the Grade 2, $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes. The only other graded stakes Saturday is the feature at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 3, $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes.

Bayakoa Stakes

This represents very aggressive race placement on the part of Inglorious, and when horses are spotted in such a way, they often merit a close look. Inglorious is trained by Josie Carroll, who winters in Florida or New Orleans and who almost never ships horses to Southern California. In fact, according to DRF’s Formulator, Carroll has had only one other starter on the entire Southern California racing circuit (not just Hollywood Park) in the last five years, and that was a Breeders’ Cup horse, Careless Jewel, who stopped and was badly beaten in the 2009 Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita. On top of shipping west for a barn that hardly ever makes such a trip, Inglorious is doing so to run in a stakes off a five-month layoff.

Aggressive placement, indeed.

Inglorious is not poorly spotted, however. Even if she is looking for her first win of the year, she was competitive in all three of her starts this season, all races won by the top-class Marketing Mix, who subsequently was a narrowly beaten second in the Grade 1 Beverly D., a much-the-best winner of the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive, and a narrowly beaten second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. And a big reason for Inglorious shipping to Hollywood is it affords her the first opportunity in more than a year to get back on a synthetic racing surface. Inglorious is 5 for 6 in her career on synthetics, including an overwhelming victory over 16 males in last year’s Queen’s Plate.

But barn confidence and positive surface switch aside, the big problem for Inglorious on Saturday is pace. There isn’t a tremendous amount of speed in this Bayakoa, and Inglorious needs pace for her late run to be most effective.

Class Included was severely overmatched last time out against Royal Delta in the Ladies’ Classic, and her soundly beaten seventh-place finish was not a surprise. But she will get some support Saturday off the massive class drop, and a previous record that saw her compile 10 wins and 6 seconds in her first 16 career starts in the Pacific Northwest. Class Included figures to get a good trip here. She can stalk from close range and should get first run on Inglorious. I just question whether she is good enough, even with the class drop.

I like Lady of Fifty, who comes into this off what I feel were her two best performances yet, and who, very notably, can control a pace that shouldn’t be that demanding.

Lady of Fifty showed she is fast enough to be the controlling speed here when she set the pace and finished a game third (albeit in a field of four) in the L.A. Woman Stakes, a sprint at Santa Anita. Last time out, Lady of Fifty showed versatility by stalking the pace despite stretching back out to two turns in the Palm Springs Handicap, and she ran down the odds-on Awesomemundo, who was coming off a five-month layoff, but who previously won the DuPont Distaff at Pimlico on Preakness Day over the Grade 1 stakes winner Love and Pride. It should also be noted that early this year, Lady of Fifty dominated the California Oaks at this 1 1/16-mile distance on Golden Gate’s Tapeta surface.

Louisiana Champions Classic

This is the feature on the Louisiana Champions Day card at Fair Grounds, and unlike the Bayakoa, there is plenty of early speed in this race. Like most who tackle this race, I went looking for a closer, and I suspect a lot of folks will land on either Populist Politics or Get in Da House. But while both are certainly capable of winning, I wasn’t crazy about Get in Da House’s workmanlike score most recently, or his outside draw. Populist Politics might improve on his second as the favorite in the Gold Cup at Delta Downs last time out as it was his first start in almost three months and he did lack room on the rail into the stretch. But the fact of the matter is, he was outrun that night.

Lee’s Spirit was a 14-1 surprise when he won Delta’s Gold Cup, but I am taking him here to win right back. If, that is, he runs in this race. Lee’s Spirit also was entered in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf. But given the raging form String King brings into that event, this is actually the easier spot. In any case, Lee’s Spirit looked like a winner down the backstretch in the Gold Cup and looped his field as though tons the best, really raising his game in his first start off the claim for a high-percentage barn. And Lee’s Spirit has back class, which suggests his big effort last time was no fluke and that he is capable of duplicating it.

City of Laurel Stakes

This feature at Laurel came up very salty, and given the sharp recent form many bring to the party, it’s risky taking a horse coming off a six-month absence. But that’s what I am doing in going with Hardened Wildcat.

The layoff is what might help Hardened Wildcat be an acceptable price because his second in the Bay Shore three back and his fourth in the Woody Stephens most recently are strong in the context of this spot. Both of those races were won by Trinniberg, who of course upset the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Hardened Wildcat’s effort in the Stephens was particularly good because he was last early, and that was a merry-go-round race where the speed never came back. And as for the six-month absence, Hardened Wildcat is trained by Chad Brown, one of the best layoff trainers in the business.