After having little competition when winning the San Luis Rey Stakes and San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita, Bien Bien figures to have to work much harder to win his third consecutive Grade I race today in the $500,000 Hollywood Turf Handicap.
His main rival will be Arcangues, the 1993 Breeders' Cup Classic winner who won his first start of this year, the John Henry Handicap on May 1. In his debut for trainer Richard Mandella, the 6-year-old Sagace horse was a deceptively easy half-length winner over Misil.
Both Bien Bien, who set a course record of 1:57 3/5 for the 1 1/4 miles in winning the 1993 Hollywood Turf Handicap and is the 8-5 favorite today, and Arcangues, the 2-1 second choice, will carry 124 pounds.
Misil, who had some trouble in the John Henry, is the 5-1 third choice. The 6-year-old roan, who will be ridden by Corey Black, has 12 victories from 29 starts and has earned more than $1.3 million.
The rest of the entrants, from the rail out, include San Juan Capistrano runner-up Grand Flotilla; Navarone, who won for the first time since Oct. 10, 1992, on May 11; Rolling Green Handicap upsetter Blues Traveller; Mashaallah, who won eight of 20 in Europe, and The Tender Track, who scratched out of Sunday's fourth race.
Three of the four participants remaining in the $102,500 Hawthorne Handicap after the scratch of Hollywood Wildcat were unbeaten over the Hollywood Park main track going into Sunday's race.
Only Golden Klair holds that distinction now after a half-length victory over Likeable Style. Staying close to the pace, in a change of style, the 4-year-old Damister filly looked beaten early in the stretch, but came back under Kent Desormeaux. She covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 2/5 as the 7-2 third choice.
Scheduled to make her first start since failing as the 1-2 favorite in the La Canada Stakes on Feb. 5, Hollywood Wildcat was scratched Sunday morning because of a cough.
"It's very minor, but she coughed a little bit Friday and a little bit (Saturday)," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "It is strictly precautionary. She'll be all right in a few days."
Likeable Style, running for the first time since Aug. 22, 1993, finished a half-length in front of Andestine, the 4-5 favorite whose five-race winning streak ended. Potridee was last, a nose behind Andestine.
The National Best Seven, a 50-cent bet, makes its debut today with the Metropolitan Handicap from Belmont Park the first race in the series.
Bettors will try to select the winners of seven races from around the country that are scheduled to be run in less than an hour. The Metropolitan, with a 2:01 PDT post time, will be followed by the Hilltop (2:15) from Pimlico, the Great Lakes (2:20) from Thistledown, the Washington Park (2:25) from Arlington, the Barksdale (2:30) from Louisiana Downs, the Memorial Day (2:36) from Calder and the AKsarben Handicap (2:50) from AKsarben.
Horse Racing Notes
Making his first start as a 6-year-old, Star Of Cozzene finished third behind 10-1 shot Silver Wizard and Forty Niner Days in Sunday's fourth race, a $55,000 allowance race. . . . In his final major work before Sunday's $300,000 Californian, The Wicked North went five furlongs in 59 1/5 Sunday morning. "It was a great work, he galloped out super," trainer David Bernstein said. "Now, it's just a matter of waiting for the race." . . . Eliza, who is scheduled to return to the races at this meeting, worked a half-mile in 47 1/5 Sunday morning.