Black Mamba and High Heel Sneakers, a pair of 5-year-old mares who have both won turf stakes against females at Hollywood Park, will tangle with males Saturday in the $250,000, Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup at 1 ½ miles.
Meet-leading trainer John Sadler entered New Zealand-bred Black Mamba, scratched from the Matriarch Sunday, while conditioner Ben Cecil entered English-bred High Heel Sneakers.
“I know John has been dying to run Black Mamba a mile and a half,” said Larry Benavidez, assistant to Sadler.
Black Mamba rallied to win the Grade II Beverly Hills Handicap at 1 ¼ miles here in June. She also finished a closing third in the Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes the past two years. Her biggest win was in the Grade I John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar in August.
Black Mamba raced at 1 ½ miles once in her native New Zealand, finishing fifth on a soft course in the 2007 New Zealand Oaks. She raced four times against males there, her only victory in a maiden race in 2006.
Cecil said he had limited options for a female running long on turf after High Heel Sneakers captured the Hermosa Beach Handicap here Nov. 9 at 12 furlongs for her first United States victory in four starts.
High Heel Sneakers ran five times at 1 ½ miles in her native England, including a second-place against males in the Empire Property Group Conditions Stakes at Goodwood in June, 2007.
HARTY HOPES TO MAKE POINT IN NATIVE DIVER
Past the Point, second-place finisher to 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in August, seeks his first stakes victory Saturday in the $100,000-added Native Diver Handicap, a Grade III test at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track.
In two other graded stakes starts, the 4-year-old Darley Stable ridgling finished third in the 2007 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and fifth in the Meadowlands Cup as the favorite in his last outing Oct. 3.
“It was a ridiculous pace that night,” said trainer Eoin Harty Wednesday of the Meadowlands race, in which Past the Point engaged in a speed duel of :45.80 to the half after being bumped at the start.
“He has been training well,” said Harty after the horse worked for the seventh time since the New Jersey race Monday at Santa Anita. “He’s very fit, and we expect him to run accordingly.”
Harty hopes Past the Point likes Cushion Track in his Southern California debut. “He won on synthetic at Arlington, but his last two tries on synthetic were disappointing,” said Harty of subsequent starts at Golden Gate Fields and Keeneland.
The well-traveled colt will make his 12th start in five different states. “I’ve had him since the start,” said Harty of the son of Indian Charlie who began his career in Kentucky and has won three of 11 outings.
MICHAEL BAZE SEEKS BAYAKOA REPEAT
Jockey Michael Baze, who went wire to wire to win the Bayakoa Handicap last year with Romance Is Diane, seeks to win the race for a second straight year Sunday aboard Model. The Grade II test for fillies and mares will be run at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
Model, the starting high weight at 117 pounds and probable favorite, comes off a victory in the It’s In The Air Stakes here Nov. 2. The 4-year-old filly earlier finished second in both the Grade I Spinster Stakes and Grade II Clement Hirsch Handicap, the latter one length behind unbeaten superstar Zenyatta.
Other probable starters include: Baroness Thatcher, Victor Espinoza, 116 pounds; Double Trouble, Rafael Bejarano, 115; Wake Up Maggie, Tyler Baze, 115, and Briecat, Jon Court, 112. Possibles include Bai and Bai (116), Lady Digby (116) and Spenditallbaby (114).
GOMEZ TRAVELS FAR EAST
Jockey Garrett Gomez, the national earnings leader, caught a plane from San Francisco to Osaka Wednesday to begin an 11-day trip in the Far East.
“He rides five or six in Japan Saturday, and another four there Sunday, including Mast Track in the Japan Cup Dirt,” said agent Ron Anderson of the Hollywood Gold Cup winner.
“Monday he flies to Hong Kong,” continued Anderson. “He rides
in the Jockey Challenge and two other races there next Wednesday. Next Sunday he will ride four races during their big day, including Awesome Gem in the Hong Kong Mile and Out of Control in the mile and one-eighth race.”
Anderson said Gomez would return for the final week of the Autumn Meet, which he has led the past two years. He currently ranks second behind Rafael Bejarano, 35-23.
Anderson said Gomez has taken a call on Pioneer of the Nile in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity Dec. 21. The colt recently joined the Bob Baffert stable at Santa Anita after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Bill Mott.
FINISH LINES — Jockey agent Ron Ebanks reported Corey Nakatani, sidelined with a broken collarbone suffered in a spill opening day of the Oak Tree meet, is scheduled to return to riding here next week. “He started back by getting on five Sunday at Santa Anita and will take calls starting on the 10th,” said Ebanks…Apprentice jockey Michael Martinez has shifted his tack to New Mexico…Trainer Graham Motion said Rosinka, who finished seventh in the Matriarch in her farewell Sunday, has been retired and will be bred to Raven’s Pass, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic…Trainer Eoin Harty said Sharp Cat Stakes winner Pamona Ball continues to train well for her next start in the $250,000 Hollywood Starlet Dec. 13. “She went five-eighths in a minute (at Santa Anita) yesterday and is ready to go,” said Harty…Trainer Gary Stute reported Hurry Up Austin was scratched from the Hollywood Turf Express Handicap Saturday by his father, Mel, after suffering a suspensory injury training at Santa Anita.