Australian-bred Scenic Blast, who despite seeking his first win in North America, will carry top weight of 120 pounds in a field of 10 looking to lock up a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) next month.
The $100,000 Morvich (gr. IIIT), a six-furlong contest on Hollywood Park’s turf course Oct. 11, is a designated “Win and You’re In” race for the Nov. 6 BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. The Morvich tops a nine–race Oak Tree at Hollywood Monday card, with a probable starting post time of 4 p.m. PDT.
Scenic Blast is a two-time group I winner in Australia, both of them coming in turf sprints last year when he was named the Horse of the Year in Australia. Since arriving in the California barn of John Shirreffs this season, the 6-year-old gelding is winless in three starts. In his lone try on Hollywood's turf course, Scenic Blast was fourth in the Robert K. Kerlan Memorial Handicap on June 27 at the Morvich distance. His best effort was a runner-up finish in the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 1 on the Del Mar Polytrack.
Last out, he was fifth but beaten only three lengths in the Aug. 28 Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT).
“There wasn’t much pace in the Del Mar Mile,” said Shirreffs, hoping for a more contested lead in the Morvich for his closing sprinter.
Scenic Blast, also a winner of the group I King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot in 2009, has won eight of 24 starts and earned $1,454,042 for Royal Aussie. He is by Scenic, out of the Delgado mare Daughter’s Charm. Victor Espinoza will have the mount.
Another 6-year-old gelding, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Tropic Storm, seeks his first graded stakes win in the Morvich. Tropic Storm enters off a two-race win streak, including the Sept. 4 Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar when going wire-to-wire at a mile for a 2 1/4-length score under David Flores, who will have the call again.
The son of Stormy Atlantic returned from a nearly two-year layoff on Aug. 6 to take an allowance turf sprint via disqualification. Craig Dollase trains the Florida-bred, who has won six of 15 starts in his career.
Also coming off a win is Joy Ride Racing’s Afleet Ruler, who was sixth at the top of the stretch but closed gamely under Joel Rosario to post a half-length victory in a Sept. 1 allowance sprint at Del Mar. The John Sadler trainee has not been off the board in seven starts this season (two wins), all in allowance company.
The hottest horse in the field is Connagher. A 4-year-old In Excess gelding, he has won four in a row for owners Juan Quinonez Jr. and Mary West, and trainer Ted West.
After finishing fourth in his career debut on May 28, Connagher has won twice over synthetics at Hollywood and Del Mar, and two times over the turf at Del Mar.
$100,000 Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 4 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Truest Legend (FL), J Talamo, 113, B J Koriner
2. Quietly Mine (KY), M Garcia, 113, J Carava
3. Scenic Blast (AUS), V Espinoza, 120, J A Shirreffs
4. Afleet Ruler (FL), J Rosario, 115, J W Sadler
5. Connagher (CA), R Bejarano, 113, T H West
6. Quick Enough (CA), P A Valenzuela, 114, D F O'Neill
7. Dilemma (KY), C S Nakatani, 114, T F Proctor
8. Tropic Storm (FL), D R Flores, 118, C Dollase
9. Lt. Hopeful (KY), A Quinonez, 114, J Armstrong
10. Bradium (FL), J A Velazquez, 117, M Glatt