A Tex Sutton flight is scheduled to deliver several Eastern horses Monday for Turf Festival races at Hollywood Park Friday through Sunday.
The flight will pick up horses in New York and Kentucky, including multiple stakes winner Never Retreat for the $250,000 Matriarch Friday and highly regarded Willcox Inn for the $250,000 Hollywood Derby Sunday. Both are Grade I.
Also scheduled on the flight are Imagining and Casino Host for the Hollywood Derby and More Than Love for the $100,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies Friday.
Never Retreat, winner of the Grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland in her last start for trainer Chris Block, will go to Barn 70 North with trainer Eoin Harty.
Willcox Inn, winner of the American Derby and Hawthorne Derby for trainer Mike Stidham, will go to Barn 54 South with trainer Mike Puype. Both horses are based in Kentucky.
New York-based Imagining, trained by Shug McGaughey, and Casino Host, conditioned by Chad Brown, will go to barns 70 South with Jerry Hollendorfer and 70 North with Humberto Ascanio, respectively.
More Than Love, trained in New York by John Terranova, will be in Barn 61 North with Bob Baffert.
Trainer Michael Matz is shipping Assateague west for the Miesque and could arrive either Monday or Tuesday to Barn 53 East with Gary Mandella.
Trainer Graham Motion will also ship Summer Soiree and Unbridled Humor Tuesday to join defending champion Gypsy’s Warning, who arrived Thursday, in the Mandella barn for the Matriarch.
Four European shippers who cleared quarantine Friday and went to the isolation barn in 50 South were on the track Sunday. Two will run in the Hollywood Derby: Western Aristocrat for trainer Jeremy Noseda and Slumber for trainer Charles Hills. Hills also will be represented by Island Paradise in the Miesque while Dermot Weld has shipped Blue White Fire for the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds Sunday.
NEVER RETREAT HOPES TO ECLIPSE FIELD IN MATRIARCH
Trainer Chris Block said Sunday that Never Retreat will make her final start in the $250,000 Matriarch Stakes Friday, and he hopes that a victory in the Grade I test for fillies and mares at one mile on turf will strengthen her case for an Eclipse Award.
“I think she deserves consideration,” said Block modestly of the six-year-old mare who could become the only horse in North America this year to win six graded stakes with a Matriarch score.
Never Retreat comes off a victory in the Grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland October 8, her fifth graded stakes victory of the year in 10 starts.
She earlier accounted for the Canadian and Dance Smartly stakes at Woodbine, both Grade II, as well as the Grade II Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and the Grade III Honey Fox at Gulfstream.
“After the race at Keeneland, we looked at the Breeders’ Cup, but neither running against the boys at a mile nor the girls at a mile and three-eighths made sense,” said Block. “She was doing fine, and we looked for one more spot before retiring her.”
Block trains the mare for Team Block, which also includes his father David, mother Patricia and brother Ryan. Block, who spends most of the year in Chicago, will be starting his first horse in California after 22 years in the sport.
Never Retreat will be flown here Monday from Kentucky with assistant Drew Coontz and be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
WESTERN ARISTOCRAT READIES FOR DERBY
Wayne Tanner, assistant to English trainer Jeremy Noseda, is optimistic that Western Aristocrat’s second trip to the United States will prove as fruitful as his first.
Watching the 3-year-old colt being walked outside Barn 50 South by groom Davey Graham following morning exercise on the track Sunday, Tanner was hopeful he could add the Hollywood Derby trophy Sunday to the Jamaica Handicap one he brought home from Belmont Park on October 8.
“He stayed at Belmont about a week, and it was decided to get him back in his own environment,” said Tanner of a return to Newmarket. “Jeremy and Vinery (owner Thomas Ludt) sat down and talked and decided to come back here.” Western Aristocrat cleared quarantine Friday after being flown here Wednesday.
Western Aristocrat led all the way through slow early fractions in the Grade I Jamaica under Corey Nakatani but Tanner said it was due to circumstances and that the colt does not have to be in front.
“The plan wasn’t to go to the lead at Belmont, but the speed horse came out, there was no pace, and Corey rode his own race,” said Tanner.
Nakatani, the all-time leader in Turf Festival wins with 14 and a two-time Hollywood Derby winner, retains the mount. “Western Aristocrat will breeze on Wednesday,” said Tanner. A Kentucky-bred son of Mr. Greeley, Western Aristocrat won three of six starts in England before the trip to New York.
