Ball Four, described as a sparring partner for many of his stablemates by trainer Patrick Biancone, will try to deliver a knockout punch of his own in Sunday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park.
"He's a workhorse and trains everybody," Biancone said of the 5-year-old gelding, who has won five of 17 starts for earnings of $463,920.
Ball Four, owned by Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, won the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park in September and finished second most recently in the Fayette (gr. III) at Keeneland.
"He's a lovely horse, not a champion, but a solid grade III horse," Biancone said. "He likes the Cushion Track here."
Ball Four, to be ridden by Julien Leparoux, drew the three-post in the 1 1/8-mile Native Diver, which attracted a field of eight.
Flamethrowintexan, a winner of 15 of 25 starts for earnings of $800,817, began his career in Southern California and was claimed three times before landing in the barn of Pacific Northwest-based trainer Jim Penney.
He won the 2004 British Columbia Derby (Can-III) at Hastings Park in Vancouver, then finished third behind Pollards Vision in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) at Lone Star Park. He has two grade III wins this year, the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs and the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap, while making his last start on turf.
Southern Africa, owned by Al and Sandee Kirkwood and trained by Mike Puhich, won the 2005 Lone Star Derby. He captured the Ralph M. Hinds Invitational in September at Fairplex Park and enters the Native Diver with five wins in 20 starts for earnings of $713,188.
Spellbinder, a 5-year-old trained by Richard Mandella, finished third in the 2005 running of the Native Diver, one length back of Trotamondo. He counts the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) among his two victories in eight 2006 starts and is six-for-24 lifetime with earnings of $471,057.
Boboman steps up in class after two allowance victories, while Don Incauto finished third behind Flamethrowintexan in the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap. Molengao shifts to the main track and starts for the first time since finishing second in Hollywood's Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) in mid-July.
$100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Boboman (KY), 113, Alex Solis
2. Don Incauto (ARG), 114, Martin Pedroza
3. Ball Four (KY), 119, Julien Leparoux
4. Molengao (BRZ), 115, Victor Espinoza
5. Flamethrowintexan (FL), 118, Ricky Frazier
6. Saint Stephen (KY), 114, Garrett Gomez
7. Spellbinder (KY), 118, Corey Nakatani
8. Southern Africa (KY), 114, Jon Court