Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be in the national spotlight with Pioneerof the Nile in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Saturday but he will also send out Guns On the Table in the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park the same afternoon.
The Grade III test at six furlongs on Cushion Track highlights a program that begins at 11 a.m. in conjunction with a Preakness Day simulcast from Baltimore.
The Preakness will offer plenty of West Coast connections. In addition to Pioneerof the Nile, winner of the CashCall Futurity here and the Santa Anita Derby, ranked as a top contender under Garrett Gomez, Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano for trainer Gary Stute.
Also, Mike Smith picked up the mount on Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird since jockey Calvin Borel had a commitment to filly Rachel Alexandra in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Veteran jockey Alex Solis, who won the 1986 Preakness aboard Snow Chief for Stute’s father, Mel, will ride at Hollywood Park and has a call on Doppio in the Los Angeles ’Cap. Solis seeks a fifth victory in the race after scores aboard Olympic Prospect in 1988, Son of a Pistol in 1999, Kona Gold in 2002 and Siren Lure in 2006.
Gates will open at 8:20 a.m. There will be no free early-bird wagering. Wagering will begin with the fourth race from Pimlico at approximately 8:48. Pimlico races four through 13 will be simulcast here.
SIREN LURE SEEKS SECOND L.A. ’CAP, MILLIONAIRE STATUS
Trainer Art Sherman, a spry septuagenarian, can relate to a veteran doing well.
“Maybe it’s old-timers’ week,” said Sherman optimistically Wednesday after entering 8-year-old gelding Siren Lure in the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap, a Grade III test at six furlongs on Cushion Track Saturday.
“An 8-year-old won a stake here last week,” said Sherman in reference to an upset victory by Ball Four in the Grade II, $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap last Saturday. “It gives us hope anyway.”
Siren Lure will carry high weight of 119 pounds in the sprint that he won in 2006. “That’s not fair!” howled Alan Sherman, the trainer’s son and assistant, in mock protest. “They gave the senior citizen high weight.”
Siren Lure’s career record warrants that kind of respect. The Kentucky-bred son of Joyeux Danseur has won 15 of 36 starts and earned $988,244.
“He’s $12,500 from being a millionaire,” said Sherman. “Let’s hope he can finish on the board. He’s won this race before. If he’s got one or two good ones in him, he could scare them a little.”
Siren Lure has earned most of his money for Northern California owners Stuart Kesselman and Tony Melkonian since Sherman claimed him in his ninth start for $50,000 at Bay Meadows in May, 2005.
Siren Lure enjoyed his biggest year in 2006, including victories in the Los Angeles and Grade I Triple Bend handicaps here.
He would join elite company with another victory Saturday. The legendary Native Diver is the only horse to win the Los Angeles Handicap twice in its 56-year history, in 1965 and as an 8-year-old in 1967. The only other 8-year-old to win the race was champion sprinter Kona Gold in 2002.
“I know we’ll be proud if he hits a million,” said Sherman. “He looks real good right now. He won three in a row up north, including a stake where he beat some good horses.”
BIANCONE, TALAMO HOPE TO STRIKE AGAIN SUNDAY
Trainer Patrick Biancone has won three graded stakes in Southern California this year since returning from a one-year suspension. Teenage jockey Joseph Talamo has been aboard all three, including longshot Ball Four in the Grade II, $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap Saturday.
The French-born Biancone and 19-year-old Talamo will try to team for another stakes win Sunday at Hollywood Park with Stream Cat in the $100,000 Gallant Man Handicap at 1 5/8 miles on Cushion Track.
Stream Cat snapped a five-race losing streak by capturing the Grade III Tokyo City Handicap at 1 ½ miles over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita on March 28.
“He’s never run this long so you never know,” said Biancone Wednesday. “But he worked good Monday at Santa Anita so I think he has a good chance. We didn’t ask much in his work but he finished strongly.”
Talamo was aboard for the work. “He’s a neat old horse,” said Talamo of the 6-year-old gelding with earnings of $705,610. “He (Biancone) keeps them so fresh and gets them all suited up for the race.”
A field of at least six is probable for the Gallant Man: Church Service, Rafael Bejarano, 120 pounds; Stream Cat, Talamo, 119; Isipingo, Joel Rosario, 114; Power Blitz, Alex Solis, 113; Kizzy’s Chaos, Martin Garcia, 112; and Romp, Tyler Baze, 112.
Power Blitz worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 for trainer Neil Drysdale.
STEVE WARNER MEMORIAL FRIDAY
A celebration of life for Steve Warner is scheduled for Friday from 6-8 p.m. in the Hollywood Park clubhouse owner-trainer lounge.
Warner, who owned one of the feed companies for the Southern California circuit since 1993 and enjoyed great success as a small-time owner and breeder, died at his Playa del Rey home on April 25 after an eight-month battle with cancer. He was 65.
Only hours before his death, Unusual Smoke, a 4-year-old colt Warner co-bred under his Fast Lane Farms stable name, won the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes during the California Gold Rush program.
Warner co-bred and co-owned Unusual Smoke’s dam, Smokin’ Charlotte, winner of the 2002 Fran’s Valentine Stakes on the Gold Rush card.
Warner had even greater success as the co-breeder of a pair of California-bred Grade I stakes winners: Thor’s Echo, who won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter in 2006, and Dancing Edie.
Warner will be remembered at this meet not only by Unusual Smoke, trained by A.C. Avila, but also by Maui Mark, a 4-year-old gelding Warner bred and co-owned, who won a $48,000 allowance sprint on turf on May 1 for trainer Howie Zucker.
SADLER WORKS PAIR FOR SHOEMAKER, GAMELY
Trainer John Sadler worked a pair of leading contenders on Cushion Track Wednesday for upcoming Grade I turf stakes.
Whatsthescript worked seven furlongs in 1:25.40 for the $250,000-added Shoemaker Mile on May 25, and Black Mamba worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 for the $250,000-added Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on May 30.
Joel Rosario will ride both. Whatsthescript, winner of the Grade II American Handicap here last year, will make his first start since November. New Zealand-bred Black Mamba, a Grade I stakes winner, finished a nose behind Magical Fantasy in the Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita in her last start.
Citation Handicap winner Hyperbaric worked six furlongs in 1:13 for trainer Julio Canani for the Shoemaker.
Bel Air Sizzle drilled five panels in :59.80 for conditioner Barry Abrams for the Gamely.
FINISH LINES — Jockeys Mike Smith and Alex Solis both booked off their Wednesday mounts because of illness.