With five days remaining in one of Hollywood Park's most successful meetings in years, here is one man's opinion on the bests of the season:
Handicap Horse: Best Pal. The 5-year-old gelding ended a 14-month losing streak with his victory in the Gold Cup. The way he won suggests it won't be another 14 months before he does it again.
Older filly/mare: Toussaud. The El Gran Senor filly hasn't received the hype of stablemate Jolypha, but she has done much more so far this year. Toussaud's victory over the boys in the American Handicap was her third stakes success of the meeting for trainer Bobby Frankel after earlier victories in the Gamely and Wilshire.
3-year-old, 3-year-old male: If Codified takes the Swaps Stakes on Saturday, he deserves the honor because it would give him four wins at the meeting. If he is beaten, Earl Of Barking merits the honor because he won both the Spotlight and Cinema Handicaps and missed by less than a length in the Will Rogers when ridden contrary to his come-from-behind style.
3-year-old filly: Hollywood Wildcat. In the midst of a losing streak when she arrived in California, the Kris S. filly dominated the locals in the Hollywood Oaks. Fit To Lead also deserves mention based on her consistency. She was second in the Railbird, upset Eliza in the Princess, then was second in the Oaks, 6 1/2 lengths clear of third-place finisher Adorydar.
2-year-old filly: Rhapsodic. A twice-beaten maiden entering the Landaluce, she dominated her rivals in the meeting's only stakes for this division. Trainer Brian Mayberry's filly also acts as if she will handle two turns, which makes her a Del Mar Debutante contender.
Sprinter: Knight Prospector. Disregard her debacle on the turf--she has shown she hates grass--and no one was more impressive than this California-bred. She handled members of her own sex on dirt, then blasted the boys in a Friday night stakes.
Claiming horse: High Mesa. The 7-year-old Relaunch gelding has had all kinds of physical ailments during his career, but he was on top of his game during this meeting. He rattled off four consecutive victories for trainer Jack Saip, and High Mesa could keep on winning at Del Mar. He has shown a fondness for that track in the past and was claimed out of his last victory five days ago by Mike Mitchell.
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux. Even though he turned in perhaps the worst ride of his career on Jolypha in the Beverly Hills Handicap, the Eclipse Award winner has dominated the standings since the start of the meeting and also has the most stakes victories.
Trainer: Mitchell. He also ran off with the title and has shown little signs of cooling off. The trainer has been winning at a .360 clip for close to a year.
Apprentice jockey: Sal Gonzalez. A no-brainer. The teen-ager has shown the most promise of any bug boy in years and, combined with Alex Solis, gives agent John DeSantis a potent 1-2 punch.
Race: Princess Stakes. Fit To Lead, Swazi's Moment and Passing Vice were noses apart on the wire and Eliza, the 3-10 favorite, finished off the board, leading to some astronomical show prices.
Grass horse: Bien Bien. His race in the Turf Handicap was dynamite, and if he repeats in the Sunset, he'll win again.
As far as top 2-year-old, we'll wait until after the closing-day Hollywood Juvenile to cast our vote. Top contenders for the race include Individual Style, Ramblin Guy, Virtuous Regent, Bird County, Swift Walker and Creston.
Entries were taken Wednesday morning for Saturday's $200,000 Swaps Stakes, one of three races in Summer Stakes II, which will be televised by ESPN.
The 1 1/4-mile Swaps will follow the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap from Belmont Park and precede the $500,000 Philip H. Iselin Handicap from Monmouth Park.
Seven horses were entered in the Swaps, including Codified, who was established as the 7-5 favorite. Others in the field are Devoted Brass, Manny's Prospect, Royal Egyptian, Future Storm and the Bobby Frankel-trained entry of Is Me and Hawk Spell.
The Iselin, the seventh race of the American Championship Racing Series, will match Gold Cup runner-up Bertrando against ACRS points leader Devil His Due. Deputation is the 8-5 favorite in the Top Flight.
Hollywood Park announced it is considering buying the Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kan., and has formed a committee from the board of directors to explore the acquisition.
The Woodlands, which has both horse and greyhound racing, is 60% owned by R.D. Hubbard, the Hollywood Park CEO. The investment banking firm of Oppenheimer and Co., has been retained, said committee chairman Warren Williamson, to assist the committee in its evaluation.
Horse Racing Notes
Bien Bien worked a half-mile in 49 2/5 Wednesday morning. . . . Corey Black will be at Arlington Sunday to ride Earl Of Barking in the American Derby. . . . Six were entered Wednesday morning for Friday night's $153,700 Hollywood Park Budweiser Breeders' Cup at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. From the rail out, the field includes Chicmond, Wild Harmony, Concept Win, Prince Ferdinand, the filly Western Approach and Bold 'N Flashy.