When Rachel Alexandra faced the boys in the Preakness (gr. I), it had not only the racing world but the national media abuzz with excitement. For exceptional 5-year-old mare Ventura, taking on the opposite gender has become just another day at the park, and the daughter of Chester House will do it again on May 25 when she tackles seven males in the $250,000-added Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park.
Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Ventura will attempt to become the first female in 58 years to win the Shoemaker. To do it, she will have to take down a solid field that includes multiple graded stakes winners Hyperbaric, Thorn Song, Whatsthescript, and Dixie Chatter.
The Shoemaker is the first grade I event of the Hollywood meet and will go as race nine on the program. Post time is set for 5 p.m. (PDT).
Ventura will be taking on the boys for the fifth time in her career, and based on her two wins and two runner-ups in her previous efforts, there is no reason to expect that she won’t be right in the mix again. Ventura broke her maiden against males in England back in 2007 and later that year won a listed stakes at Kempton going one mile on the Polytrack.
Since joining trainer Bobby Frankel in the states, Ventura has just missed against males twice – losing by 1 1/4 lengths to Rahy's Attorney in the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) last September and being nosed out by Gio Ponti in the Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) at Santa Anita March 7.
Ventura, out of the Be My Guest mare Estala, will make her second start on the Hollywood Park grass. She finished second by a nose to Diamond Diva in the CashCall Mile (gr. IIT) last July after pulling herself up with the lead just before the wire.
The consistent mare has recorded an 8-7-1 record from 18 starts for earnings of $1,659,470. She won the Just A Game Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita last year, and the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita in January. In her last start at Keeneland in April, Ventura finished second by a head in the Madison (gr. I).
Regular rider Garrett Gomez will have the mount on Ventura, who gets a five-pound weight break. Only two females have won the Shoemaker in its 65-year history: Happy Issue in 1946 and Special Touch in 1951.
Prestonwood Farm’s Hyperbaric had his four-race win streak come to a resounding stop when finishing 14th in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) March 28. Trainer Julio Canini expects a big rebound effort by the 6-year-old gelding, who won the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) over this course in November. The Citation was the last of four consecutive wins for the son of Sky Classic.
Overall, Hyperbaric has produced a stellar 7-2-2 record from 13 starts with earnings of $654,476. He has two wins and two thirds in four starts over the Hollywood lawn. One of the thirds was in last year’s Shoemaker, when missing to Daytona by 1 3/4 lengths. Victor Espinoza will ride and they will break from the inside.
Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song ships in form Kentucky on May 22 for the Shoemaker and will be trying to return to the form that netted him a pair of graded stakes wins in 2008. Winner of the Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) at Churchill last July and the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland in October, Thorn Song has been off the board in four starts since finishing ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita. Trainer Dale Romans said Thorn Song’s fifth-place effort to Einstein in the Turf Classic (gr. IT) May 2 at Churchill was a step in the right direction.
“That wasn’t a bad race,” said Romans. “Einstein may be the best horse in the country, if not in the world, right now. And a mile and an eighth may be stretching Thorn Song a little.”
Mike Smith will have the call on the 6-year-old son of Unbridled's Song.
Also with good chances are Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ Whatsthescript, who won the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IT) last summer and was sixth in the Citation most recently; Neil Drysdale trainee U S Ranger, third in the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) last out; and Dixie Chatter, who enters off a victory in the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita last month for Richard Mandella.