Dangerous Alphabet Kisses, coming into the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) off a sparkling front-running victory in Hollywood Park's 7-furlong A Gleam Handicap (gr. II), has a definite pace edge again over her eight foes Sunday.
The stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles from the long sprint probably will not be a problem for Alphabet Kisses either, because her record shows two victories in four tries at that distance.
But the distance also favors her major contenders – Valentine Dancer, Hollywood Story, and Star Parade.
The field is full of closers, which could pose a late-stage battle for the 4-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup
owned by Harris Farms and trained by Martin Jones. The 120-pound high weight gets a new rider, David Flores, instead of Gary Stevens, who is riding at Saratoga.
Chief among the competition is Valentine Dancer, a million-dollar earner who gets three pounds from the likely favorite. While most of her victories have come in turf races, trainer Craig Lewis believes Valentine Dancer is just as good on the dirt, and hopes the Hirsch will prove the point. She has two wins, three seconds and a third in six outings on the year and has missed an in-the-money finish only six times in 24 lifetime starts.
Grade I winner Hollywood Story, weighted at 119, and Star Parade, 114, are perennial contenders in graded events. Hollywood Story, owned by George Krikorian and trained by John Shirreffs, won the Hawthorne Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park in May and also has a second and a third in four starts this year.
Star Parade, fourth in last year's Hirsch, has slumped since her second-place finish to Dream of Summer in Oaklawn Park's 2005 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I). She has turned in three sub-par efforts since, but trainer Darrell Vienna has expressed enthusiasm for the way she has trained lately, topped off by a bullet 5-furlong work Wednesday in :58 3/5.$300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Star Parade, 114, Garrett Gomez
2. Girl Warrior, 115, Patrick Valenzuela
3. Santa Candida, 113, Omar Berrio
4. Alphabet Kisses, 120, David Flores
5. Valentine Dancer, 117, Jon Court
6. Tucked Away, 113, Alex Solis
7. Muir Beach, 112, Tyler Baze
8. Hollywood Story, 119, Victor Espinoza