Trio Gives Frankel Hope in Tough Murray Field

(from Hollywood Park notes)
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel has three chances Saturday to enhance his record six victories in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park, accounting for one-third of the entrants in 1 1/2-mile grass marathon event worth $350,000.

Frankel sends Continuously, Exterior, and Vangelis in the endurance test that honors the late Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist. The race was accorded grade III status this year, its first of being eligible.

The Murray is one of three graded stakes on a 10-race program that includes the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles and the $150,000 Los Angeles Times Handicap (gr. III) at six furlongs.

Sarafan, an 8-year-old gelding trained by another Hall of Famer, Neil Drysdale, is the most accomplished of the Murray entrants and will carry high weight of 121 pounds, including jockey Corey Nakatani. The durable bay gelding, second in his last three starts, has banked $2,601,671 from a career record of 10-13-4 in 45 races.

Leading the Frankel contingent is Exterior, attempting to provide Juddmonte Farms Inc. with its fifth Murray triumph. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred was a fast closing second to Murray rival T.H. Approval in Santa Anita's San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) on April 16. It was his second U.S. start in seven-race career that began in England.

Frankel has recruited top Eastern jockey Ramon Dominguez to handle Vangelis, a French-import who most recently finished a close third to Star Over the Bay and Sarafan in Oak Tree's Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 3. Continuously lost by a nose to Star Over the Bay, due to race in Sunday's $1.9 million Singapore Airlines International Handicap, in last year's Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park.

Trainer Eduardo Inda said he is not worried about T.H. Approval "bouncing" only four weeks after capturing the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano.

"He came out of that race in good shape and full of life," said Inda Thursday of the 4-year-old colt. "He's doing real good. He worked five furlongs last weekend at Santa Anita. He will ship over Friday and school in the paddock."

Inda recorded his first graded stakes victory since 2000 in the San Juan Capistrano, when he sent out Riboletta to a series of grade I stakes victories en route to an Eclipse Award as champion older female.

T.H. Approval, a homebred owned by Tadahiro Hotehama of Japan, gave Inda his first victory of the year. "It feels good to have a nice stakes horse again," he said.

The With Approval colt has recorded three victories in five outings on the Inglewood lawn.

Rene Douglas, who rode the colt in the San Juan Capistrano and was aboard him in his last two Hollywood Park victories in November, has the call.

The contentious Murray field also includes 2004 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) winner Pellegrino, 2004 Murray runner-up Continental Red, 2003 Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Runaway Dancer, and Deputy Lad, beaten by one-half length when third in Gulfstream Park's Pan American Handicap (gr. IIT) on April 2.

$350,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 6, 3:53 p.m.), 3 & up, 1 1/2 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Deputy Lad, Victor Espinoza, 115
2. T. H. Approval, Rene Douglas, 117
3. Continuously, Julio Garcia, 116
4. Vangelis, Ramon Dominguez, 117
5. Exterior, Alex Solis, 117
6. a-Pellegrino, David Flores, 118
7. Continental Red, Alex Bisono, 114
8. a-Sarafan, Corey Nakatani, 121
9. Runaway Dancer, Garrett Gomez, 114
a-Gary A. Tanaka entry.