DECEMBER 5, 2012
by John Mucciolo
There were a pair graded races over the weekend at Hollywood Park.
Native Diver S. (G3): Diamond Pride et al's GAME ON DUDE (Awesome Again) lived up to his 1-5 billing with a game tally under Mike Smith. The standout gelding got a stern test in the lane from runner-up Nonios (Pleasantly Perfect) before inching clear late, getting nine panels in 1:52 1/5 for trainer Bob Baffert.
Vernon O. Underwood S. (G3): Klein and Lebherz's SMILING TIGER (Hold That Tiger) got back to his winning ways by wearing down runner-up Private Zone (Macho Uno) en route to a one-length score under Rafael Bejarano. The multiple Grade 1 victor completed six panels on the fast main oval in 1:11 1/5 for conditioner Jeff Bonde.
From a total of 35 races held at the Southern California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 43 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 54 percent of the wins. From 34 frays contested on the Cushion Track oval, six animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (18 percent), while the lone grassy winner did not go all the way on the lead.
It was something of an all-or-nothing week, with 15 favorites and just four second choices coming through. We saw a slew of odd results in our opinion and we think the track had something to do with it. When these races get washed off the turf, the main track often yields some interesting finishes.
Late runners seemed to have a good week here, following a four-day stanza where speed was excellent on the Cushion. We expect things to go back in that direction in the upcoming weekend of racing.
Five horses breaking from the rail won on Saturday from 10 races, but only one of those came in wire-to-wire fashion.
HORSES TO WATCH
3RD -- STREETS OF HEAVEN (Street Cry) was a clear second behind a sharp winner in this one and continues to be in very good form for trainer Richard Baltas. The seven-year-old gelding will be tough right back if properly placed.
6TH -- The layoff and equipment change seemed to do well for THE BRAIN (Street Sense), who showed marked improvement when dusting this field late under Martin Garcia. The Baffert pupil had always shown speed in his first trio of starts, but never collapsed in here and could have had something in the tank late.
7TH -- SIZZLING GOLD (Formal Gold) had been off form for a while, but the five-year-old mare might have righted the ship in this one with a game tally for conditioner George Lopez. Racing on the main oval, the Cal-bred battled back after being passed in the lane and should be live next time at another decent number.
2ND -- The Baffert-trained BLACK WITCH (Majestic Warrior) showed no speed while last for the opening half-mile in this dash, but came home with real good energy to be a clear second. The juvenile miss is bred to get more ground and will be very tough after getting one under her belt.
3RD -- The classy RENEESGOTZIP (City Zip) was all heart in this one in wearing down the clear leader in the final strides to post the victory in this affair. This sophomore seemingly always fires and is a superb one-turn runner for trainer Peter Miller.
2ND -- MIA ISABEL (Exchange Rate) continued her good form since joining the Doug O'Neill barn in proving stubborn late in victory on the main oval in here. The sophomore filly topped her elders in this spot and has the versatility to run here or on the lawn.
8TH -- PRIVATE ZONE ran another big one only to be second once again, and we think this O'Neill charge could be among the better sprinters on the West Coast with continued improvement into the 2013 season. The sophomore gelding battled back in the lane after being passed and seemed to be hitting a nice stride late, suggesting he can go another furlong at this level.
A Look Ahead
Saturday will play host to the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Starlet and the Grade 2, $200,000 Bayakoa Handicap.
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