If this is to be its final renewal, the $700,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park July 5 is going out in style after drawing 16 entrants for the 1 1/4-mile turf event. The truly intriguing field of 3-year-old fillies, which was drawn on the afternoon of July 2, includes three international aspirants and four other challengers from the East Coast.
In just its eighth year, the international event has delivered an exciting race every time. But this could be the final running if Hollywood Park is demolished for a commercial and housing development that property owner Hollywood Park Land Company plans to build on the Inglewood site.
Leading contenders are Gozzip Girl, winner of Belmont Park's Sands Point (gr. IIT), Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) victress Well Monied, and New Zealand group II winner Puttanesca. Fourteen will run in the American Oaks, with two -- Daylumney and Wake Me Now -- entered as also-eligible.
Invading from Europe are Rare Ransom for Irish trainer Dermot Weld, who won the American Oaks in 2003 with Demitrova, and Apple Charlotte, a stakes winner in Great Britain conditioned by the renowned Henry Cecil. The other Eastern shippers are Afternoon Stroll, who won Keeneland's Appalachian Stakes (gr. IIIT) in April, Magical Affair, who ran fourth as the favorite in the Sands Point, and The Best Day Ever, second in Churchill Downs' Regret (gr. IIIT) in her last start.
They'll have plenty to contend with in the Southern California hopefuls, which besides Well Monied, also drew grade II winner Acting Lady and Mrs Kipling, who captured the Senorita Stakes (gr. IIT) at Hollywood in May.
Weld saw Rare Ransom draw post 5, saying, "she compares very favorably with Dimitrova. She comes off a fourth-place finish in the Irish One Thousand Guineas. Dimitrova finished third in the same race.”
Rare Ransom, an English-bred daughter of Oasis Dream, has won two of seven starts in Ireland and will be ridden by Patrick Smullen.
“I’ve been very lucky at Hollywood Park, and hope that continues,” said Weld. In addition to Dimitrova, Weld won the 2002 Matriarch (gr. IT) with Dress To Thrill and the 2006 Jim Murray Handicap (gr. IIT) with Grey Swallow.
“She’s an adaptable filly and she shipped well,” said Weld. “She’s matured well from 2 to 3, and I think the best is yet to come with this filly.”
This will be the second Oaks attempt for New Zealand trainer Wayne Hillis, whose Boulevard of Dreams finished seventh behind Ticker Tape in 2004. Puttanesca, a New Zealand-bred filly, cleared quarantine July 1 after being flown in two days earlier.
Puttanesca won the New Zealand Bloodstock Royal Stakes (NZ-II) in January at the American Oaks distance of 10 furlongs. The chestnut, the only 4-year-old in the lineup because of her Southern Hemisphere foaling, has recorded two firsts, three seconds and two thirds in 11 starts. She'll race with a four-pound penalty.
Hillis said he has targeted this race for Puttanesca since February, when Wong Kwan, a Hong Kong real estate magnate, purchased her from breeder Seaton Park .
Top Australian jockey Glen Boss is in town to ride the filly for the first time.
“This is my first time in the U.S. It’s been like a dream of mine," Boss said. “The owner asked me to ride the filly. I saw her when she won a group II in New Zealand and was aboard her this morning. If she breaks clean and gets position, this is the perfect distance for her.”
Puttanesca drew post 6. Chris McAnulty, racing manager for Kwan, said, "The filly will stay here with Julio Canani and finish her career here.”
Apple Charlotte, an English-bred victorious in three of four starts in England, worked an easy seven furlongs on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track in 1:27 4/5 after clearing quarantine.
Jane Cecil, wife of Henry Cecil, is deputizing for her husband with the Royal Applause filly. Apple Charlotte won a trial stakes at Newbury May 15 and was nosed in a stakes there a month later.
“It was a choice of Royal Ascot or here, and the owners were quite keen on coming here,” said Cecil. The owners, Lord and Lady De La Warr, will be in attendance.
