Looking for his first victory in nearly two years, Canadian classic winner Marlang joins a seven-horse field for the $100,000 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT), the traditional closing-day feature for the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet on the turf July 18.
The 1 1/2-mile Sunset, which was reduced from a grade II this year, is the ninth race on the final program of the meet and has a post time of 5:05 p.m. PDT. Southern California action switches to Del Mar starting July 21.
Marlang captured the 2008 Breeders Stakes, the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, at the Sunset distance in gate-to-wire fashion over the Woodbine turf course at odds of 9-1 Aug. 3, 2008. He returned to win the Saranac Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga 28 days later, also on the front end, for his last victory.
Now in the barn of Neil Drysdale, Gus Schickendanz' Ontario homebred son of Langfuhr has had just once start since Sept. 20. He finished last of five in a one-mile allowance race at Hollywood June 20, tiring after pressing the pace of multiple graded stakes winner The Usual Q. T.
“I was very happy with his last race,” said Drysdale, noting that the 5-year-old got a lot out of the effort. He was defeated by 3 1/2 lengths by The Usual Q. T.
Marlang has had a couple of works since, including a six-furlong drill in a bullet 1:14 on the Hollywood Park turf July 11, signaling his readiness against a very evenly-matched field. Just two pounds separate the seven entrants, with Marlang among a group of four top-weighted at 115 pounds.
Deborah England formerly trained the bay horse.
Drysdale has won the Sunset just once in his Hall of Fame career, that coming with Always First for Sheikh Maktoum in 2005.
Marlang, looking to end a six-race losing string, will be ridden by Joel Rosario from the far outside post position. Rosario, with four programs left in the Hollywood season, was deadlocked with Rafael Bejarano for the meet riding title at 70 wins apiece.
Bejarano will be aboard Dynamic Range, a 4-year-old Dynaformer gelding that Mike Mitchell took for Indizguys Stable for $40,000 out of a second-place effort in an optional claiming race May 20. Mitchell claimed On the Acorn for the same price for Indizguys a couple of years ago and they went on to capture the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) in 2007 and 2008 as well as the 2007 San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT). Mitchell won the Sunset with Star Over the Bay, an $80,000 claimer, in 2004.
A winner at the Sunset distance last fall at Santa Anita, Dynamic Range will be seeking his second lifetime victory on the Hollywood turf, where he has not been out of the money in four prior starts. A three-time winner in 14 races, this will be Dynamic Range's first start for his new connections. He was claimed from Julio Canani and Mercedes Stables.
Trainer Ron McAnally seeks his fourth win in the Sunset with Buenos Dias, one of two Sunset starters who comes into the race off a victory. The Hall of Fame conditioner won his first Sunset with Cruiser II in 1975. McAnally’s other Sunset wins came with John Henry (1984) and Plicck (1999).
Owned by Charles Cella, Buenos Dias is a 5-year-old Irish-bred son of Peintre Celebre that registered his first victory in the United States when he used a rail trip to clear off for a 2 1/4-length triumph over an optional claiming field going 12 furlongs June 10 at Hollywood. Before that, Buenos Dias had lost eight straight races in the U.S. since transferring to Southern California from France in the spring of 2009. He has two wins at the Sunset distance.
Also coming into the Sunset off a win is Champ Pegasus, who is on a two-race roll for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. Diamond A Racing and Arturo Vargas' 4-year-old homebred son of Fusaichi Pegasus is making his stakes debut.
Nearly two months after defeating maidens at Santa Anita in his third start on grass, Champ Pegasus won an optional claimer at 10 furlongs at the 2-1 favorite June 12 at Hollywood.
Joe Talamo, who won the Sunset with the speedy Black Astor a year ago, retains the mount. Mandella won the Sunset two years in a row with Sandpit (1995) and Talloires (1996).
Unusual Suspect has three victories on the Hollywood turf and easily tops the field in both wins (eight) and earnings ($805,850). But the 6-year-old Unusual Heat horse has just one win in 16 starts since the beginning of 2009 for trainer and co-owner Barry Abrams. He is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT).
Oil Man and Great Siege, both trying 12 furlongs for the first time, complete the field.
$100,000 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:05 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Great Siege (IRE), T Baze, 114, D E Hofmans
2. Oil Man (IRE), M Garcia, 115, J W Sadler
3. Dynamic Range (KY), R Bejarano, 115, M R Mitchell
4. Champ Pegasus (KY), J Talamo, 113, R E Mandella
5. Buenos Dias (IRE), B Blanc, 115, R L McAnally
6. Unusual Suspect (CA), C S Nakatani, 114, B Abrams
7. Marlang (ON), J Rosario, 115, N D Drysdale