The 5-year-old mare Black Mamba, scratched from the one-mile Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park this past weekend, instead will run in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) at 12 furlongs Dec. 6 against males.
A grade I winner for trainer John Sadler, the New Zealand-bred Black Mamba is one of two 5-year-old mares in the field of nine. She is joined by High Heel Sneakers from the barn of Ben Cecil. Both are stakes winners at Hollywood Park.
They endeavor to join the champion Miss Alleged, who in 1991 became the only female to win the Hollywood Turf Cup in its 26-year history. Three other females have finished second: Queen to Conquer in 1981, Zalataia in 1983 and Megahertz in 2004.
Double Down Stables' Black Mamba won Hollywood's Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/4 miles June 29. The daughter of Black Minnaloushe finished second in the Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) to Citronnade nearly a year ago in her only other try on the Inglewood lawn. Her biggest win came in Del Mar's John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at nine furlongs Aug. 3.
“I know John has been dying to run Black Mamba a mile and a half,” said Larry Benavidez, assistant to Sadler.
Black Mamba raced at 1 1/2 miles once in her native New Zealand, finishing fifth on a soft course in the 2007 New Zealand Oaks. She raced four times against males there, her only victory in a maiden race in 2006.
Mike Smith takes over the ride on Black Mamba for Garrett Gomez, who is competing in Asia. They'll break from post 8.
The English-bred High Heel Sneakers, a daughter of Dansili owned by Christopher Wright, is coming off a 2 3/4-length victory in the Hermosa Beach Handicap Nov. 9 at the Turf Cup's 1 1/2-mile distance. It was her first U.S. win in four starts since transferring from Great Britain last year.
Cecil said the decision to run in the Turf Cup was due to a lack of opportunities to run her against other females at longer distances. High Heel Sneakers ran five times at 12 furlongs in her native country, including a second-place against males in the Empire Property Group Conditions Stakes at Goodwood in June 2007. Tyler Baze takes over on High Heel Sneakers, and they'll break from post 7, just inside of Black Mamba.
The mares face a field that includes Juddmonte Farms' Champs Elysees, who gets back on grass for trainer Bobby Frankel after an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 25.
Champs Elysees ran second to Sunriver in last year's Turf Classic. He displayed excellent grass form at 12 furlongs in Canada, where he won the Northern Dancer (Can-IT) by a nose prior to a third-place finish in the Canadian International (Can-IT) in his final start before the Breeders' Cup.
The impeccably bred 5-year-old son of Danehill out of Hasili enters as the field's only millionaire. Julien Leparoux, whose only previous ride on Champs Elysees came in last year's Turf Cup, regains the mount.
Irish trainer Dermot Weld is represented by grade I winner Winchester, who was overmatched when seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). Weld opted for this spot over last weekend's Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) for the Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone-owned 3-year-old because of the extra quarter-mile.
The son of Theatrical romped in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) by more than seven lengths at Arlington Park in his only other U.S. start Aug. 9. Winchester worked on the turf in 1:18 for six furlongs in company with Towzee Nov. 30.
"He's going in the right direction," said Thomas Daly, assistant to Weld, after the colt's fourth drill at Hollywood since the Breeders' Cup . "He seems to be progressing with each work."
Patrick Smullen makes the journey from Ireland to ride Winchester.
Also coming out of the Breeders' Cup is Church Service, whose late charge came up a head short to Muhannak in the Marathon on the all-weather track. The 5-year-old Church Service, a $50,000 claim by trainer Mike Mitchell last January, has won four times on the turf, including the Dallas Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Lone Star Park last spring. Rafael Bejarano has the ride.
The grade II winner Obrigado ran fourth in last year's Turf Cup and was third to Champs Elysees in the subsequent San Marcos (gr. IIT). He missed eight months with a cannon bone injury this year and returned with a third-place finish in an allowance prep race at Hollywood Nov. 12. Joel Rosario has the call on the 5-year-old Obrigado, runner-up in the 2006 Hollywood Derby.
Rush Rush, Mr. Chairman and the big outsider Summer Survivor complete the field.
$250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT, Race 8, 4:05 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Church Service (KY), 126, Rafael Bejarano
2. Summer Survivor (CA), 126, Jon K. Court
3. Winchester (VA), 122, Patrick J. Smullen
4. Champs Elysees (GB), 126, Julien R. Leparoux
5. Obrigado (FR), 126, Joel Rosario
6. Mr. Chairman (CA), 126, Michael C. Baze
7. High Heel Sneakers (GB), 123, Tyler Baze
8. Black Mamba (NZ), 123, Mike E. Smith
9. Rush Rush (KY), 126, Victor Espinoza