Ken McPeek and Bob Baffert have a pair of showdowns to look forward to this weekend at Hollywood Park. Not only will the trainers saddle the favorites for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) on Dec. 19, but they will return the following day with legitimate threats in the $405,200 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies.
Beautician could go to post as the favorite for McPeek in the 1 1/16-mile Starlet after finishing runner-up by less than a length in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) last month. Miss Heather Lee, from the barn of Baffert, has won two of her last three starts and was second in the Moccasin Stakes Nov. 22 on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track. Bickersons rebounded nicely from a 10th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to win the Moccasin, and is also part of the Starlet, which drew a strong field of seven .
In the highly-anticipated CashCall Futurity, Baffert will send out favorite Lookin at Lucky—the leading 2-year-old in the nation—while McPeek will have Noble's Promise, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. Lookin at Lucky and Noble’s Promise finished second and third, respectively, in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. The Futurity outcome will help decide champion 2-year-old honors and could vault one to the top of the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) list heading into next year.
McPeek, based in Kentucky, has a significant stable set up in California for the first time in his career. Of course, Baffert has reigned on the West Coast for many years.
“It’s a compliment to just be compared with Bob,” said McPeek. “I have a staff of 14 (in California) now, which is the most I’ve had, and it’s very exciting to be able to compete in the stakes programs out there. That’s what we’re there for.
“The timing was right for both horses (Noble’s Promise and Beautician) in the Breeders’ Cup and we decided to leave them out there for the stakes program at Hollywood. They both deserve another shot at grade I races.”
Beautician, a maiden winner at Churchill Downs in her first start, finished runner-up in both the Schuylerville (gr. III) and Spinaway (gr. I) at Saratoga this summer, and was fifth in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) before heading out West. In the BC Juvenile Fillies, she was beaten only three parts of a length by She Be Wild despite major shoe troubles.
“She lost a shoe at some point in the race, I’m not sure when,” McPeek said. “When you pull a shoe in the hind leg it’s pretty significant. Hopefully she’ll have a little more luck this time.”
Owned by Peter Callahan, Beautician is by Dehere, out of the Rubiano mare Caroni. She was bred in Kentucky by David and Diane Shashura. Garrett Gomez will have the mount.
Also coming back from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies is beaten favorite, Blind Luck, co-owned and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. A daughter of Pollard's Vision, Blind Luck was third, only a head back of Beautician after also enduring a troubled trip. The chestnut filly won the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita by 2 1/2 lengths Oct. 4. Rafael Bejarano will be in the irons for the first time, replacing Tyler Baze.
Paul Pompa Jr.'s Rose Catherine was runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in her last start. The Todd Pletcher trainee broke her maiden by nearly nine lengths on the Belmont Park grass in October.
Arnold Zetcher’s Miss Heather Lee, a daughter of Trippi, will stretch out past a mile for the first time under Victor Espinoza. She won an optional claimer at Santa Anita Oct. 8 before missing by 2 1/2 lengths in the Moccasin.
$405,200 Starlet Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 2YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Cushion Track) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Miss Heather Lee (CA), V Espinoza, 120, B Baffert
2. It Tiz (KY), J Rosario, 120, M Glatt
3. Blind Luck (KY) , R Bejarano, 120, J Hollendorfer
4. Amen Hallelujah (FL) , A O Solis, 120, R E Dutrow, Jr.
5. Bickersons (ON), J Talamo 120, K J Breen
6. Rose Catherine (KY), J Castellano, 120, T A Pletcher
7. Beautician (KY), G K Gomez, 120, K G McPeek