Trainer Doug O’Neill, king of the Hollywood Gold Cup in recent years, shoots for his fifth victory since 2002 with Informed in the $700,000 Grade I handicap at 1 ¼ miles on Cushion Track Saturday.
“It would be great if we could do it again,” said O’Neill from trackside Sunday morning alongside co-owner Mark Verge as they watched Informed work six furlongs in 1:13.40.
O’Neill, the runaway meet training leader with 31 wins, won the Gold Cup with Sky Jack in 2002 and sent out Lava Man to a three-peat from 2005-2007. With four Gold Cup wins, the 41-year-old trainer trails only the legendary Charlie Whittingham with eight.
Like Lava Man, Informed joined his barn through the claiming ranks, for $25,000 here in June, 2008, and posted his first stakes victory in the Grade II Californian here at 1 1/8 miles on June 13 under Tyler Baze.
“It doesn’t seem like the extra distance will bother him,” said O’Neill of the 5-year-old son of Tiznow racing beyond nine furlongs for the first time in his career. “The biggest thing is getting a good trip, and he got a real good ride last time from Tyler.”
Baze, who rode Informed for the first time in The Californian, won the Gold Cup last year in a wire-to-wire upset aboard Mast Track and has taken a call to ride Informed back in the Gold Cup.
A field of 13 is probable: Informed (Baze), Californian runners-up Rail Trip (Jose Valdivia, Jr.), Dakota Phone (Rafael Bejarano), Song of Navarone (Victor Espinoza) and Awesome Gem (Alex Solis), Eastern invaders Parading (Kent Desormeaux) and Bullsbay, the Bobby Frankel-trained duo of Mast Track (David Flores) and Champs Elysees, Big Booster (Joel Rosario), Magnum (Martin Pedroza) and Tres Borrachos (Joseph Talamo) and multiple stakes-winning filly Life Is Sweet (Garrett Gomez).
Big Booster, an 8-year-old gelding, will make his third Gold Cup start for trainer Mike Mitchell after finishing third in 2007 and fifth last year.
Parading, who was shipped here Monday from Belmont Park by trainer Shug McGaughey, worked five furlongs in 1:03.40 with assistant Jennifer Patterson. The 6-year-old horse seeks his third straight graded stakes victory.
Bullsbay, fourth-place finisher in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 13, is scheduled to be flown west Tuesday from trainer Graham Motion’s Fair Hills, Md., base.
Life Is Sweet seeks to become the first female to win the Gold Cup since Princessnesian in 1968.
Tuscan Evening worked six furlongs on turf in a bullet 1:13 Sunday under the watchful eye of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer for the $250,000 Royal Heroine Mile, a Grade II test for fillies and mares on grass Saturday.
Tuscan Evening, an Irish-bred 4-year-old filly who finished second in the Irish 1000 Guineas last year, has won four of five starts in the United States, including the Redondo Beach Stakes in her last outing here on June 6. Rafael Bejarano has the call back.
Other probable starters include Gamely Stakes runner-up Visit (Brice Blanc), Gotta Have Her (Tyler Baze), Allicansayiswow (Joseph Talamo), Patricia’s Gem (Victor Espinoza), Meydan Princess (David Flores) and Zardana (Joel Rosario).
New York-based trainer Christophe Clement informed the racing office that he would probably ship one of three nominees: Carribean Sunset, Rutherienne or Lindelaan.
Trainer Doug O’Neill said Sunday that he planned to enter both Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes winner Classical Slew and filly Necessary Evil in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, a Grade III test for 2-year-olds at six furlongs on Cushion Track next Sunday.
O’Neill won the race last year with the Joseph LaCombe Stable’s homebred Azul Leon. The LaCombe Stable also owns homebred Classical Slew, unbeaten in two starts. The Bernstein colt will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.
Necessary Evil made a spectacular debut, winning a five-furlong maiden race here May 31 in track-record time of 56.68 seconds under Joel Rosario, who retains the mount.
Necessary Evil, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 Sunday. She seeks to become the first filly to win the Hollywood Juvenile since champion Althea in 1983.
Other probable starters include Zip Quik (Joseph Talamo) and Really Uptown (Victor Espinoza).
Unbeaten Well Deserved, a gutsy winner of the Cinderella Stakes in her last start June 11, seeks her third straight victory in the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes, meet championship for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on Cushion Track next Sunday.
“She had worked very fast when we bought her at Barretts,” said trainer David Hofmans Sunday of the Cactus Ridge filly purchased in March for $100,000 for owner Marc Ferrell. “But she has developed well and learned how to relax. I’m not sure that she needs to be on the lead.”
Well Deserved will be ridden back by Joel Rosario. Other probable starters include Ballistic Sue (Tyler Baze), Repo (Corey Nakatani), Washington invader Feeling Fancy (David Flores) and one of two promising maidens from the Eric Guillot stable, Champagne d’Oro or Mi Sueno.
Jockey Joel Rosario, shooting for his first riding title in the United States, opened a 67-59 lead over defending champion Rafael Bejarano with nine days left in the meet following a quintet Saturday.
“Eight up with 81 races to go,” said agent Vic Stauffer Sunday morning. “I think it’s 50-50. The other guy (Bejarano) can win races in bunches.” Bejarano has won every major meet in Southern California, six altogether, since beginning to ride here regularly before the 2007-2008 meet at Santa Anita.
Bejarano and Rosario are both ahead of their pace at this meet last year, when Bejarano won 56 races and Rosario finished second with 45.
“Some people say winning titles isn’t important but it would mean the world to us,” said Stauffer of the 24-year-old native of the Dominican Republic. “When you call a trainer in the East and tell him you’re third in the standings behind Bejarano and (Garrett) Gomez, that’s all well and good, but when you tell him you’re the leading rider at Hollywood Park, that makes all the difference in the world.
“We’re going to leave no stone unturned,” said Stauffer of the final two weeks of the meet. “You don’t know when you’ll get another chance like this.”
FINISH LINES — Jockeys Mike Smith and Michael Baze will travel to Florida for Summit of Speed stakes at Calder Saturday. Smith will ride champion Indian Blessing for trainer Bob Baffert in the $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap. Baze will ride a pair for Ron Ellis: Truest Legend in the $200,000 Carry Back Stakes, and Ron Bob and Dave in the $150,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint. The latter worked five furlongs on turf in 1:00.60 under Baze Sunday…Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer worked 3-year-old stakes winner Chocolate Candy on the turf for the first time, breezing four furlongs in :49.80. “Most of the Del Mar 3-year-old stakes are on turf, so I thought I would like to try it,” explained Hollendorfer…Trainer David Hofmans was excited about his first Smarty Jones colt, I’ll Show Them, who remained unbeaten in two starts with an impressive allowance score at a mile on turf here. “The Oceanside or La Jolla will be next at Del Mar,” said Hofmans of the 3-year-old. “He’s a big strong monster of a horse. He reminds me of Dramatic Gold.” …Lexington Stakes runner-up Conservative, shipped here from New York by Shug McGaughey for the $300,000 Swaps Stakes July 18, breezed four furlongs in :48.40… Agent Richie Silverstein is taking calls for Corey Nakatani as a pinch-hitter for Bob Meldahl, who is hospitalized with a bone infection in his foot.
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