Trainer Mike Machowsky said Sunday that Rush Rush would seek his first stakes victory in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, a Grade I test at 1 ½ miles on turf Saturday.
“He’s kind of a quirky horse to ride, and I think Victor (jockey Victor Espinoza) has figured him out pretty well,” said Santa Anita-based Machowsky of the 5-year-old gelding who rallied to finish second in an allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on turf here Nov. 12 in his first start under Espinoza.
Rush Rush won a grass race at 1 ¼ miles here last year but has been unplaced in two tries at 1 ½ miles, including a fourth-place finish in the 2007 Sunset Handicap.
“He just worked six furlongs in 1:14 and three Friday at Santa Anita,” said Machowsky. “I may bring him over Friday to school him.”
Rush Rush has won five of 16 starts and earned $210,024.
He figures to be a longshot in a lineup that could include Champs Elysees, Spring House and Obrigado, the 2-3-4 finishers in the race last year behind winner Sunriver.
Obrigado worked seven furlongs on turf Sunday in 1:29.80 under exercise rider Derek Oldham in company with Artiste Royal and Green Lyons.
“They all went well; I was not asking for much,” said John O’Donoghue, assistant to trainer Neil Drysdale.
Obrigado, runner-up in the 2006 Hollywood Derby, has never won here but has been second twice and third three times in seven grass outings. “He came back with a nice prep race here (third in an allowance race Nov. 12) after being out this summer with a cannon-bone injury,” said O’Donoghue of the 5-year-old gelding’s first start since March. Joel Rosario has the Turf Cup call.
Winchester also worked on the turf, timed in 1:18 for six furlongs in company with Towzee.
“He’s going in the right direction,” said Thomas Daly, assistant to trainer Dermot Weld, after working the 3-year-old colt. “He seems to be progressing with each work.”
Winchester worked here for the fourth time since being shipped from Santa Anita following a seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Oct. 25. The colt shipped from Ireland to win the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August.
Winchester seeks to become the first 3-year-old to annex the Turf Cup since Bien Bien won via disqualification in 1992.
Daly said jockey Patrick Smullen was scheduled to arrive Wednesday from Ireland and might give Winchester a light breeze Thursday, the day Weld is slated to arrive.
Bobby Frankel, trainer of Champs Elysees, also nominated Good Request, who ran well in several distance races in New York and Kentucky this year.
Leading rider Rafael Bejarano has taken a call on Dallas Turf Cup winner Church Service.
Other nominees include Kentucky-based Star Plus and Telling and California Cup Classic winner Mr. Chairman.
RACKETEER TO RETURN IN NATIVE DIVER
Racketeer, runner-up to California Flag in the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express Handicap at six furlongs Saturday, will return next Saturday in the $100,000-added Native Diver Handicap, according to trainer and co-owner Barry Abrams.
“The race was a good workout,” said Abrams. “There was no pace, and nobody had a chance to close.”
Racketeer finished second behind Heatseeker in the 2007 Native Diver, a Grade III test at 1 1/8 miles, when he was trained by Bobby Frankel. Racketeer has been winless in five starts since Abrams bought him privately in June. Racketeer was assigned 112 pounds.
Abrams also nominated Unusual Suspect, who finished last as defending champion in the Turf Express, but said he would probably wait for the On Trust Handicap for California-breds at 7 ½ furlongs Dec. 14.
Past the Point, runner-up to Curlin in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, is scheduled to make his California debut for trainer Eoin Harty. Rafael Bejarano has taken a call on the Darley 4-year-old, assigned 117 pounds.
Galantas, scratched from Friday’s Citation Handicap, was also pegged at 117. Victor Espinoza has the call on the Maryland shipper for trainer Graham Motion.
Joel Rosario will ride Slew’s Tizzy (115), a full brother to War Chant Stakes winner Slew’s Tiznow.
Ball Four, winner of the Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, is expected to be the starting high weight at 119 pounds. Marchfield, winner of the Autumn Stakes at Woodbine, was assigned 118 and is scheduled to be shipped west from Toronto this week.
Hollywood Turf Cup nominees Ball Four, Spring House (118), Star Plus (116) and Telling (116) were all cross-nominated to both races.
