With a lineup that includes four multiple graded stakes winners, Sunday's $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) boasts one of the strongest fields of fillies and mares ever gathered for the 1 1/8-mile fixture on Del Mar's main track.
Million dollar earner Elloluv, half-millionaire House of Fortune, multiple grade I winner Star Parade and Vanity Handicap (gr. I) winner Victory Encounter are the marquee names in the field of eight for the feature race.
Joining that quartet are Miss Loren, an Argentine-bred who will be making her 39th career start, Royally Chosen, Indy Groove and Tucked Away.
Elloluv, The 4-year-old daughter of Gilded Time
, out of the Cryptoclearance
mare Currency Quest, comes to the race from two sixth-place efforts in her first two outings of 2004. Though the Craig Dollase-trained filly is winless since the 2003 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, she figures to be ready Sunday. She wrapped up her preparations by working four furlongs Thursday morning in 48 seconds flat.
Once again she'll be in tough company.
Milady Handicap (gr. I) winner Star Parade appears to back on top of her game after a couple of sub-par efforts. She carries top weight of 119 pounds, two more than Elloluv, and will be ridden once again by Victor Espinoza.
Trainer Darrell Vienna is expecting a big race from his dual grade I winner. "She really likes it down here at Del Mar," the trainer said. "She's been training very well. She worked well Wednesday (59 4/5 for five furlongs). Now, we just have to keep her well going up into the race."
Vienna noted that "she's usually up pretty close, but she doesn't have to be there. Some of these fillies are going to be new to her. We haven't raced against them, so we'll just have to wait and see what kind of pace develops."
Victory Encounter finished fourth in the Milady after her smashing come-from-behind win over Star Parade and Adoration in the Vanity earlier at Hollywood Park. Mike Smith rides Victory Encounter, who carries 118 pounds.
Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II) and Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) winner House of Fortune takes on her elders for the first time. The Ron McAnally-trained filly gets in with 113 pounds and the services of Tyler Baze.$300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/6 mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Tucked Away (CA), 113, Kent J. Desormeaux
2. Victory Encounter (KY), 118, Mike E. Smith
3. Royally Chosen (CA), 114, David R. Flores
4. Indy Groove (KY, 113, Mark Guidry
5. Miss Loren (ARG), 114, Jon K. Court
6. Star Parade (ARG), 119, Victor Espinoza
7. House of Fortune (CA), 113, Tyler Baze
8. Elloluv (KY), 117, Jose Valdivia, Jr.