Dhaamer meets the top class turf mare Marketing Mix as he attempts to defend his title in the $100,000 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) July 14, closing day of the final spring/summer meet at Betfair Hollywood Park.
A victory in the 1 1/2-mile Sunset would make Dhaamer the first horse to win the traditional closing-day feature twice since it was shifted to the turf in 1967. The 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding won last year's renewal by 3 1/4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite in a field of four.
There are six entered in this year's Sunset, the fifth of 11 races on the Sunday card and the last stakes of the 49-day meet. First post is 1 p.m. PDT, with the 72nd Sunset scheduled to go off at 3:04 p.m. This is the final spring/summer stand for the Inglewood track, which is to close for good following the conclusion of its autum meet Dec. 22.
Dhaamer is 3-for-3 over the Hollywood turf, including his sharp victory in the 12-furlong Round Table May 12 for the second straight year. A repeat of that win, accomplished in a time of 2:26.96, would make him extremely difficult to beat here.
Mike Mitchell, the second-leading trainer in Hollywood Park history with more than 900 victories, conditions the son of Dubai Destination for Edward Brown Jr. and Jay Manoogian.
Mitchell, who won the Sunset in 2004 with Star Over the Bay, would become the second trainer with back-to-back wins following Richard Mandella. The Hall of Famer took the Sunset with Sandpit in 1995 and Talloires the following year.
The only horse with multiple Sunset victories is Whodunit, who won in 1959 and 1961 when it was run at 1 5/8 miles on dirt.
Dhaamer drew the rail and will carry 121 pounds, including jockey Julien Leparoux, who rides the chestnut for the first time since they teamed to win last year's Sunset. Dhaamer began his career in Great Britain before transferring to the United States for the 2012 campaign. He owns a 6-3-1 career mark from 17 starts and earnings of $258,682.
Just to his outside, in gate 2, is multiple grade I winner Marketing Mix, who will shoulder 119 pounds. That's four fewer than the powerful 5-year-old mare carried to a head triumph over Tiz Flirtatious in a thrilling Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) May 27. That 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares was the first start of the year for the Ontario, Canada-bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro .
Tom Proctor trains Marketing Mix, who makes her first try at the Sunset distance, for Glen Hill Farm. The Gamely was the first appearance by the dark bay mare since she ran a game second to Zagora in the 10-furlong Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Marketing Mix has amassed earnings of $1,809,518 while winning nine of 17 races with five placings. She has been especially effective on turf, with eight wins and three seconds in 12 starts, including last fall's victory in the Rodeo Drive Stakes (gr. IT).
Gary Stevens, who rode her for the first time in the Gamely, has the return call. Marketing Mix will attempt to become only the third female winner of the Sunset, joining Typecast (1972) and Petite Ile (1990).
Hawk's Eyes, a two-time group I winner in his native Brazil, makes his United States debut for trainer A. C. Avila and Coudelaria Jessica, Inc. They combined to win the 2011 Sunset with Imponente Purse. Hawk's Eyes, a 4-year-old colt by Public Purse, will be ridden by Victor Espiniza.
Why Not Be Perfect, currently based at Emerald Downs, returns to California for the first time since winning an allowance/optional claimer at 44-1 Nov. 10 over the Hollywood turf. The gate-to-wire victory came less than two weeks after he had been claimed for $40,000 by J.C. Racing Stable and trainer Jeff Metz.
In his most recent race, Why Not Be Perfect was fourth in the Budweiser Handicap June 16 at Emerald Downs. Anne Sanguinetti travels south to be aboard the 6-year-old son of the son of Whywhywhy.
Extensive, third in the 2011 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) but sidelined for 21 months after that, makes his third start on the comeback trail for trainer Vladimir and and owners Holly and David Wilson.
$100,000 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 5, 3:04 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Dhaamer (IRE), J R Leparoux, 121, M R Mitchell
2. Marketing Mix (ON), G L Stevens, 119, T F Proctor
3. Only the Gold (KY), K Stra, 108, V Belvoir
4. Extensive (FL), M Garcia, 113, V Cerin
5. Hawk's Eyes (BRZ), V Espinoza, 117, A C Avila
6. Why Not Be Perfect (KY), A Sanguinetti, 115, J Metz