Trainer Todd Pletcher, who began the Thanksgiving Day weekend at Hollywood Park with an impressive victory by Bsharpsonata in the $68,400 Playa del Rey Stakes Thursday, hopes to carry that momentum into the Turf Festival Saturday and Sunday.
New York-based Pletcher, who has won five Turf Festival races with just 17 starters, entered Cowboy Cal in the Hollywood Derby and Roshani in The Matriarch, the $500,000 Grade I co-features Sunday. He also entered Bittel Road and Hype in the $100,000-added Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds Saturday.
Cowboy Cal and Roshani will be ridden by John Velazquez, who has won six Turf Festival races with 14 mounts, including The Matriarch and Derby twice each. He won the Derby with Marlin in 1996 and Vergennes in 1998 and The Matriarch with Starine in 2001 and Heat Haze in 2003.
Cowboy Cal has won four of five grass starts, all on different courses, for Pletcher, most recently the Bryan Station at Keeneland via disqualification Oct. 12 in his first start in six months. Pletcher finished fourth in the ¼-mile Derby last year with Twilight Meteor.
Pletcher settled for runner-up honors last year in The Matriarch with favored Wait a While, 1 ¼ lengths behind Precious Kitten. He will seek to avenge that result and foil the defending champion with Roshani, fresh off a victory in the Las Palmas Handicap Oct. 24 at Santa Anita.
Roshani, a 5-year-old mare, has won seven of 13 starts, including six of ten on turf, as she tries to annex her first Grade I victory in the mile test. After the Las Palmas, she was sold at a Keeneland auction to Jayeff B Stable from previous owner Ben McElroy.
Pletcher seeks his third Generous victory after scores with Dubleo in a 2004 division and The Leopard last year. Bittel Road won three straight grass races before finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Hype comes off an easy maiden score here.
Bsharpsonata, a 3-year-old filly making her first start since May and first for the Pletcher stable since being transferred there, was as sharp as her name, rallying to win in 1:07.95 for six furlongs on Cushion Track under Garrett Gomez.
“I thought she was the class of the race on paper,” said McCarthy of the Grade II stakes winner, expected to return in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes, first leg of the La Canada Series at Santa Anita.
HOUSE SEEKS SATURDAY STAKES SWEEP
Owner Michael House of San Diego shoots for a pair of victories Saturday with Delta Storm in the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express Handicap and newcomer Battle of Hastings in the $100,000-added Generous Stakes.
Delta Storm, a 7-year-old gelding claimed for $40,000 in May at Churchill Downs, has trained here forwardly for Mike Mitchell since a second-place finish in the Kangroo Court Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 13. He won the Pirate’s Bounty Handicap at Del Mar as a 43-to-1 shot and leaves from the rail in a field of ten in the six-furlong Turf Express.
Battle of Hastings arrived in the Jeff Mullins stable last week after being purchased in England. The English-bred gelding won his last two starts, the latter at one mile at Doncaster on Sept. 13.
SLEW’S TIZNOW EARNS REDEMPTION IN WAR CHANT
“Brilliant planning,” said Joe Lacombe Jr., son of owner Joe Lacombe, kiddingly to trainer Doug O’Neill after Slew’s Tiznow rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to win the $69,150 War Chant Stakes for 3-year-olds in Cushion Track-record time of 1:40.34 for 1 1/16 miles.
Lacombe was joking about the transfer of the race from turf after it had been soaked with rain the previous day. “The switch didn’t bother us,” said Lacombe of the colt who had never started on grass. “It was just an experiment to see how he would handle turf. We knew he would be competitive on Cushion Track.
“He never had a chance in the Breeders’ Cup; he was parked five or six wide both turns,” said Lacombe of a tenth-place finish. He and O’Neill said the colt would probably look at the Strub Series at Santa Anita and be pointed to the second leg, the San Fernando Stakes.
Slew’s Tizzy, the 4-year-old full brother of Slew’s Tiznow and also a disappointment in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (11th), was nominated to the $100,000-added Native Diver Handicap at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 6. He worked five furlongs in :59.80 Friday.
O’Neill also said the Lacombe Stable’s Azul Leon, runner-up in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes Sunday, came back in good shape and remains on target for the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20.
O’Neill also looks for improvement from longshot Liturgical in the $100,000-added Generous Stakes Saturday. “We were a little disappointed in his first two races, but if he improves as much from his second race to his third as he did from his first to his second, he should be right there,” said O’Neill of the English import.
After fading to a distant ninth in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes in his U.S. bow at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, Liturgical finished seventh, beaten by four lengths, in an allowance race on the turf here Nov. 6.
CHURCH SERVICE EYES TURF CUP
Church Service, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Marathon in his last start on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, is scheduled to return to grass for the Hollywood Turf Cup Dec. 6, trainer Mike Mitchell confirmed Friday.
Claimed for $50,000 in January, the 5-year-old gelding won the Dallas Turf Cup in May.
Also prominent among candidates for the Grade I test at 1 ½ miles on grass are Champs Elysees, the runner-up last year; Obrigado, fourth last year; Spring House, winner of the Del Mar Handicap, and Winchester, winner of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.
GALANTAS OPTS FOR CITATION
Trainer Graham Motion said Friday he scratched Galantas from the $400,000 Citation Handicap today to instead run in the $100,000-added Native Diver Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track Dec. 6.
Ball Four, winner of the Fayette Stakes at Keeneland in his last start Oct. 25, is also scheduled to compete in the Native Diver for trainer Todd Pletcher. The 7-year-old gelding finished fifth as the favorite in 2006 Native Diver when he was with Patrick Biancone.
Other Nominees include 2007 runner-up Racketeer, San Pasqual Handicap winner Zappa, Woodward Stakes runner-up Past the Point, Woodbine stakes winner Marchfield, Slew’s Tizzy, Mostacolli Mort and Medjool.
FINISH LINES — Michael Baze has a call back on Model in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap, a Grade II test for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track Dec. 7. Neil Drysdale, who will saddle Model, is busy trotting the globe. He left his training base here Tuesday to saddle Marsh Side in the Japan Cup Sunday, returns next week to send out Obrigado in the Hollywood Turf Cup Dec. 6 and Model Dec. 7, then travels to Hong Kong to saddle Artiste Royal in the Hong Kong Cup Dec. 14. …“He bit me,” said owner Marianne Chase of her last visit to the stall of Albertus Maximus in the Vladimir Cerin stable after announcing the sale of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner to Shadwell Stable. She said the 4-year-old colt would be shipped to the stable of Kiaran McLaughlin in Florida…Trainer Chris Paasch said that Foxy Danseur, winner of the 2007 Sharp Cat Stakes and fifth-place finisher in the Playa del Rey Thursday, would remain in training with him for owner Charles Cono. “I bought her back for $450,000 at a sale in Kentucky a few weeks ago,” said Paasch…Should trainer Bobby Frankel win The Matriarch for a fifth straight time Sunday, he would remain one shy of the Hollywood Park record of six straight stakes wins, set by Charlie Whittingham in the Sunset Handicap from 1978-83. Ron McAnally won the Milady Handicap five straight times from 1989-93.