Thorn Song, one of the leading turf milers in the nation, will be shipped from Kentucky to California Friday for the $250,000-added Grade I Shoemaker Mile on the Hollywood Park turf Monday.
“It just kind of came up,” said trainer Dale Romans from Churchill Downs on Thursday. “Mr. Zayat (owner Ahmed Zayat) was looking over all the races he might run in and saw this as an opportunity for another Grade I. It looks like a tough group but a small field.
“Everything just fell into place,” added Romans. “There is nothing here until the Fourth of July, and a plane was going. We thought we’d take a shot.”
Thorn Song will be supplemented to the Shoemaker for $5,000 and be ridden by Mike Smith. He will be accompanied on the flight by assistant Tom Morgan.
Thorn Song, a gray/roan 6-year-old horse, has won seven of 26 starts and earned $932,183. He led all the way to win the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in October.
Thorn Song is winless in four starts since that race and faded to fifth in his last outing, beaten 4 ½ lengths by Einstein in the nine-furlong, Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill on May 2.
“That wasn’t a bad race,” said Romans. “Einstein may be the best horse in the country if not in the world right now. And a mile and an eighth may be stretching Thorn Song a little.”
Thorn Song is expected to face Hyperbaric (Victor Espinoza), Whatsthescript (Joel Rosario), U S Ranger (Rafael Bejarano), Dixie Chatter (Tyler Baze), Tiz West (Joseph Talamo) and the mare Ventura (Garrett Gomez) in the Shoemaker.
ZENYATTA, LIFE IS SWEET READY FOR MILADY SHOWDOWN
Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet occupy stalls that face each other in the John Shirreffs barn, 55 South. The two female stars eyed each other Thursday as they readied for the $150,000 Milady Handicap, a race Saturday that would determine not only who is leading lady in the barn but also in the nation.
Unbeaten Eclipse Award winner Zenyatta will carry a career high weight of 126 pounds while Life Is Sweet — female champion of the Santa Anita meet after three straight graded stakes victories — will carry 122 in the Grade II test at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
Asked his thoughts on the clash of juggernauts, Shirreffs replied, “I’m going to put the saddle on Life Is Sweet, I’m going to put the saddle on Zenyatta, and vamoose!”
Zenyatta, five, and Life Is Sweet, four, both completed drills for the race with six-furlong bullet works last week.
Zenyatta, making her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in October, will carry the most weight by a Milady winner since champion Bayakoa repeated under 127 as a 6-year-old in 1990.
Zenyatta, who won this race as the 3-to-10 favorite under 122 pounds last year, seeks to become the first Milady repeat winner since champion Azeri in 2002 and 2003. Mike Smith, who rode Azeri to both victories, hopes to complete the same sweep aboard Zenyatta. Azeri carried 122 and 125, respectively, in her victories.
Jerry Moss, owner of Zenyatta, visited the barn. “She looks just amazing,” said Moss. “We’re excited that she’s running. I can’t wait to see her.”
Fred Wilson, a veteran horseman who works primarily as a pony boy in the Shirreffs barn, is eager to see the race. “They’re both good sleepers, and they looked at each other all morning after they got up,” said Wilson. “Mario (Espinoza) rubs both of them.
“I’ve galloped Zenyatta and tack-walked Life Is Sweet,” said Wilson, 67. “I’ve been at it 55 years and Zenyatta has a feel that’s just amazing. I go back to My Dear Girl in 1959 and galloped What A Pleasure and Drumtop, and she’s just the best.
“Zenyatta has gotten bigger, more focused and has matured since last year,” said Wilson. “But I can’t take anything away from Life Is Sweet either. This will be something to watch. It could come right down to who gets the jump on the other.
“I usually watch races from over here but I might go over (to the front side) Saturday.”
BET ON VICTOR SUPPLEMENTED TO LAZ BARRERA
Bet On Victor was supplemented to the $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes Sunday for $2,000 by trainer Vladimir Cerin and drew the outside post in a field of ten. Garrett Gomez will ride the gelding in the Grade III test for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on Cushion Track.
Bet On Victor broke his maiden at first asking at Hawthorne Park in December. In two subsequent California starts, he finished second at Santa Anita March 11 and sixth here on April 26.
Cerin and Gomez each seek their second wins in the stake. Cerin won in 2004 with Twice As Bad. Gomez scored aboard Love That Red in 1999.
PEDROZA NEARS RETURN NEXT MONTH
Veteran jockey Martin Pedroza was aboard horses at Hollywood Park Thursday morning as he neared a return following an absence of more than four months.
“This is the first day I feel really strong,” said the 43-year-old native of Panama to agent Rich Silverstein after working two horses and galloping two others.
Pedroza suffered a broken pelvis at Santa Anita on Jan. 11 after he was unseated in the post parade on the track. “I fell sideways,” said Pedroza. “Dr. (Dan) Capen said if it would have been an inch one way or the other, I could have been paralyzed.”
He received clearance from two doctors to return to horseback last week and began getting on horses this week.
Pedroza expects to return to riding in the afternoon during the second week of June.
ARTISTE ROYAL, UNION AVENUE WORK FOR WHITTINGHAM
Defending champion Artiste Royal worked six furlongs on turf in 1:18 Thursday for the $300,000 ,Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at 1 ¼ miles on grass June 6.
The Irish-bred 8-year-old ridgeling drilled in company under exercise rider Debra Biggs. “He went steady today,” said trainer Neil Drysdale. “He went fast the other day.”
Artiste Royal seeks to become the first horse to win the Whittingham more than once since John Henry won the race for the third time in 1984 when it was called the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap.
Union Avenue, another Whittingham probable, worked four furlongs on turf in a bullet 47 seconds for the Jerry Hollendorfer stable.
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