While there will be no rematch between Round Pond and Happy Ticket in Saturday's $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), the 1 1/16-mile race will not lack for excitement, with a field of six older fillies and mares scheduled to run.
Happy Ticket and Round Pond provided Oaklawn Park racing fans with one of the most thrilling stretch duels of the year in the Azeri Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) that ended with Round Pond getting the best of Happy Ticket in a head bob at the wire.
Round Pond, trained by John Servis and owned by Rick Porter, had been scheduled to start and was assigned the co-high weight of 119 pounds by racing secretary Pat Pope.
Trained by Andrew Leggio Jr., Happy Ticket was shipped to Oaklawn Park from her Louisiana Downs base Tuesday night, before completing her training Wednesday with an easy half-mile in :51 3/5 with exercise rider Loren Dancer up. According to Oaklawn Park track reports, her splits were :13 2/5, :27, and :39 2/5. She was allowed to gallop out five-eighths in 1:04 3/5.
"My mare is already plenty fit," Leggio told the Oaklawn staff Wednesday. "I just wanted a good slow work to get her loosened up. That will do it for her. She'll walk the shed row Thursday and Friday and run Saturday.
"I'm really looking forward to the race, with or without Round Pond. There are some nice mares in there."
Happy Ticket carries the colors of owner/breeder Stewart Madison.
Jockey Robby Albarado gets the call aboard the 5-year-old daughter of Anet, who will break from post two carrying a high weight of 119 pounds.
Giving a tough challenge to Happy Ticket will be Argentine-bred Star Parade, who owns back-to-back second-place finishes in Apple Blossom in 2004 and 2005.
The Southern California-based shipper enters the race off a two-length win in the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) which followed a disappointing unplaced effort in the San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) on the turf.
Trained by Darrell Vienna for Gary Tanaka, Star Parade worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 March 30 at Santa Anita.
Jockey Martin Pedroza gets the call aboard the daughter of Parade Marshal, who will carry 117 pounds. $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I, Race 9, 5:05 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 MIles
1-- Platinum Ballet (Cliff Berry, 112)
2-- Happy Ticket (Robby Albarado, 119)
3-- La Reason (Terry Thompson, 112)
4-- Hollywood Story (Luis Quinonez, 116)
5-- Star Parade (Martin Pedroza, 117)
6-- Spun Sugar (Mike Luzzi, 116)