INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 26, 2009) — Take the Points, winner of a pair of Grade I stakes in his last two starts, will renew acquaintances with Virginia Derby winner Battle of Hastings and five other graded winners in Sunday’s $300,000 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park.
The Grade I Derby, which drew a field of 12 for the 68th running, has attracted Oak Tree Derby winner The Usual Q.T., Calder Derby winner Sal the Barber, Saranac winner Al Khali, La Jolla Handicap winner Meteore and Black Bear Island, a Group 2 winner in England.
The field for the 1 ¼-mile Derby, which will be run on the Lakeside Turf Course, will line up as follows from the rail out:
Black Bear Island, with Joe Talamo up; The Usual Q.T., Victor Espinoza; Straight Story, Mike Smith; Rescue Squad, Eddie Castro; Blazing Spirit, Alex Solis; Al Khali, Kent Desormeaux; Take the Points, Edgar Prado; Acclamation, David Flores; Sal the Barber, Ramon Dominguez; Battle of Hastings, Garrett Gomez; Meteore, Rafael Bejarano, and Sir Al, Joel Rosario. All carry 122 pounds.
Take the Points, trained by Todd Pletcher, was shifted to the turf following a 13th-place finish in the Preakness Stakes. He finished behind Battle of Hastings in the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby, then won the Secretariat at Arlington Park in August and the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park in October. He enters the Hollywood Derby with $614,590 in earnings.
Battle of Hastings, from trainer Jeff Mullins’ Hollywood Park contingent, traveled East to win the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby — both Grade II events. He was beaten a nose by Rendezvous in the Del Mar Derby, finished fourth against older horses including 2008 Hollywood Derby champion Court Vision in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, then finished second as the favorite in the Oak Tree Derby. The Great Britain-bred has four wins and three seconds in eight 2009 starts, earning more than $1 million for owner Mike House.
California-bred The Usual Q.T. has won four straight starts on turf since breaking his maiden in August at Del Mar. He won the Cal Cup Mile Handicap in October before posting a 10-1 upset in the nine-furlong Oak Tree Derby, beating Battle of Hastings by a head. The James Cassidy-trained gelding has won four of nine starts overall for earnings of $276,670.
Black Bear Island, an Irish-bred owned by former Hollywood Park chairman R.D. Hubbard and Dr. Ed Allred, won a Group 2 race at York in England at 1 5/16 miles before finishing tenth in the Epsom Derby. He finished second in the Secretariat — a head back of Take the Points — in his North American debut, then was sixth in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita in October while making his first start for trainer Julio Canani.
Dominguez will be aiming for his second consecutive Hollywood Derby win on Sal the Barber. He flew in a year ago to sweep The Matriarch on Cocoa Beach and the Derby on Court Vision when both were run on closing day of the three-day Turf Festival.
Sal the Barber, trained by Christophe Clement, has won three of seven starts while only missing the money once. Second in the Hall of Fame at Saratoga in August, he set the pace before finishing fifth behind Al Khali in the Saranac, then came from slightly off the pace to win the Calder Derby in mid-October.
Meteore, trained by Richard Mandella, won the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla Handicap at odds of 6-1 in August. He was fourth in the Del Mar Derby and fifth in the Oak Tree Derby.
Al Khali was shifted to the Bill Mott stable three starts back and finished third in the Hall of Fame before wining the Saranac. Most recently, he finished fifth on a soft course against older horses in the 1 ½-mile Turf Classic at Belmont Park. Mott, the trainer of Court Vision, will be aiming for his second straight Hollywood Derby victory and his third overall. He also saddled Paradise Creek to win in 1992.
Straight Story, trained by Alan Goldberg, is just three “heads” away from behind a multiple graded winner. He finished second in the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby behind Battle of Hastings and second to Take the Points in the Jamaica Handicap. Each time the margin was a head. The son of Giant’s Causeway has two wins and four seconds in nine starts for earnings of $379,590.
Rescue Squad is trained by Shug McGaughey, who sent Good Reward west five years ago to score a 16-1 upset victory in the Derby. Rescue Squad, a son of Dynaformer, finished second in the Berry Station Stakes on a soft course at Keeneland in his last start.
Irish-bred Sir Al will be making his seventh start for trainer Bill Morey in the Derby. He enters following a second on a soft course in the Hawthorne Derby.
Acclamation, a homebred owned by Bud and Judy Johnston, finished third in the Del Mar Derby and seventh in the Oak Tree Derby.
Blazing Spirit, from the barn of Robert Troeger, steps up to the graded stakes ranks with one victory, three seconds and a third-place finish in ten starts.
The closing day of the Turf Festival, which will feature an appearance by super mare Zenyatta following the seventh race, also includes the 18th running of the $100,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The Miesque will run as the fifth race and the Derby as the ninth on the ten-race program. First post time is at 12:30 p.m.
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