It all began here last year for trainer John Sadler. A perennial contender, Sadler captured the first training title of his career at the 2007 Hollywood Park Autumn Meet with 21 wins — ten more than his nearest rivals.
After finishing second to Mike Mitchell last winter at Santa Anita, Sadler has added the last three major stops on the Southern California circuit — Hollywood Park Spring/Summer, Del Mar and Oak Tree — to his fast-growing list of championships.
Sadler and assistant Larry Benavidez supervise large divisions here and at Santa Anita. Despite the cautious outlook, Sadler still figures to wield plenty of clout at this meet. He said he will take a closer look the next few days at several Breeders’ Cup participants at Santa Anita last week and outlined stakes options for them and others if they are healthy.
Whatsthescript, his best Breeders’ Cup performer with a third-place finish in the Mile, could return in the $400,000, Grade I Citation Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf Nov. 28 — opening day of the three-day Turf Festival — according to Sadler. The Irish-bred 4-year-old colt returned from a six-month layoff to score an upset victory in the American Handicap here in June.
Cost of Freedom, a vet scratch from the Sprint, is penciled in for a return in the $100,000-added Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at six furlongs Nov. 22. “He’s been galloping,” said Sadler, assured of the soundness of the Ancient Title Stakes winner. Noble Court, an impressive allowance winner at Oak Tree, is also under consideration for the race.
Crack turf sprinter Get Funky, unplaced in the Turf Sprint, will get another chance in the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express on Nov. 29.
Evita Argentina, unplaced in the Juvenile Fillies, could join Alpha Kitten, runner-up in the Anoakia Stakes, in the $100,000-added Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs Nov. 16.
Emmy Darling, fifth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, is under consideration for the $100,000-added Miesque Stakes at one mile on grass Nov. 28.
Black Mamba, unplaced as the favorite in the Las Palmas Handicap Friday, is a possibility for the $500,000 Matriarch Nov. 30.
“Becrux, who won an allowance race Friday, could run in the Native Diver (Handicap at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 6),” added Sadler.
O’NEILL HOPES TO RETURN TO WORK SATURDAY
Doug O’Neill, a six-time training leader at Hollywood Park, has been supervising his barn by telephone from his home in Santa Monica since being stricken by chicken pox Friday.
“I feel a lot better,” said O’Neill by phone Thursday. “I’m trying to clear up that chicken-pox look and be back in the barn Saturday morning.”
O’Neill, 40, felt under the weather last week while trying to prepare five horses for the Breeders’ Cup, including Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie. He checked into the emergency room at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica Friday night.
“They recognized what it was right away, put me in a quarantine room for four hours and sent me home with anti-itch medication to let it run its course,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill, who said he had between 40 and 50 horses stabled here and another 40 at Santa Anita, said he has rested better knowing his horses were being looked after by chief assistant Leandro Mora, brother Dennis O’Neill and Benjamin Perez.
Rafael Bejarano took a call from O’Neill to ride Escalon in the $100,000-added Real Quiet Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 8.
POLANCO SEEKS SHARP CAT UPSET WITH MAIDEN
Trainer Marcelo Polanco expressed optimism for Oro Blanco, a maiden, in the $100,000-added Sharp Cat Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track Saturday.
Oro Blanco finished third in the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes at 74-to-1 odds in her third start Sept. 27, five lengths behind winner Stardom Bound, who returned to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Oro Blanco showed her readiness for the Sharp Cat with a bullet work in :45.60 for four furlongs Wednesday at Santa Anita. “I had her in 46 and two,” said Polanco. “She’s a very smart filly and always does everything right. Her running style depends on the competition.”
A Kentucky-bred by Hold for Gold out of the Quiet American mare White Angelica, Oro Blanco drew the outside post under Martin Pedroza in a field of five. The feature will go as the third race.
Oro Blanco will face from the rail out a Bob Baffert-trained entry of Toro Bonito and Ten Churros, Pamona Ball and Magic Roberta. Toro Bonito and Magic Roberta finished fifth and eighth, respectively, behind Oro Blanco in the Oak Leaf.
Oro Blanco is a homebred owned by Jeffrey Nielsen’s Everest Stable, leading owner at the Spring/Summer Meet.
DOLLASE EXPECTS BAI AND BAI TO REBOUND
Trainer Craig Dollase said Thursday he expected improvement from Bai and Bai, who finished sixth as the 2-to-5 favorite in the California Cup Matron at Santa Anita Oct. 5, in the $65,000-added Its In The Air Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track Sunday.
“She was flat on that day and still only beaten by two lengths,” said Dollase. “She’s had two good works here, and hopefully this will get her back on track. But it’s a tough spot for $65,000.”
Dollase looked at a challenging lineup that included Model and Double Trouble. Bai and Bai, a multiple stakes-winning 5-year-old mare, has won 10 of 25 races and earned $667,618 for the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust.
FINISH LINES — There will be a matinee with a regular 12:30 p.m. first post for the first Friday card of the meet this week. That will be followed by three Friday night cards with a 7:05 p.m. post Nov. 7, 14 and 21. Matinees will resume at 12:30 for the remaining Fridays — Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 12 and 19.