Grade I winner Greg's Gold seeks his fourth victory of the season, but the 6-year-old gelding will have to carry top weight and deal with red-hot Unusual Suspect, a winner in three of his last four starts, in the $100,000 On Trust Handicap Dec. 22 at Hollywood Park.
The On Trust, a 7 1/2-furlong event on the Cushion Track, is restricted to California-breds. Seven horses were entered.
Greg’s Gold, a homebred owned by Bill Boswell, has not won since taking the Aug. 19 Pat O’Brien Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, but has legitimate excuses for his last three starts, two of them near scores.
The son of Lake George was second, just three-quarters of a length back, in the Oct. 7 Ancient Title (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, and had traffic problems in the stretch that helped Idiot Proof secure the win. In the Oct. 27 TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), Greg’s Gold was bothered by the extremely sloppy conditions at Monmouth Park and was never a factor.
In his last start, Greg’s Gold was only a length back in third in Hollywood’s Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III), but had another tough trip and was forced wide in the stretch.
Trained by David Hoffmans, Greg’s Gold should like the On Trust distance. On April 29, he won the 7 1/2-furlong Tiznow Stakes at Hollywood Park by a half-length. Breaking from post three, he will carry 124 pounds and get regular rider Victor Espinoza.
Greg’s Gold, out of the Fit to Fight mare Lake Windermere, has earned $850,123 despite missing 17 months with a bowed tendon, an injury that cost him all of 2006. He is expected to be the heavy favorite.
David Abrams homebred Unusual Suspect could present a tough challenge from off the pace. The 3-year-old Unusual Heat colt has five wins this season, all on the turf. Three of the scores have been in stakes competition, including his most recent outing, a nose victory in the six-furlong Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT), in which he came from five lengths back at the top of the stretch to corral the leader.
Unusual Suspect is trained and co-owned by Barry Abrams. His only two starts off the grass came on the Hollywood Cushion Track in 2006, both losses. Matt Garcia will ride for the first time.
Also worth consideration is the Don Warren-trained Big Bad Leroybrown, another closer who has been running well of late. The 3-year-old colt by Wild Again has won three of 11 starts in his first season of racing. One of the wins came in the seven-furlong Real Good Deal Stakes on Aug. 10 at Del Mar. He also won an allowance event at Santa Anita in October, and most recently was third in the Sausalito Stakes on Nov. 23 at Golden Gate Fields.
Big Bad Leroybrown posted a five-furlong work of :58.20 at Hollywood Dec. 16, second best out of 92 horses that day.
In a race without much early speed, the pace could be set by Zoning In, a 3-year-old gelding by Bertrando. He led all the way in the June 29 Captain Squire Handicap at Hollywood.
$100,000 On Trust Handicap (Race 4, 2 p.m. PDT), Three-Years-Old & Up, 7 1/2 furlongs (Cushion Track)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. El Don, 117, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Unusual Suspect, 118, Matt S. Garcia
3. Greg's Gold, 124, Victor Espinoza
4. Big Bad Leroybrown, 115, Tyler Baze
5. Zoning In, 114, David Romero Flores
6. Dawn's Early Sky (CA), 112, Alonso Quinonez
7. Add Heat, 114, Joseph Talamo