MOTION SHIPS LADY DIGBY WEST
Trainer H. Graham Motion said Lady Digby has been shipped from Maryland to California and will make her next start in either the Bayakoa Handicap on Cushion Track Dec. 7 or the Dahlia Handicap on turf Dec. 21.
Lady Digby, a 4-year-old filly, won a stake called the Dahlia at Laurel in April, captured the Grade III All Along at Colonial in June and returned from a layoff to finish sixth in the Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs in November.
Motion also nominated Caprice, third-place finisher in the Hermosa Beach Handicap here, to the Bayakoa, a Grade II test at 1 1/16 miles. Lady Digby was assigned 116 pounds, and Clarice 114.
Model is expected to be the starting high weight under 117 pounds with Michael Baze. Other probable starters include Baroness Thatcher, Victor Espinoza, 116, and Double Trouble, Rafael Bejarano, 115. Wake Up Maggie (115) and Briecat (112) are also probable.
ALPHA KITTEN WORKS FOR STARLET
Meet-leading trainer John Sadler said he was pleased with a six-furlong work Satuday by Alpha Kitten at Santa Anita for the $250,000 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 13.
“Tyler Baze worked her in 1:13; it was a beautiful work,” said Sadler. Alpha Kitten finished second in the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita. The Grade I Starlet is at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
Sadler also said Becrux, third-place finisher in the Citation Handicap Friday, could return on either grass or synthetic at Santa Anita and Whatsthescript, the beaten favorite who finished fifth, is due for a rest.
Sadler is also considering Zappa (116) and/or Mostacolli Mort (114) for the Native Diver Handicap following Sunday works at Santa Anita.
HABAYA EYES AMERICAN OAKS
Eastern shipper Habaya, winner of the Grade III Miesque Stakes in her third start Friday, is already being pointed for a return trip here.
Neal McLaughlin, assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin who saddled the 2-year-old Shadwell Farm filly for his brother, said the filly is being targeted to the Grade I American Oaks here next summer.
Habaya, who began her career with a victory at Belmont and a second-place finish in a stake at Keeneland, is scheduled to be flown to Florida for the winter. McLaughlin said he thought the daughter of Storm Cat out of Golden Apples would mature to be more effective at 1 ¼ miles than one mile.
Miesque starters have run well in the Oaks before. Ticker Tape, 2003 Miesque runner-up, returned to win the 2004 Oaks. Valbenny, 2006 Miesque winner, finished second in the 2007 Oaks.
SUTHERLAND BUYS DINNER
Chantal Sutherland, who scored her first Hollywood Park stakes victory aboard Mr. Rod in the Grade III Generous Stakes on Saturday, celebrated with generosity Saturday night.
“Chantal said she had to buy dinner,” said agent Tommy Ball Sunday of an evening meal with boyfriend Mike Smith at the Chop House in Pasadena. “I don’t mind her paying. Every time we win a race like that, we’ll be glad to pay.” Smith rallied to finish second in the Generous aboard favored Bittel Road.
Canadian native Sutherland said she will ride at Woodbine next Sunday aboard Storm the Castle in the Valedictory Stakes, closing-day feature at the Toronto track. Sutherland has ridden at Woodbine during the summer and rode at Santa Anita last winter for the first time. She returned to California in October. Her first Hollywood Park came late in the 2007 Autumn Meet.
FINISH LINES — John O’Donoghue, assistant to trainer Neil Drysdale, said Marsh Side was scratched from the Japan Cup this morning because of a fever…O’Donoghue said that Green Lyons is being pointed to the Dahlia Handicap Dec. 21 following a seven-furlong turf work in company with Obrigado and Artiste Royal, the latter readying for the Hong Kong Cup Dec. 14...Joel Rosario will travel to Puerto Rico next Sunday to ride in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe, according to agent Vic Stauffer…Laragh, who defeated Habaya in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland before finishing third as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, is under consideration for the $250,000 Hollywood Starlet Dec. 13...Trainer Mike Machowsky said Kelly Leak, a promising 2-year-old, is nearing a return to the races. “He just worked three-quarters in 1:12,” said Machowsky. “He ran flat in the Del Mar Futurity and we turned him out 30 days. Victor (Espinoza) said he displaced his soft palate and came back with a gurgling sound.” In his previous race, he finished first in the Best Pal Stakes but was disqualified for interference.