Updated on 09/17/2011 10:45PM

You need speed on Hollywood's big day

Benoit & Associates
Splendid Blended is 2 for 2 at Hollywood Park and has the right style for Sunday's Vanity.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Hollywood Park is serving up a very attractive race card on Sunday that features the Grade 1 Vanity, Grade 1 American Oaks, and Grade 1 Triple Bend, the Grade 2 American Handicap, and the Grade 3 Royal Heroine. The card is even more attractive from a handicapping and betting perspective to track bias-oriented handicappers since significant speed biases have been present on both the main track and the turf course at Hollywood in recent days.

A check of the six race cards from June 23 through Thursday shows that 13 of the 34 races run on the dirt were won by the first-call leader, a strong 38 percent success rate. Another four winners were second at that point, and three others were third. On the turf, 6 of the 16 races were won by the first-call leader, for the same 38 percent wins, with an additional five winners located in second, and one more in third. That is just a shade lower than 69 percent winners located either first or second early.

Let's take a look at the five stakes races and see which contenders are most likely to benefit if those bias trends hold up.

The third race is the first of the stakes races, the Grade 1 Vanity Invitational. Andujar is the 6-5 morning line favorite. She has a three-race win streak, including a facile 10 1/2-length victory in an N1X allowance here, followed by a comfortable seven-length triumph in the Grade 2 Milady. Her running style is a good fit for the way Hollywood's main track has been playing. She was up close before grabbing the lead in her allowance win, then led throughout and earned a good pace figure when she won the Milady.

The other contender who figures to benefit if a speed bias is in effect is Splendid Blended. She has been within three-quarters of a length of the lead in all five of her races, and led in two of them, including the Grade 1 Acorn last time. Although she is shipping in from Belmont, Splendid Blended is 2 for 2 at Hollywood, including her win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. If Andujar makes a mistake, this filly is the one most likely to capitalize. She is the third choice on the morning line at 4-1.

The Grade 2 American Handicap, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, is the sixth race. Whilly led throughout in his win in the Grade 2 San Marcos on Jan. 22. He was third, just 1 1/2 lengths off the pace at the first call here in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile, battled for the lead, then tired and finished fifth in that race last time. It is interesting to note that he ran a strong 22.78-second quarter from the four-furlong to the six-furlong calls in that race. He should be able to grab the early lead through moderate splits on Sunday, and that ability to quicken will be a big help when he is challenged. He will offer betting value as the 5-1 third betting choice, and is capable of the mild upset.

The eighth race is the Grade 1 American Oaks Invitational at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. There are three horses listed below 8-1 on the morning line: Melhor Ainda at 2-1, Cesario at 5-2, and Three Degrees at 7-2. None of them is likely to be prominent at the first call. Thatswhatimean just finished second as a 15-1 longshot, a length behind Three Degrees on the grass at Hollywood in the Grade 2 Honeymoon. She led most of the way in that race, and might enjoy a more comfortable trip today. She is an attractive longshot in the win pool and in the exotics at 30-1 on the morning line.

The seven-furlong, Grade 1 Triple Bend is the ninth race. There are a few horses in this field with early speed, so I will be looking for the speed of the speed. Roi Charmant, a 20-1 longshot, may be the one to catch. He led at the first call in four of his last six races, and flew through a hot pace in his victory in a $100,000 optional claiming race last time on May 12. Unfurl the Flag led early in two of his last four starts, and was only a head behind the leader through quick splits last time. He is the co-third choice on the morning line at 6-1. McCann's Mojave, the 4-1 morning line favorite, figures to be in contention at the first call, but the other two appear to be quicker.

The Grade 3 Royal Heroine, at one mile on the turf, is the 10th race. Intercontinental, the 5-2 favorite, was in contention early two races ago at Keeneland, but the fractions in that race were slow. She will probably have to rally from the rear half of the pack today.

Fencelineneighbor at 30-1 on the morning line, Irgunette at 30-1, and Secret Charm at 6-1 are candidates for the early lead. Fencelineneighbor led, or was within a length of the lead in each of her last seven races. The concern is that she will be stepping up in class following a close second here in a restricted stakes, and will have to improve a bit to be effective. Irgunette is stretching out from a series of three sprints, and must also improve to make an impact. Secret Charm was in contention early in her two most recent races at Newmarket and Doncaster, and is good enough to be a prime contender if she runs her race in her comeback as she makes her first U.S. start. She is my selection.