Well off the pace early, favored Reve Dore rallied to win the $30,000 allowance feature Wednesday, the only race on the turf at Hollywood Park.
So, what else is new?
Horses coming from behind have dominated on the grass through the first 11 days of the meeting.
Wretham is the only horse to have won after leading at the eighth pole. A Bermuda Triangle of sorts is swallowing the front-runners, usually between the quarter and sixteenth poles.
No matter how fast or slow the early pace, the thoroughbreds that wait are the ones winning.
Twelfth and last with a furlong to go in the ninth race Nov. 18, Santa Angelo went around the rest of the field and won going away under Eddie Delahoussaye.
The next afternoon, Flippable, everybody’s favorite white, trailed for six furlongs while Kadial controlled matters. But at the wire, Flippable had his third victory in four California appearances, beating Band Leader by a neck, with Kadial a head back in third.
There are other examples. Despite extremely slow fractions, Fair Judgement came from last to take the Citation Handicap Sunday. Longshot Live the Dream accelerated late and won the Hollywood Derby a week before that.
An anti-speed bias over the turf course at Hollywood Park is hardly anything new. Stretch runners have had the upper hand for years, although things seemed to have changed somewhat in recent seasons.
In fact, toward the end of the summer meeting earlier this year, horses leading or near the lead were winning more than their fair share.
“It’s been puzzling me for years and years,” said jockey Chris McCarron, back from Tokyo after finishing third with Pay the Butler in the Japan Cup. “I just don’t know why. I know it’s not the course. I’ve only ridden a few races on it this meeting, but it felt great.
“To me, it’s very similar to the course at Santa Anita (where speed basically was king). They’re both very firm and they both have the same kind of grass.”
Gary Stevens has his own theory.
“Even though the Santa Anita course is more European style, it seems like we ride this one more European style,” he said. “Maybe, it’s because so many races are won from off the pace, everybody takes a hold out of the gate.
“I haven’t had a chance to ride a speed horse yet, but if I did, I’d ride him like any other route race. Bounce along the first quarter, relax down the backside, then try to (open up) the last three-eighths and not give the field the opportunity to bunch.
“I don’t think (the bias) has anything to do with this course. It feels very honest. Riding on this one is very comparable to Santa Anita. It’s one of the best turf courses in the country. It’s very even, there are no soft spots and horses don’t bobble over it.”
Speed could do better as the season winds down to its Christmas Eve conclusion. The more it is used, the firmer it should become. Stevens, and others, say this will help those who do their best work up close.
It looks as if the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet will have nine horses Sunday, including Stella Madrid, the beaten choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The daughter of Alydar is one of two Wayne Lukas will saddle in search of his second victory in the Grade I mile. Special Happening, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup, is the other and she will be ridden by McCarron. Angel Cordero will fly west to ride Stella Madrid.
Others set for the Starlet are Dominant Dancer, who has been idle since winning the Oak Leaf Oct. 9; Ten K., Cheval Volant, Annual Reunion, Effusive Bounty, Dramatic Joy and Miss Waikiki.
Stocks Up, who won this event last year, defeating Fantastic Look and One of a Klein, is nearing her return for trainer Ted West.
Sidelined by an ankle problem since last winter, she worked a half-mile in :46 2/5 last Saturday at Santa Anita and will have another drill Friday morning.
“She’s right on schedule,” West said. “She’ll run early in the Santa Anita meeting (which begins Dec. 26). She’s doing great.”
Considering how things have gone, it seems hard to believe that El Gran Sid was once more highly regarded than Sunday Silence.
Yet, after Sunday Silence romped to victory in the Santa Anita Derby last spring, owner Arthur Hancock related how El Gran Sid was the big hope when the sons of Halo were yearlings in Kentucky.
That was even more shocking because El Gran Sid had made his debut two races before Sunday Silence’s 11-length Derby success. He hardly distinguished himself, finishing fifth, beaten by about 10 lengths.
There were lots more defeats to come for El Gran Sid, a gray out of a mare by The Axe II. Nine more, to be exact, including seven while running in maiden claimers.
He was gelded during the summer, though, and in his 11th appearance, Nov. 9 at Santa Anita, John Sadler’s 3-year-old finally put everything together. Against a field of $32,000 nonwinners, he was able to control the pace and rolled to a 13-length victory, completing the mile and a sixteenth in a solid 1:41 4/5.
He returned with an 1:11 3/5 workout last week and he’ll try to make it two straight this afternoon in the seventh race, a $28,000 allowance at a mile.
“We’ve always kind of liked him, but, until last time, he’d been a big disappointment,” Sadler said. “We (gelded) him last summer and it doesn’t always have an affect right away, but he seems to be getting better.
“One race, he’d lug in and in another, he’d lug out. We thought he had talent, but he was a big dummy. He did everything wrong.
“We put the blinkers back on (two races ago) and he’s doing real well right now. In that work the other day, I had him galloping out seven furlongs in 1:24 1/5.”
To be ridden again by Robbie Davis, El Gran Sid drew the rail, but he’s catching a field without much early zip, which could help him get brave again.
Horse Racing Notes
Bruho, who unseated Laffit Pincay while seemingly on his way to a win in the On Trust Handicap a week ago, will work three furlongs this morning wearing blinkers. The 3-year-old will work again between races next Wednesday to satisfy the stewards. . . . Gary Boulanger, who began the meeting by winning the Moccasin Stakes aboard Owiseone on opening day, then returned by taking the feature on Annual Reunion the next afternoon, is mired in a zero-for-49 slump. Martin Pedroza, meanwhile, has gone 64 mounts without a winner.
Eddie Delahoussaye padded his lead in the standings with a triple Wednesday. Besides Reve Dore, he also won with favorites Dreaming Bel and Nasers Pride and now holds a 16-13 lead over Gary Stevens. Corey Nakatani also rode three winners Wednesday--13-1 shot Jackie’s Valentine in the third, Shayne A Dam at 5-1 in the sixth and Solar Soaring, who was bet from 12-1 down to 3-1, in the finale. . . . Prized, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in his first start on grass, will bypass the Hollywood Turf Cup Dec. 10 and await the San Fernando Stakes in January at Santa Anita.