Carlsbad, whose unbeaten string was ended at five races when she ran second to Witty in last month's Railbird (gr. III), faces a strong field in the $150,000 Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) June 7.
Eight 3-year-old fillies are entered in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks, which will be contested on Hollywood's Cushion Track. The undefeated Witty overpowered Carlsbad in the stretch of the seven-furlong Railbird May 10, but the half-sister to Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Well Armed missed training time because of a recent illness and was held out of the Oaks by trainer Richard Mandella.
Most figure to gravitate toward the Arizona-bred dynamo Carlsbad, a grade III winner who amassed quite a record in her five starts prior to the Railbird, winning them by a combined margin of 54 lengths. Owned by Dennis Weir, the speedy daughter of Rocky Bar is in the barn of Jeff Mullins, who recently returned to duty after serving a suspension and taking some time off.
Mullins said Carlsbad had a minor foot issue before the Railbird that caused her to miss a work, but is ready to go this time around.
Carlsbad won her first Southern California start, the Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita, by 3 1/4 lengths. She began her career by terrorizing her rivals at Turf Paradise last fall, where she was trained by Kevin Lewis.
Tyler Baze retains the mount on Carlsbad, who will be attempting her longest distance in the Oaks. Two turns didn't hurt her much in her only prior effort. She captured the one-mile Arizona Oaks in February by more than 13 lengths. Carlsbad figures to vie on the lead with a few others here and will tote only 115 pounds.
She has some pretty tough company this time, including grade II winner Evita Argentina, Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) runner-up Third Dawn, and Melair Stakes winner Pretty Unusual, who carries top weight of 119.
Evita Argentina defeated colts and geldings in the seven-furlong San Vicente (gr. II) at Santa Anita in February, but returned seven weeks later with a dull effort in Keeneland's Beaumont Stakes (gr. II). The Candy Ride filly finished fourth as the 7-10 favorite in the seven-furlong Beaumont April 8, failing to mount much of a charge in the stretch after a clean inside trip.
Trained by John Sadler for Halo Farms and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds, Joel Rosario takes over on Evita Argentina, who has won four of eight starts and a field-best $332,400.
“It’s time to try a mile and a sixteenth again,” said Sadler of his three-time stakes winner. “The only time around two turns was in the Breeders’ Cup (when she finished ninth last fall).”
Sadler also trains Third Dawn, who lost a thriller to Stardom Bound in the March 7 Santa Anita Oaks when she was beaten by a nose. The Sky Mesa miss was bumped at the sixteenth pole when rallying as a 35-1 outsider and still almost came away with the win.
Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Third Dawn went on to Keeneland a month later to run in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I), but she never had a chance after being unprepared at the start. She's reunited with Rafael Bejarano here.
“She didn’t like the track at Keeneland,” said Sadler. “I was going to run her in the Railbird, but she had a stomach issue.”
Pretty Unusual made her stakes debut a winning one when she rallied four wide into the lane from well behind to score in the 1 1/16-mile Melair for state breds over the Hollywood main track April 25. The daughter of Unusual Heat is trained by Barry Abrams, who won the Hollywood Oaks last year with Lethal Heat.
Trainer Bob Baffert, a two-time Hollywood Oaks winner, is represented by Diamond Tags, a four-length maiden winner over one mile at Santa Anita in April. The Seeking the Gold filly ran fifth in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs May 1 in her first start on turf.
Zayat Stables' Kays and Jays comes off a 9 1/2-length tally in the Richland Stakes at Lone Star Park April 25. She is two-for-two this year for trainer Mike Mitchell.
The Julio Canani-trained Lady Lumberjack is fresh from a three-length score in an optional claiming allowance race May 14, her second win in three starts. Garrett Gomez rides.
Will O Way was nipped by a head for the runner-up spot by Carlsbad in the Railbird. She won the 1 1/16-mile California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields this winter.
$150,000 Hollywood Oaks (gr. II, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Diamond Tags (KY), M E Smith, 113, B Baffert
2. Lady Lumberjack (KY), G K Gomez, 113, J C Canani
3. Carlsbad (AZ), T Baze, 115, J Mullins
4. Pretty Unusual (CA), A O Solis, 119, B Abrams
5. Will O Way (KY), V Espinoza, 117, V Cerin
6. Evita Argentina (KY), J Rosario, 113, J W Sadler
7. Third Dawn (KY), R Bejarano, 113, J W Sadler
8. Kays and Jays (KY), M C Baze, 113, M R Mitchell