Although it is hard to imagine anything topping the excitement of those hop-along races on the turf course or the sheer suspense of watching people go head-to-head at California blackjack, horses have provided the memorable moments at Hollywood Park.
Heading into the final five days of the meeting, here are one man's opinions on the bests of the season, skipping a few categories, pending the outcome of some important races on Sunday.
Handicap Horse--Siphon. Anyone who doubted his ability to handle a route in this country feels differently now. He showed a lot of guts holding off Del Mar Dennis in the Mervyn LeRoy after setting fast splits, then showed he could get 10 furlongs after Geri made a run at the top of the stretch in the Gold Cup. In both instances he was ridden flawlessly by David Flores.
3-Year-Old Filly--Listening. Beaten in her first start of the meeting on turf, the daughter of Night Shift came back to beat Pike Place Dancer in the Princess, then her more accomplished stablemate, Antespend, in last weekend's Hollywood Oaks.
3-Year-Old Male--Let Bob Do It, for now. The sophomore who began his career at Yakima Meadows has developed into a real hard knocker. He won the Will Rogers and Cinema and has proven a bargain buy for his owners--Bob Levy and Roxy Roxborough, to name a couple--and trainer John Sadler. However, the choice in this category will change to Hesabull if he wins the Swaps on Sunday to add to his earlier triumphs in the Harry Henson and Affirmed.
2-Year-Old Filly--Starry Ice. She won three times at the meeting to run her record to 4-0 for Jerry Dutton, who not only trains the filly, but bred her and owns her in partnership with Harold Greene.
Sprinter--Letthebighossroll. This selection should come with an asterisk because it assumes the 8-year-old gelding will win the $70,000 Answer Do Stakes on Sunday. No sprinter has been dominant at the meeting, but Letthebighossroll beat a decent bunch in the Triple Bend Handicap. If the California-bred loses Sunday, Track Gal, who won her final two starts of the stand on turf, is a solid alternative choice.
Claiming Horse--Dourbadakan. This old-timer rattled off three consecutive victories on turf for trainer Kim Lloyd and was ridden with confidence by Eddie Delahoussaye. Dourbadakan could keep on rolling at Del Mar because he has shown he can handle that course.
Jockey--Alex Solis. Going into the final week, he held an eight-winner edge over Corey Nakatani in the riders' race and has been consistent throughout the meeting.
Trainer--Ron McAnally. Several conditioners have had excellent seasons, but he is in the hunt for the title with 21 victories and he has won six stakes races.
Grass Horse--Fastness, at the moment. He was awesome in winning the Inglewood and Shoemaker, but a case can also be made for Sandpit if he wins the Caesars Palace Turf Championship on Sunday. That would also give him two stakes scores at the meeting because he took the Hollywood Turf Handicap on May 27.
As far as older filly/mare and 2-year-old male, we'll wait until the Vanity and Hollywood Juvenile on Sunday.
Horse Racing Notes
Mr Purple will be sidelined indefinitely after a hairline fracture was found in his left front ankle. This means the Santa Anita Handicap winner is out of the running for the MGM Classic Crown bonus because he won't be able to run in the $1-million Pacific Classic on Aug. 10. Mr Purple, who was eased in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30, was the front-runner for the $500,000 participation bonus for horses who ran in the Big 'Cap, Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. The only two horses still eligible are Luthier Fever, now being trained by Eduardo Inda, and Helmsman. . . . Pike Place Dancer will miss the $250,000 Coaching Club Oaks on Saturday at Belmont Park because of a bruised foot. . . . Jockey Goncalino Almeida won for the first time since Jan. 18 when he directed Quite Good to an upset in Wednesday's sixth race. Sidelined for six months after breaking both legs in a Jan. 20 spill at Santa Anita, Almeida, since returning, had failed to win with his first 40 mounts before Wednesday.