Distance ability is the key as Star Billing, runner-up in last month's Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT), leads the field in the $250,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) over the Hollywood Park turf July 16.
None of the six sophomore fillies entered in the Oaks, the sixth race on the Hollywood program with a 3:36 p.m. PDT probable post, have been the 1 1/4-mile distance before. Five locally-based runners will have one out-of-state invader to face, Kentucky shipper Bizzy Caroline, who comes off an impressive victory in the 1 1/8-mile Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
Trainer John Shirreffs, who won last year's American Oaks with Harmonious, saddles George Krikorian's Star Billing as well as Nereid, making her stakes debut for owner E.N. Kronfeld.
Star Billing suffered the first loss in her three-race career June 11 when she was unable to collar front-running Sarah's Secret as the 19-10 favorite in the Honeymoon. The daughter of Dynaformer pressed the pacesetter throughout but was beaten by a half-length.
Prior to that, Star Billing won the one-mile Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT), also on the Hollywood turf, by nearly three lengths in an 8-1 upset May 7. The bay filly began her career with a maiden debut win by 2 1/2 lengths on the hillside grass course at Santa Anita at about 6 1/2 furlongs.
She drew post 5 for the American Oaks and will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario.
Shirreffs is also represented by the quickly-developing Nereid, who comes off a first-level allowance win at one mile by 1 1/2 lengths on the Hollywood turf June 2. She broke her maiden in her previous start by a nose, also on the Hollywood lawn. Joe Talamo has a return engagement on the daughter of Rock Hard Ten.
Cambina was a hard-charging third in the nine-furlong Honeymoon, finishing a head behind behind Star Billing for trainer Jeff Bonde.
Owned by a partnership, the diminutive Irish-bred daughter of Hawk Wing was also third in the Senorita following three consecutive stakes wins at Santa Anita on the turf. She captured the hillside La Habra (gr. IIIT) Feb. 21, the one-mile China Doll March 13, and the nine-furlong Providencia (gr. IIT) April 9 in succession.
Catesby W. Clay's homebred Bizzy Caroline is on a three-race win streak (by a combined 11 3/4 lengths) for trainer Ken McPeek. She makes her first appearance in Southern California. The Afleet Alex miss dominated the stretch run of the Regret June 18 after switching out for the drive. Rafael Bejarano gets the call.
Entrustment ran fourth in the Honeymoon for trainer Patrick Gallagher though she was beaten by only one length. The Forestry filly finished second in the Senorita prior to that at odds of 42-1.
Completing the field is Love Theway Youare, who tries the turf for the first time for owner/trainer Myung Kwon Cho. The Arch filly returns quickly after a third-place effort in the four-horse Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) June 25 on Hollywood's Cushion Track.
The Oaks, on the penultimate day of the 2011 spring/summer meet at Hollywood, shares the spotlight with the seven-furlong A Gleam Handicap (gr. II), which is the ninth race. Also on the card is the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs. It is race four.
$250,000 American Oaks (gr. IT, Race 6, 3:36 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Entrustment (KY), A Quinonez, P Gallagher
2. Love Theway Youare (KY), V Espinoza, M K Cho
3. Nereid (KY), J Talamo, J A Shirreffs
4. Cambina (IRE), M Garcia, J Bonde
5. Star Billing (KY), J Rosario, J A Shirreffs
6. Bizzy Caroline (KY), R Bejarano, K G McPeek
All carry 121 pounds.