Marketing Mix takes on males in Sunset

A more interesting edition of the Sunset Handicap is coming July 14.

The Grade 3, $100,000 Sunset Handicap might not be what it once was during its glory days, but Sunday's closing-day feature, the last-ever running at Hollywood Park, has more glamour than usual in recent years. The 1 1/2-mile turf test serves up a fascinating showdown between the top-class mare Marketing Mix and defending champion Dhaamer.

Marketing Mix has never faced or males, or attempted this distance, but boasts a pair of Grade 1 wins as well as more than $1.8 million in career earnings. Trained by Tom Proctor, the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro has shaped as the type to cope with added distance. The Glen Hill Farm mare has won two of three at 1 1/4 miles, including the Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita last September, and in her only loss at that trip, she was outkicked by a rival with a sharper turn of foot -- Zagora --in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Reappearing in the May 27 Gamely at Hollywood, Marketing Mix ground out a narrow victory going nine furlongs, again giving the impression that she could prosper over 12 furlongs. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, who gave her a well-timed ride in the Gamely, will be back aboard.

Marketing Mix aims to become only the third distaffer ever to win the Sunset, following champion Typecast in 1972 and Petite Ile in 1990.

But Dhaamer, a perfect three-for-three in dominating style over this course and distance, is in line to make history as well. Should the Irish-bred extend his local supremacy, he would become the only back-to-back winner of the Sunset. Whodunit captured two editions, but in 1959 and 1961, when it was a dirt marathon.

All three of Dhaamer's Hollywood wins have come in stakes. The Mike Mitchell charge romped by 4 1/2 lengths in the 2012 Round Table, and that local prep set him up perfectly for a 3 1/4-length decision in the Sunset. Dhaamer is taking the same path this summer. When repeating in the May 12 Round Table by a decisive 2 1/4 lengths, the son of Dubai Destination stopped the teletimer in 2:26 4/5, good for a gaudy 110 BRIS Speed rating.

Julien Leparoux renews his partnership with Dhaamer for the first time since last year's Sunset. The reigning winner will break from the rail beneath the top weight of 121 pounds, only two more than Marketing Mix at 119.

The other accomplished runner in the short field is Hawk's Eyes, a two-time Group 1 winner in his native Brazil at a mile. Last seen finishing fifth in a Group 3 at home on March 3, he will be making his U.S., and 1 1/2-mile, debut here for A.C. Avila. His new trainer won the 2011 Sunset with Brazilian-bred Imponente Purse, who like Hawk's Eyes is by Public Purse.

Extensive used to have the same connections as Marketing Mix, until he was claimed out of a win at Del Mar in the summer of 2011. In his first outing for Vladimir Cerin, he finished a terrific third to Banned, his ill-fated former stablemate, in the Del Mar Derby. Extensive was sidelined for the rest of that season, and missed all of 2012. He has failed to hit the board in two tries on the comeback trail, and takes a big step up in class and trip in this spot.

Why Not Be Perfect prevailed in the 1 3/8-mile Wildcat Handicap, a non-black type event at Turf Paradise, before running creditably on dirt in a pair of Emerald Downs stakes. Only the Gold has struggled outside of claiming company, despite being a well-bred son of Medaglia d'Oro.