Nonios upsetting Liaison in the Affirmed Handicap.

Nonios upsetting Liaison in the Affirmed Handicap.

Benoit Photography

Nonios Battles Liaison Again in Swaps Stakes

Upset winner of Affirmed Handicap last month faces grade I winner in 3-year-old tilt.

After upsetting Liaison  in the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) at 15-1 odds one month ago, Nonios will face his rival once again in the $150,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. II), the Independence Day feature at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Seven 3-year-olds are set for the 1 1/8-mile Swaps with Liaison, a fast-closing second in the Affirmed at even money for trainer Bob Baffert, likely to be favored again. The Swaps is the seventh of eight races on the July 4 program with a 4:05 p.m. PDT probable post.

Arnold Zetcher's Liaison won the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) over Hollywood's Cushion Track in December. His second in the Affirmed was the best showing in five starts this year for the sixth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The son of Indian Charlie will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

Nonios, one of two in the race from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, was a game winner in the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed. The Pleasantly Perfect colt got the lead in deep stretch after pulling jockey Martin Pedroza early, and dug in to hold Liaison safe approaching the wire. Nonios has won three of four starts after beginning his career at Golden Gate Fields.

Nonios got a six-pound weight break from Liaison in the Affirmed but has just a two-pound spread in the Swaps.

Hollendorfer, whose Skipshot  upset Sidney's Candy in the 2010 Swaps, also entered the California-bred Rousing Sermon. The Lucky Pulpit colt makes his first start since finishing eighth in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. Rousing Sermon was second in the CashCall Futurity and has earnings of $404,000.

Baffert also entered a second horse, Blueskiesnrainbows , as the Hall of Fame conditioner chases his record fifth Swaps win. Baffert’s four victories, the latest with Misremembered  in 2009, leaves him tied for the most in the race with fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

Owned by Bad Boy Racing and Whizway Farms, Blueskiesnrainbows is a son of English Channel . He has yet to win a graded event in seven starts, but did finish a close third at 42-1 after setting the pace in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 7. Blueskiesnrainbows was beaten a half-length by winner I'll Have Another , who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (gr. I).

Called to Serve will be making his initial start in a stakes after consecutive wins for owners Mr. and Mrs. Marc Ferrell and trainer Peter Eurton. A gelded son of Afleet Alex , Called to Serve defeated maidens by 3 1/4 lengths April 14 at Santa Anita before defeating older rivals by a half-length at the Swaps distance in his Cushion Track debut May 28.

Empire Way returns to Cushion Track after consecutive off-the-board finishes on turf for owner Heinz Steinmann and trainer Mike Harrington. The Empire Maker colt out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, a full brother to 2011 3-year-old filly champion Royal Delta, has lost six in a row since winning his 6 1/2-furlong debut last Nov. 13.

All Squared Away, the 70-1 winner of the Lexington Stakes (gr. III) on Polytrack April 21 at Keeneland, will make his first start in California since March.

$150,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. II, Race 7, 4:06 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight Trainer
1. Rousing Sermon (CA), M E Smith, 118, J Hollendorfer
2. Blueskiesnrainbows (VA), J Talamo, 112, B Baffert
3. Empire Way (KY), M Garcia, 112, M Harrington
4. All Squared Away (KY), D R Flores, 120, P Miller
5. Liaison (KY),  R Bejarano, 120, B Baffert
6. Nonios (KY), M A Pedroza, 118, J Hollendorfer
7. Called to Serve (KY), G K Gomez, 114, P Eurton
Blinkers On: Blueskiesnrainbows