Champs Elysees heads field

Times Staff Writer

The Jim Murray Memorial Handicap, named in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Times columnist, will be run for the 19th time today at Hollywood Park. Murray died in 1998.

Heading up the field in today's Grade II, $250,000 Jim Murray 'Cap will be Great Britain-bred Champs Elysees, who will carry high weight of 119 pounds, and On The Acorn, the race's defending champion.

Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, a record six-time winner of the Jim Murray, will send out Juddmonte Farms' Champs Elysees and Gary Tanaka's Irish-bred Sudan in the 1 1/2 -mile turf race.

In his first North American race, Champs Elysees finished second in the Hollywood Turf Cup in December at Hollywood Park. He won the San Marcos in January at Santa Anita, and he finished third while testing the synthetic track in the Santa Anita Handicap in March. The 5-year-old will try to give Juddmonte a record fifth win in the Murray.

Indizguys Stable's On The Acorn completed a rare and coveted double a year ago in rallying to win the Murray after taking the San Juan Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita. He did not run again in 2007 and has yet to win in three 2008 starts. He finished third in the San Luis Obispo and fourth in the San Juan Capistrano and enters the Jim Murray with a race-high $593,812 in earnings.

"On The Acorn is doing super, better than last year," trainer Mike Mitchell said of the 7-year-old gelding. On The Acorn, whose owners include former Times baseball writer Ross Newhan, former Angels manager Buck Rodgers and horse racing publicist Jack Disney, will attempt to become the first repeat winner of the Jim Murray 'Cap.

Mitchell has also entered Church Service in the Jim Murray but the 5-year-old gelding could be a late scratch and instead run at Dallas' Lone Star Park on May 26. Church Service was a fast-closing second in his last start in the Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita on March 29.

Sudan, a winner in Italy, will be making his second North American start after an eighth-place finish in the San Luis Obispo.

Jeff Mullins will saddle Boule d'Or, winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap at the Jim Murray distance in his last start. The 7-year-old has won seven of 48 starts for earnings of $544,981.

The Jim Murray, which will run as the third of 10 races, is one of three graded stakes races on a card with a first post of 1:20 p.m.

Bonfante, aiming for his third straight win, heads a nine-horse field along with 2007 Triple Bend winner Bilo in the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap, and Irish-bred Sweeter Still seeks her second win in three starts in a field of nine in the Senorita Stakes.

Sunday's nine-race card is highlighted by the Grade III, $100,000 Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Unbeaten Lethal Heat, trained by Barry Abrams, will be seeking her fourth victory.


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