Sierra Sunset is scheduled to make his first start since winning the 2008 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) when he faces 10 rivals in the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park June 6.
Trainer Jeff Bonde had entered the California-bred son of Bertrando in the May 25 Berkeley Stakes (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields but decided his 4-year-old colt needed a little more foundation. Sierra Sunset worked six furlongs at Golden Gate two days after the Berkeley in a handy 1:12 3/5.
Sierra Sunset won Oaklawn's Rebel by three lengths in the spring of 2008 and was a firm contender on the Triple Crown trail. But a small hairline fracture in Sierra Sunset's left front ankle discovered after the Rebel sent him to the sidelines. Bonde and owners George Schmitt, Philip Lebherz and Al Mariani had expected a return last fall for the bay, but the healing process took longer than anticipated.
A four-time winner with earnings of $428,696 in 11 starts, Sierra Sunset, will be facing older horses for the first time in the 7 1/2-furlong Ack Ack, which will be contested on Hollywood's Cushion Track. Martin Garcia climbs aboard for the first time and they will break from post 9 with 119 pounds.
Noble Court, breaking from the rail, and Liberian Freighter, starting from post 10, are high-weighted at 120 pounds apiece.
Joy Ride Racing's Noble Court, from the John Sadler barn, has not been out since a 1 1/2-length score in the Joe Hernandez on the Santa Anita hillside turf course March 21. The 5-year-old son of Doneraile Court has performed well on Hollywood's main track, with a win, a second and a third in three starts. The grade II winner finished third in last fall's Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III) over the track last fall. Joel Rosario, who was aboard last time, retains the mount.
Liberian Freighter, trained by Neil Drysdale, comes off back-to-back stakes wins over state breds. The Bertrando gelding won the Tiznow April 25 at the tricky 7 1/2-furlong distance and figures to be on the pace with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.
Paul's Hope has been knocking on the door in his two most recent starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The 5-year-old Lake Austin gelding closed well to finish third, beaten by a half-length, in Santa Anita's Potrero Grande Handicap (gr. II) two months ago. He returned May 16 to be a rallying second, three-quarters of a length behind the front-running Red Arrow, in the Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood.
Hollendorfer also entered Mutak Gold, coming off a third-place showing in the Golden Gate Sprint March 21.
$100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 3:44 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 1/2 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Noble Court (KY), J Rosario, 120, J W Sadler
2. Luhuk's Dancer (BC), V Espinoza, 110, D F O'Neill
3. Mutak Gold (KY), A T Gryder, 115, J Hollendorfer
4. Davos (KY), T Baze, 113, D F O'Neill
5. Prussian (KY), M E Smith, 115, M R Mitchell
6. Doppio (KY), A O Solis, 115, C Gaines
7. Paul's Hope (FL), J Talamo, 115, J Hollendorfer
8. Rush With Thunder (CA), A Quinonez, 109, A C Avila
9. Sierra Sunset (CA), M Garcia, 119, J Bonde
10. Liberian Freighter (CA), R Bejarano, 120, N D Drysdale
11. Star Nicholas (CA), M C Baze, 116, P Eurton