Another Dutrow-trained 2-year-old, Amen Hallelujah, is also scheduled to arrive in the barn of Humberto Ascanio later Thursday from New York for the $405,250 Hollywood Starlet for fillies on Sunday, closing day of the Autumn Meet.
“He looks good,” said Ascanio of Wildlee Special as the handsome colt adapted to his new surroundings following a bath. “He ate up everything. I was amazed he ate up so good after such a long trip.”
Wildlee Special, a Kentucky-bred son of Offlee Wild, broke his maiden at third asking by 4 ¾ lengths at The Meadowlands at one mile in his last start on Nov. 20.
Wildlee Special drew the outside post in a field of eight under Alex Solis, who seeks a record fifth victory in the Grade I test at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. Solis is tied with Laffit Pincay Jr. with four wins.
Solis also has the call on Amen Hallelujah, who drew post four in a field of seven in the Grade I Starlet, also at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. The Florida-bred daughter of Montbrook finished third in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in her last start on Oct. 9.
The Starlet lineup is headed by Beautician and Blind Luck, second and third-place finishers, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and Rose Catherine, second in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Lookin at Lucky and Noble’s Promise, second and third, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, top the CashCall field.
Joel Rosario and John Sadler closed in on titles for the Autumn Meet, which concludes Sunday. With four days remaining, Rosario led the jockey standings with 35 wins, nine ahead of defending champion Rafael Bejarano.
Sadler topped the trainer standings with 15 wins, seven ahead of his nearest rival.
Rosario, a 24-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, seeks his third championship on the Southern California circuit this year, and only a one-win loss to Bejarano at Oak Tree stands in the way of four meets in a row. Bejarano had won six straight meets on the circuit before Rosario dethroned him at the Spring/Summer Meet here for his first title in the United States.
“To me, being leading rider means everything,” said Vic Stauffer, agent for Rosario. “All the guys who aren’t winning now say the title doesn’t mean anything — it’s the big races and money that matter. But it mattered when they were winning titles. The first thing anybody asks after a meet is who the leading rider was. I know Joel feels the same way.”
Stauffer said this is the first meet Rosario is leading without any excuses. “When we won the Spring/Summer Meet, Bejarano and (Garrett) Gomez were on the Derby and Preakness trail, so put a small asterisk after that title,” conceded Stauffer.
“I didn’t want to win the way we did at Del Mar,” said Stauffer, in reference to an opening-day spill that sidelined Bejarano for most of the meet. “Nobody felt worse than Joel or I about Bejarano getting hurt. We look forward to the competition with him. It’s fun.
“I was disappointed we didn’t win at Oak Tree, but we missed four days due to sickness, and you can’t give a rider as good as Bejarano that much of an advantage.
“This meet Bejarano has been here every day,” added Stauffer. “He’s a great rider, and to be able to compete with him and win means a lot.”
Stauffer watched some horses from the Sadler barn go to the track and thanked the trainer for putting Rosario on several of his winners. “You have to ride for the top ten barns to be leading rider,” said Stauffer. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for being able to ride for Sadler, (Jerry) Hollendorfer, (Mike) Mitchell and (Doug) O’Neill. We need the big barns more than they need us.”
Sadler, whose Hollywood Park division was overseen by assistant Larry Benavidez, seeks his third Hollywood Park crown in as many years. He led the Autumn Meet in 2007 and the Spring/Summer Meet in 2008.
Zenyatta, the unbeaten 5-year-old mare who is being eased into retirement, is not lacking for attention in Barn 55 South.
Fans have flocked to her stall daily since she scored her 14th straight victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.
“Zenyatta just touches so many people in different ways,” said trainer John Shirreffs from his stable office Thursday as a middle-aged couple thanked him for letting them see the marquee mare.
“Susan Bauer, a veterinarian, asked me the other day if I had a Zenyatta souvenir that I could give her for a friend, whose young daughter is battling cancer,” said Shirreffs. “I gave her a Zenyatta hat I was wearing. I just got a thank-you card back from the girl. She wrote, ’Zenyatta is a fighter, and so am I.’”
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