Gozzip Girl, who caught a yielding track for the Sands Point victory, drew post 1 for trainer Tom Albertrani. A daughter of Dynaformer, she has won four of five turf starts and also finished second in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) on Polytrack at Keeneland, beaten by a neck.
“She’s pretty versatile,” said Dan Blacker, Albertrani's assistant. “She usually comes off the pace, but in her last race she went wire to wire because there was no speed in the race.”
Magical Affair could give jockey Julien Leparoux back-to-back American Oaks wins. Leparoux was aboard Pure Clan for trainer Bob Holthus last year when she beat Satan's Circus by three-quarters of a length.
Trained by Michael Matz, Magical Affair will attempt to avenge her 3 1/4-length defeat to Gozzip Girl in the Sands Point.
“She was very wide in her last race and looked to be stumbling a little on the soft turf,” said Matz.
Matz looked forward to a firm course and an extra furlong in the American Oaks. “She’s doing good, and the distance will suit her,” he said.
The Best Day Ever gave a good accounting in her stakes debut in the Regret, rallying from sixth in the stretch to lose by a neck to Keertana. She won back-to-back races before that, both by a nose.
“She should relish the added distance,” said trainer and co-owner Kenny McPeek.
Afternoon Stroll comes off a third-place finish in the American 1000 Guineas at Arlington May 23. She was caught late after setting a comfortable pace and lost by one length. Tim Hamm trains and co-owns Afternoon Stroll with Rick and Claudia Claypool of Paris, Ky.
“We were on the bubble and decided to come out a week ago,” said Hamm. “Hollywood made the decision easy.”
Well Monied leads the Southern California contingent after her solid late-running win in the Honeymoon May 31 for trainer Howard Zucker. The gray/roan daughter of Maria's Mon has won three races in a row and was the 7-5 favorite in the Honeymoon, her stakes debut.
Trainer Neil Drysdale said celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who owns Mrs Kipling, would probably attend. Mrs Kipling, who has not been postward since her Senorita win May 3, drew the far outside post.
Winner of the Providencia Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita in April, Acting Lady bounced back from a fourth-place finish in the Senorita to run second in the Honeymoon. The Theatrical filly is trained by Doug O'Neill.
Lexlenos, the show horse in the Honeymoon, and Third Dawn, third in the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) on Hollywood's Cushion Track June 7, are also in the field. Third Dawn, second in her only turf try, worked seven furlongs on the lawn in 1:25 4/5 for trainer John Sadler June 28.
Nan and Pretty Unusual were extended invitations by racing secretary Martin Panza after the defection of two original invitees.
$700,000 American Oaks Invitational (gr. IT, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.) PDT, 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Gozzip Girl (KY), K J Desormeaux, 121, T Albertrani, 7/2
2. Magical Affair (KY), J R Leparoux, 121, M R Matz, 6/1
3. Third Dawn (KY), G K Gomez, 121, J W Sadler, 20/1
4. Apple Charlotte (GB), M E Smith, 121, H Cecil, 4/1
5. Rare Ransom (GB), P J Smullen, 121, D K Weld, 12/1
6. Puttanesca (NZ), G Boss, 125, W Hillis, 15/1
7. Acting Lady (KY), R Bejarano, 121, D F O'Neill, 12/1
8. Pretty Unusual (CA), T Baze, 121, B Abrams, 50/1
9. Nan (KY), C S Nakatani, 121, C Dollase, 20/1
10. Afternoon Stroll (KY), J Talamo, 121, T E Hamm, 30/1
11. The Best Day Ever (KY), C J Lanerie, 121, K G McPeek, 15/1
12. Lexlenos (IRE), A O Solis, 121, P Gallagher, 30/1
13. Well Monied (KY), J Rosario, 121, H L Zucker, 9/2
14. Mrs Kipling (IRE), D R Flores, 121, N D Drysdale, 6/1
15. Daylumney (IRE), V Espinoza, 121, C Gaines
16. Wake Me Now (IRE), D Sorenson, 121, G L Stevens