Western Aristocrat is expected to be joined in the lineup by fellow English shipper Slumber (Garrett Gomez), New York shippers Casino Host (Joe Talamo) and Imagining, Kentucky shipper Willcox Inn, Oak Tree Derby winner Ultimate Eagle (Martin Pedroza), Oak Tree Derby runners-up Venomous (Joel Rosario), Cozy Kitten (Alonso Quinonez), and Cloud Man (Mike Smith), Irish Art (Rafael Bejarano) and Surrey Star (Chantal Sutherland).
BOB BLACK JACK TO MAKE TURF BOW IN CITATION
Trainer Jim Kasparoff is looking forward to the grass debut of Grade I stakes winner Bob Black Jack in the $250,000 Citation Handicap, a Grade II test at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.
“His sire, Stormy Jack, won the Oceanside on the turf, and his sire’s dam, Native Prospector, was a grass horse in Great Britain,” said Kasparoff. “His stride is conducive to turf. He has never worked or trained on turf, but he will be fine.”
Bob Black Jack, won the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in 2008, one of five victories in 12 starts. The 6-year-old horse went to the sidelines for more than a year, returned to win the 2010 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita, then went to the sidelines for another 17 months before finishing second in California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on October 29.
“The California Cup was a good prep,” said Kasparoff after the long layoff because of suspensory injury. “We all know he can go long. It took a good horse to beat him in the Santa Anita Derby, Colonel John.
“I think we’re going to be on the lead in the Citation, but he can rate if we need to,” said Kasparoff. Bob Black Jack worked five furlongs on Cushion Track in 59.80 Saturday. David Flores has the call.
Other probable starters include Jeranimo (Garrett Gomez), John Johny Jak (Victor Espinoza), Make Music for Me (Chantal Sutherland), War Element (Joel Rosario), Assessment (Daniel Vergara) and Leroy’s Dynameaux (Rafael Bejarano).
Oak Tree Mile winner Jeranimo breezed four furlongs on Cushion Track in 51.40 Sunday, while Lure Stakes winner John Johny Jak drilled five furlongs in 1:01.40. On turf, Make Music for Me worked five furlongs in 1:02.20, while Assessment worked six furlongs in 1:15.40.
FINISH LINES—Handsome Mike worked six furlongs on turf in 1:14.80 for the $100,000 Generous Stakes, a Grade III test at one mile for 2-year-olds Sunday. He will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano in a lineup also expected to include Major Magic (Joe Talamo), Stoney Fleece (Joel Rosario), Senor Rain and Blue White Fire (Garrett Gomez), an Irish invader for trainer Dermot Weld here with assistant Geoff Byrne. Senor Rain worked three furlongs on grass in 40.80…Empire Way, an impressive winner in his debut here November 13, drew post four in a field of eight in the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds at seven furlong Thursday. “It was just a breeze for him the other day,” said John Cisneros, assistant and exercise rider for trainer Mike Harrington …Canonize, sidelined since a fourth-place finish in the Vernon Underwood Stakes here last year, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 for trainer Ron Ellis for a return in the $100,000 Underwood at six furlongs Saturday. “We had to take a chip out of his ankle,” explained Ellis of the layoff for the 5-year-old gelding, who could face Grade 1 stakes winners Euroears and M One Rifle, comebacker Comma to the Top and Pacific Ocean—a newcomer to the Mike Mitchell stable—in the Grade III. Ellis also said that Mr Gruff, winner of the Night Mover Stakes here Friday, will probably return in the Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita January 8…Alice Clapham, assistant to trainer H. Graham Motion, reported that Sanagas returned in good order from his victory in the $250,000 Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup Saturday. She said the 5-year-old German-bred gelding would be flown back to Motion’s training base at Fair Hill, Md., next Sunday and get a winter break before a spring return…Champion filly Blind Luck returned to the Jerry Hollendorfer stable this week for a brief visit. Assistant Tessa Bisha explained that the filly was just “stopping through” before continuing on to owner Mark Dedomenico’s Pegasus Training and Rehabilitation Center in Washington state. There were apparently no direct flights from Kentucky, where the filly was sold outright to former co-owner Dedomenico earlier this month.
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