Alphie's Bet attempts to rebound from a poor effort against older horses on the turf when he returns to the main track against eight fellow 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park June 19.
A week after Hollywood rolled out the two biggest attractions on the grounds, Rail Trip and Zenyatta, who won the Californian (gr. II) and Vanity Handicap (gr. I), respectively, 3-year-olds return to the spotlight. A day after the Affirmed, which is the main stakes prep for the July 17 Swaps Stakes (gr. II), Hollywood will host the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the turf.
Winner of the Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita and the Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood this spring, Alphie's Bet will shoulder top weight of 119 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed, which is race 8 on the program with a 4:35 p.m. PDT probable post.
Trained by Alexis Barba for owner/breeders Peter Johnson Sr. and Teresa McWilliams, Alphie's Bet failed to handle the distance in the 12-furlong Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) over Hollywood's grass course and finished last in his first try against older horses. The California-bred son of Tribal Rule fits much better here off his victories over sophomores in the Snow Chief on Hollywood's Cushion Track April 24 and the Sham earlier in the season at Santa Anita. Both triumphs in the 1 1/8-mile races were by 2 1/4 lengths.
Alphie's Bet, who enters the Affirmed as the only graded stakes winner in the field, bids for his fourth victory in nine starts. Mike Smith, who rode the bay colt to victory in the Snow Chief, regains the mount here. A lifetime winner of $261,320 Alphie's Bet will break from post 6.
An intriguing possibility in the Affirmed is Jay Em Ess Stable's Golden Itiz, who makes his first appearance in stakes company following an eye-popping 11 1/4-length win in an optional claiming allowance race at 1 1/16 miles April 28. That victory, in which he had just four opponents, was the Tiznow colt's initial route try and only his third start overall for trainer Ron Ellis. Golden Itiz also won his prior effort, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight test at Santa Anita five weeks earlier.
Tyler Baze retains the mount on the $240,000 yearling purchase. Golden Itiz, who breaks from post 2, carries 116 pounds.
Trainer John Sadler, who won the Affirmed with the filly Melair when the race was known as the Silver Screen in 1986, has a pair of entrants, Distorted Dave and the speedy Ranger Heartley. Sadler has won 12 graded stakes this year with eight different horses.
Owned by Highland Stock Farm and Stephen E. Johnson, Distorted Dave will be making his first start since finishing seventh in the Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland April 17. The son of Distorted Humor has won two of five starts and will be reunited with jockey Joel Rosario, who guided the colt to an optional claiming allowance win by 4 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita March 26. Distorted Dave breaks from post 5 in his first start at Hollywood Park.
Claimed for $32,000 by owners David and Herb Alpert out of a maiden race July 19, Ranger Heartley has won four of eight since. The frontrunner's biggest win came in the $100,000 California Derby on Jan. 16 at Golden Gate Fields. Since then, the Lost Soldier gelding has been fifth in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) and ninth in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park March 27.
Freshened since the Lane's End, Ranger Heartley has earned $127,440 while winning four of 11. He owns a first-level allowance win in his most recent start at Hollywood Park Nov. 27. Rafael Bejarano, who won the Affirmed a year ago with Grazen, has the call.
Skipshot stretches out from seven furlongs after failing to fire in his fifth-place finish in the Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III) May 22. The son of Skip Away will attempt to become trainer Jerry Hollwndorfer's fourth stakes winner of the Hollywood meet. Fifth in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) before the Barrera, Skipshot won a two-turn mile at Golden Gate against allowance company March 14. Joe Talamo will ride the $120,000 2-year-old purchase for the first time.
Gallant Gent, third behind Lookin At Lucky in last fall's Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) at Oak Tree, makes his first start of the 2010 campaign for trainer Craig Lewis. The Yankee Gentleman gelding subsequently ran seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT). A three-time winner in seven starts at 2, he has not raced since being distanced in the Delta Jackpot (gr. III) at Delta Downs Dec. 4.
$100,000 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 4:35 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Skipshot (KY), J Talamo, 115, J Hollendorfer
2. Golden Itiz (KY), T Baze, 116, R W Ellis
3. Gallant Gent (KY), V Espinoza, 114, C A Lewis
4. Mindblower (KY), A Quinonez, 112, M Puype
5. Distorted Dave (KY), J Rosario, 115, J W Sadler
6. Alphie's Bet (CA), M E Smith, 119, A Barba
7. Thomas Baines (KY), D R Flores, 114, D F O'Neill
8. Ranger Heartley (KY), R Bejarano, 116, J W Sadler
9. Summer Movie (KY), M Garcia, 114, A Sherman
Blinkers Off: Summer Movie