Take the Points, winner of a pair of grade I stakes in his last two starts, will renew acquaintances with Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) winner Battle of Hastings and five other graded winners in the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) Nov. 29 at Hollywood Park.
The 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby, which drew a field of 12 for its 68th running, has attracted Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) winner The Usual Q. T.,Calder Derby (gr. IIIT) winner Sal the Barber, Saranac (gr. IIIT) winner Al Khali, La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Meteore, and Black Bear Island, a group II winner in England.
Take the Points, trained by Todd Pletcher, was shifted to the turf following a 13th-place finish in the Preakness (gr. I). He finished behind Battle of Hastings in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) and Virginia Derby, then won the Secretariat (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in August and the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park in October. He enters the Hollywood Derby with $614,590 in earnings.
Battle of Hastings, from trainer Jeff Mullins’ Hollywood Park contingent, traveled East to win the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby. He was beaten a nose by Rendezvous in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), finished fourth against older horses including 2008 Hollywood Derby champion Court Vision in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland, then finished second as the favorite in the Oak Tree Derby. The Great Britain-bred has four wins and three seconds in eight 2009 starts, earning more than $1 million for owner Mike House.
California-bred The Usual Q.T. has won four straight starts on turf since breaking his maiden in August at Del Mar. He won the Cal Cup Mile Handicap in October before posting a 10-1 upset in the nine-furlong Oak Tree Derby, beating Battle of Hastings by a head. The James Cassidy-trained gelding has won four of nine starts overall for earnings of $276,670.
Black Bear Island, an Irish-bred owned by former Hollywood Park chairman R.D. Hubbard and Dr. Ed Allred, won a group II race at York in England at 1 5/16 miles before finishing 10th in the Investec Epsom Derby (Eng-I). He finished second in the Secretariat—a head back of Take the Points—in his North American debut, then was sixth in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita in October while making his first start for trainer Julio Canani.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez will be aiming for his second consecutive Hollywood Derby win on Sal the Barber. He flew in a year ago to sweep the Matriarch (gr. IT) on Cocoa Beach and the Derby on Court Vision when both were run on closing day of the three-day Turf Festival.
Sal the Barber, trained by Christophe Clement, has won three of seven starts while only missing the money once. Second in the Hall of Fame (gr. IIT) at Saratoga in August, he set the pace before finishing fifth behind Al Khali in the Saranac, then came from slightly off the pace to win the Calder Derby (gr. IIIT) in mid-October.
Meteore, trained by Richard Mandella, won the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla Handicap at odds of 6-1 in August. He was fourth in the Del Mar Derby and fifth in the Oak Tree Derby.
Al Khali was shifted to the Bill Mott stable three starts back and finished third in the Hall of Fame before wining the Saranac. Most recently, he finished fifth on a soft course against older horses in the 1 1/2-mile Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. Mott, the trainer of Court Vision, will be aiming for his second straight Hollywood Derby victory and his third overall. He also saddled Paradise Creek to win in 1992.
Straight Story, trained by Alan Goldberg, is just three heads away from behind a multiple graded winner. He finished second in the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby behind Battle of Hastings, and second to Take the Points in the Jamaica Handicap. Each time the margin was a head. The son of Giant's Causeway has two wins and four seconds in nine starts for earnings of $379,590.
Rescue Squad is trained by Shug McGaughey, who sent Good Reward west five years ago to score a 16-1 upset victory in the Derby. Rescue Squad, a son of Dynaformer, finished second in the Berry Station Stakes on a soft course at Keeneland in his last start.
The closing day of the Turf Festival, which will feature an appearance by Zenyatta following the seventh race, also includes the $100,000 Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 2-year-old fillies. The Miesque will run as the fifth race and the Derby as the ninth on the 10-race program. First post time is at 12:30 p.m. PST.
$300,000 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Black Bear Island (IRE), J Talamo, 122, J C Canani
2. The Usual Q. T. (CA), V Espinoza, 122, J M Cassidy
3. Straight Story (NY), M E Smith, 122, A E Goldberg
4. Rescue Squad (KY), E Castro, 122, C R McGaughey III
5. Blazing Spirit (KY), A O Solis, 122, R Troeger
6. Al Khali (KY), K J Desormeaux, 122, W I Mott
7. Take the Points (KY), E S Prado, 122, T A Pletcher
8. Acclamation (CA), D R Flores, 122, D Warren
9. Sal the Barber (KY), R A Dominguez, 122, C Clement
10. Battle of Hastings (GB), G K Gomez, 122, J Mullins
11. Meteore (KY), R Bejarano, 122, R E Mandella
12. Sir Al (IRE), J Rosario, 122, W E Morey