06/10/2010 11:00PM

Zenyatta, bobble-head will draw crowd


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - What started out last winter as a kitschy promotion at Hollywood Park on Sunday has turned into much more than a giveaway at the turnstile.

The track always planned to give away a bobble-head doll of the popular two-time champion Zenyatta in conjunction with Sunday's $250,000 Vanity Handicap, a race the mare won in 2008 and 2009. When owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs announced in late April that Zenyatta would start in the Vanity, seeking an unprecedented third consecutive win in the Grade 1 race, the day become an even bigger draw.

Sunday could produce the highest attendance of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, and the Vanity is certainly the most anticipated race of the meeting.

The season began April 21, and the largest attendance to date is 15,162 on Friday evening, May 14, a crowd largely lured by an after-racing rock concert featuring Steel Pulse. The largest attendance on a non-Friday night was 11,857 on Kentucky Derby Day, May 1.

Track president Jack Liebau was reluctant to predict Sunday's crowd earlier this week, but the Derby Day mark is in jeopardy. Over the last three Sundays, the track has averaged an ontrack crowd of 4,204.

"I don't have an idea," Liebau said, when asked to predict a crowd. "There's a lot of interest. People are calling for reservations."

Earlier this year, Santa Anita drew an ontrack crowd of 20,315 for Zenyatta's first start of 2010, the Santa Margarita Handicap program on March 13. The attendance was double the corresponding day at the 2009 meeting. When Zenyatta started in the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 9, her most recent start, the Arkansas track drew a crowd of 44,973.

Among those at the track on Sunday will be many casual racing fans, which track officials have desperately coveted for years. They will witness Zenyatta's attempt to win her 17th consecutive race and surpass the winning streaks of Cigar, Citation, and Mister Frisky.

But the Vanity Handicap will be a disappointment to at least one very small group of bettors. The track is not taking show betting, intending to avoid a huge minus show pool when such heavily favored horses attract several hundred thousand dollars in bets.

Buenos Dias gets first U.S. victory

Buenos Dias was a very fortunate horse to win Thursday's third race, an optional claimer over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

"We were thinking about whether to geld him," said Ron McAnally, who trains Buenos Dias for Charles Cella, owner of Oaklawn Park.

The victory for Buenos Dias was his first in the United States. He closed from fourth in a field of five to win by 2 1/4 lengths. McAnally said the $150,000 Sunset Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf here July 18 may be Buenos Dias's next start.

"His best two races have been on this track," McAnally said.

A stakes winner in France in 2008, Buenos Dias was winless in his first eight starts in this country, including a second in his debut on Hollywood Park turf in June 2009. That led McAnally to expect Buenos Dias to have a significant role in the turf marathon division, and that may finally happen next month.

Evening Jewel pointing to Del Mar

Evening Jewel, winner of the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes in April and the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on turf here May 31, will be pointed to a Del Mar campaign later this summer.

Trainer Jim Cassidy said Evening Jewel is likely to make her next start in the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap over a mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies on July 25, a prep for the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 21.

There is a lesser chance that she will start in the $250,000 American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on July 3.

"It's still an option of whether we'll run here or not," he said. "I don't think I would want to run a mile and a quarter. I want to see how it comes up. Right now, we're thinking of the San Clemente."

Owned by Tom and Marilyn Braly, Evening Jewel has been one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the nation this year. She finished second by a nose to Blind Luck in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on April 30.

McAnally, Van Berg set for honors

McAnally and fellow Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg will be honored for their careers and service to the racing community by the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation at a charity dinner in San Diego in August.

The dinner will be held at the Grand Del Mar in San Diego on Aug. 9. The event had previously been held in the winter in Pasadena.

The Gregson Foundation provides computer and English classes for backstretch employees as well as scholarship grants for their children. Tickets for the charity dinner are $250 per person and are available from Angie Carmona at (626) 447-2339.