On The Acorn, a winner of three of four races in 2007 including the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) in his last start, tries to make it back-to-back grade II victories in Saturday’s $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park.
The Murray, at 1 1/2 miles on the Lakeside Turf Course, is named in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of The Los Angeles Times. One of three graded stakes on the program, it will run as the ninth of ten races. The $100,000-added Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) is scheduled as the fourth race, while the $100,000-added Senorita Stakes (gr. III) is carded as the sixth race.
On The Acorn, claimed for $40,000 by Mike Mitchell on behalf of Indizguys Stable at Hollywood in November, has blossomed since being gelded. The 6-year-old won consecutive allowance races at Santa Anita, then finished third in the San Luis Obispo (gr. IIT) before One Off was disqualified for interference in the stretch and On The Acorn was moved up to second.
The Great Britain-bred needed no assistance from the stewards in his next start, scoring a 1 1/2-length victory over multiple grade I stakes winner Sweet Return at about 1 3/4 miles on turf in the San Juan Capistrano on April 22. The winner’s share boosted his earnings to $410,812.
On The Acorn will have sentiment on his side Saturday. His owners include a couple of Murray’s ex-colleagues in Jack Disney and Ross Newhan, as well as noted Los Angeles area sports figures Paul Salata and Buck Rodgers. Other members of the group are Disney’s twin brother Doug and Fred Krueger.
Among the opposition is Notable Guest from the barn of trainer Bobby Frankel. Notable Guest enters the Murray following a second in the San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) on March 24. Yet to win in three U.S. starts, he has four victories from 18 races overall for earnings of $309,329.
Prospect Park, also bred in Great Britain, finished third in the San Luis Rey after bobbling at the start. The Richard Mandella trained horse, who will be making his third start in the U.S., has won five of 15 races while earning $567,796.
Runaway Dancer, trained by Dan Hendricks for R L Stables, won the Jim Murray two years ago at odds of 17-1. The gray/roan gelding will be starting in the race for the fourth straight year. He finished seventh in 2004 and was third in 2006. The son of Runaway Groom has won seven of 36 starts for earnings of $677,801.
Argentine-bred Fitz Flag finished third -- beaten 1 3/4 lengths by On The Acorn in the San Juan Capistrano -- while Church Service enters the Jim Murray following a solid allowance win at 1 1/2 miles on turf at Santa Anita on April 7.
$250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:20 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Notable Guest (KY), 115, David R. Flores
2. Runaway Dancer (KY), 116, Alex O. Solis
3. Prospect Park (GB), 119, Corey S. Nakatani
4. On the Acorn (GB), 116, Victor Espinoza
5. Church Service (KY), 112, Brice Blanc
6. Fitz Flag (ARG), 114, G. F. Almeida