Not Much Separating Sunset Contenders

Not Much Separating Sunset Contenders
Photo: Lone Star Park
Dallas Turf Cup Handicap winner Church Service heads a group of well-matched turf marathoners in Hollywood finale.
Trainer Mike Mitchell believes he's got the horse to beat in Church Service, part of a well-matched field of eight for the $150,000 Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT), the closing day feature event of Hollywood Park's 60-day spring/summer stand.

Claimed for $50,000 by Mitchell at Santa Anita in January, Church Service recorded back-to-back- runner-up finishes in graded stakes in Southern California before venturing to Lone Star Park to capture the Dallas Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a nose in his last start May 26.

That race was at 1 1/8 miles, but Mitchell believes the 5-year-old Pulpit gelding will be better served at the Sunset's 12-furlong distance. That's a big part of the reason he took him for Dr. Dan Capen and Robert Tjosvold

“I remembered one race he won last year at a mile and a half,” said Mitchell, referring to a 4 1/4-length win on the Santa Anita lawn in April 2007. Church Service ran second in the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) and Tokyo City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at the distance across town in his first two starts for his new connections.

“He just did get there in that last race in Texas," Mitchell said. "The mile-and-an-eighth may have been too short for him. A mile and a half should be a good distance for him.”

Of course, connections for a number of the Sunset contenders believe the same thing.

Augustin Stable's improving Cedar Mountain, a winner of two of three 2008 starts for trainer Neil Drysdale, will aim for his first graded stakes victory. The 5-year-old son of Galileo began his career in England. The Irish-bred gelding finished third in his second U.S. start in April at Santa Anita, then won an allowance/optional claiming race by four lengths at the Sunset distance. Last time out, Cedar Mountain won the 1 3/4-mile Round Table Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths.

Church Service and Cedar Mountain were each assigned top weight of 117 pounds.

Boule d'Or, a 7-year-old Irish-bred front-runner, certainly seems to have a tactical edge in a pace-less field. He used a similar advantage to score a three-quarters of a length win in the San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita in March. Last time out, the Jeff Mullins trainee faded after setting the pace in Hollywood's Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT). Mullins claimed him for $50,000 in January for Bob Bone, Don Johnson and Jim Robinson.

Warning Zone, the youngster in the field at 4, won a division of the Generous Stakes over the Hollywood turf two years ago and has been competitive of late in graded company. Third in the San Luis Rey and second in the San Juan Capistrano (gr. IIT), he finished fifth while making his most recent start in the 10-furlong Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT).

"He's better the farther he goes," said Sadler, who leads the meet in victories with 27 through July 9. "A mile and a quarter might have been a little short for him."

Transduction Gold, a recent arrival along with owner/trainer John Glenney from Kentucky, won the Sycamore Handicap (gr. IIIT) at the Sunset distance in 2007 at Keeneland. He finished second in the 1 1/2-mile Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) in May and was runner-up to Cedar Mountain in the Round Table on June 14.

Chilean-bred Porfido has been knocking on the door in graded company this year for trainer Bobby Frankel and comes off a third-place finish in the Round Table as the 13-10 choice.

Storm Trooper, an 8-year-old German-bred owned by Monty Roberts, will be making his second U.S. start after finishing fourth in a one mile allowance race at Golden Gate Fields in mid-June.

Argentine-bred Fitz Flag, also 8, registered his last victory in December of 2006 at Turf Paradise. He finished second most recently in the Golden Gate Fields Turf (gr. IIIT) at 1 3/8 miles on May 31.

$150,000 Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 7, 4:20 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Boule d'Or (IRE), 115, Tyler Baze
2. Cedar Mountain (IRE), 117, Rafael Bejarano
3. Storm Trooper (GER), 112, Aaron T. Gryder
4. Warning Zone (VA), 117, Mike E. Smith
5. Fitz Flag (ARG), 114, Jon K. Court
6. Church Service (KY), 117, Brice Blanc
7. Porfido (CHI), 117, David R. Flores
8. Transduction Gold (KY), 116, Richard Migliore

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