With no clear standout in a field of 10 entered for Sunday's closing day $150,000-added Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Hollywood Park turf, the 1 1/2-mile event could be an opportunity for the stayers Runaway Dancer and T.H. Approval to determine which is best.The two finished in a dead heat for second in last year's Sunset, which was won by the Neil Drysdale-trained Always First in his American stakes debut.The Sunset brings to an end Hollywood Park's 61-day spring/summer meeting for 2006. As racing in Southern California turns to Del Mar for the remainder of the summer, plans call for the Inglewood track to immediately begin work installing an artificial surface – Cushion Track Premier from Equestrian Surfaces – on its main track in time for use at this autumn's meeting.
The 5-year-old T.H. Approval, trained by Eduardo Inda for Tadahiro Hotehama, enters the Lakeside Turf Course test with five wins in 23 starts for earnings of $564,288. The gray son of With Approval has won the last two runnings of the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) at about 1 3/4 miles on the Santa Anita grass. Runaway Dancer, a 7-year-old gelding, has won six of 29 starts for trainer Dan Hendricks and R L Stables for earnings of $549,638. His biggest win came at Hollywood in the 2005 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 12 furlongs.T.H. Approval has recorded three firsts and two seconds in eight starts on the Hollywood Park turf course. "I hope he closes the meet the same way as he did at Santa Anita," Inda said of the repeat win in the Capistrano. "I need that."He finished seventh most recently in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) while Runaway Dancer was eighth.Hendricks is hoping a fast pace will aid the late-running Runaway Dancer on Sunday."When you have that style, you become a victim of pace," he said. "He's been training good since the Whittingham. He had a nice strong work last time. I just hope there is a lot of pace in the Sunset."
The 7-year-old old gelding Leprechaun Kid, a winner of seven races and $468,574, captured the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) last summer at odds of 8-1. He then finished third in the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. IT) at Oak Tree before running tenth in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). He hasn't started since."I've trained for this race since the beginning of the meet," trainer Mike Mitchell said. "I think he's ready. I've always thought a mile-and-a-quarter to a mile-and-a-half was the distance he wanted to run. He's got a good foundation under him."Mitchell saddled Star Over the Bay to win the 2004 Sunset. Leprechaun Bay finished third that year and, when he was dropped in for a claiming tag of $80,000 last summer at Del Mar, the trainer couldn't resist."The Sunset was the race I claimed him off, when he ran a good third to Star," Mitchell said. "He was wiped out after the Breeders' Cup. I turned him out at Bobby Mitchell's Bonnie Acres in Hemet, but his legs kind of filled out and it took him a little more time than I thought. I probably lost two to three months."$150,000 Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:20 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sam Forli (CHI), 113, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
2. Leprechaun Kid (KY), 116, Patrick A. Valenzuela
3. Sultry Bard (CA), 109, Juan Ochoa
4. Runaway Dancer (KY), 115, Tyler Baze
5. Mino Ona (ARG), 108, G. F. Almeida
6. Mighty Mysterious (KY), 110, Michael C. Baze
7. T. H. Approval (KY), 118, Alex O. Solis
8. Molengao (BRZ), 115, Victor Espinoza
9. Mr. Splash (FL), 113, David R. Flores
10. Wild Buddy (FL), 114, Jon K. Court