Wagering on the seven-furlong Cushion Track event figures to be dominated by Elite Squadron, winner of the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) at the distance two months ago, and Street Boss, who delivered a one-length victory in his graded stakes debut, the Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III), over the surface May 10. Grade III winner Desert Code, shortening up after a couple of strong route efforts, and Tropic Storm, runner-up in the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) in his first try in graded company, also figure to draw support.
Tom Walters' Elite Squadron has been assigned co-high weight of 119 pounds for the Triple Bend. The 4-year-old Officer colt is coming off a third-place finish as the favorite in the Aristides (gr. III) at Churchill Downs May 31. Usually on the front end, Elite Squadron rated in third on the outside and faded in the stretch to be beaten by more than five lengths. Prior to his win in the Churchill Downs earlier that month, Elite Squadron ran second by a head to Rebellion in Keeneland's Commonwealth (gr. II) on Polytrack.
"We decided on this race because of the (synthetic surface) and the distance," said trainer Jim Baker. "He ran well on the Polytrack at Keeneland and we're trying to keep him at seven furlongs if possible."
Baker is optimistic Elite Squadron will flash that form in his California debut. "He's got a great demeanor about him," the trainer said.. "He's a really classy individual."
Elite Squadron has won five of 13 starts and earned $447,059. With his front-running style, he shouldn't be hampered by his rail starting position. Rafael Bejarano, who has ridden the colt once before, gets the call.
Street Boss, trained by Bruce Headley, brings a three-race winning streak into the Triple Bend and was also assigned 119 punds following his win last time out. A 7-5 favorite in the Los Angeles Handicap, Street Boss clipped heels soon after the start of the six-furlong event and trailed the nine-horse field after the opening quarter mile. He finished impressively, however, to defeat Sailors Sunset and Triple Bend foe High Standards while clocking a winning time of 1:07.55.
In his only prior try at seven furlongs, the 4-year-old Street Cry colt faded to sixth as the even-money favorite against a first-level allowance field during Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting last October. Street Boss is a winner of five of nine starts and $221,800. David Flores, who replaced Alex Solis in the Los Angeles, has the mount once again.
Desert Code finished second most recently in both the Mervyn LeRoy (gr. II) and Berkeley (gr. III) Handicaps for trainer David Hofmans and Tarabilla Farms. Desert Code ran third in the seven-furlong Laz Barrera Memorial (gr. III) over the Cushion Track against 3-year-olds more than a year ago, and the E Dubai colt likes Hollywood Park, where he has been in the money in five of six starts, including a triumph in last year's Affirmed Handicap (gr. III).
Tropic Storm, trained by Craig Dollase for West Point Thoroughbreds, just failed to last in the 7 1/2-furlong Ack Ack when finishing second to the well-regarded Rebellion June 7. The 4-year-old colt by Stormy Atlantic also has a pair of wins in his three starts on Hollywood's Cushion Track.
Global Hunter is the lone grade I starter in the field, though his last-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park May 26 was clearly a moon shot. The Argentina-bred 5-year-old by Jade Hunter ran third in his American debut, the Mervyn LeRoy, prior to that for trainer A.C. Avila.
Harris Farms' homebred High Standards steps up here after a front-running win in the King Glorious at 6 1/2 furlongs June 13. The grade III winner's solid third-place finish after dueling on the lead in the Los Angeles at odds of 30-1 makes him dangerous if he can shake free early.
Medzendeekron finished third in the Commonwealth but has been blanked in three starts since then while favored each time.
$300,000 Triple Bend Invitational Handicap (gr. I, Race 10, 4:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Elite Squadron (KY), 119, Rafael Bejarano
2. Desert Code (KY), 117, Richard Migliore
3. Tropic Storm (FL), 115, Aaron T. Gryder
4. High Standards (CA), 114, Joel Rosario
5. Street Boss (KY), 119, David Romero Flores
6. Global Hunter (ARG), 114, Mike E. Smith
7. Medzendeekron (CA), 112, Victor Espinoza