Try these horses at Hollywood Park today

Here are a few selections worth playing today:

4th — General Dan goes from optional claimers into a claiming event and has won one of five at the distance.
5th — The Big One has finished first or second in three of five races at the distance and retains the services of the hustling Martin Pedroza. Lockford deserves a look in the spot as well.
7th — Dadsalittleunusual lost a photo in his last and is being stepped up in class, a formula that often results in victory. South Coast figures in this spot as well. Martin Jones and Joe Talamo click at 21 percent when they team up, and the 5-year-old gelding has been first or second in seven of 12 starts.
8th — Stitchit and Paddlin Mud could both win here. They both deserve to be included in any late exotics, including pick threes and pick fours.

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Best fillies of all time

On the heels of the fantastic year enjoyed by Zenyatta in 2008, who’s your pick as the top filly of all time? Just one rule — you can only pick a filly you’ve seen run in person or television.
My picks:
1. Ruffian (right) — She set records each time she ran, and she was never headed in a race until she broke down in that ill-fated match race against Foolish Pleasure in 1975.
2. Lady’s Secret — She beat the boys and was Horse of the Year in 1986.
3. Personal Ensign — Won arguably the most exciting Breeders’ Cup race ever, edging another great filly in her own right, Winning Colors, at the wire in the 1988 Distaff. She retired 13-0.
4. All Along — Beat the boys three times in North America in 1983 and was voted that year’s Horse of the Year.
5. Zenyatta — Stamped herself as one of the all-time greats with her BC Ladies’ Classic score, and she could move up the ladder if she stays healthy and competes as a 5-year-old.

Ruidoso has a venti problem

A new horse-racing scandal to ponder over your morning coffee, this one touching one of quarter-horse racing’s biggest events:

RUIDOSO DOWNS, N.M. (AP) — The winner of the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs last month has tested positive for caffeine, officials with the New Mexico Racing Commission say.

That could jeopardize the $1 million purse won by the owner of Stolis Winner, the Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday in a copyright story. If the finding is upheld, Jerry Windham of College Station, Texas, could be required to return the purse.

New Mexico racing regulations do not allow any amount of caffeine in race horses, said the Racing Commission’s executive director, Julian Luna. He said urine from all 10 horses in the futurity were tested after the race, and only Stolis Winner turned up positive.

Notices for a Nov. 15 hearing on the matter were sent out this week, Luna said. Because New Mexico has a trainer responsibility rule, racing stewards notified trainer Heath Taylor to appear at the hearing.

Windham told the Journal he had heard rumors about caffeine turning up in the test, but had not officially been notified there might be a problem.

He said it’s ludicrous to think anyone would risk a $1 million purse by giving caffeine to a top-performing horse.

“I know this, if there was any caffeine, it didn’t go through his system,” said Windham, a past president of the American Quarter Horse Association.

“It had to be a contaminant” in the test sample from another source, he said.

Caffeine has the same effect on horses as it has on humans — “It jazzes them up,” said Susan Vescovo, vice president of the New Mexico Horsemen’s Association.

Racing Commission regulations list caffeine as a Class 2 substance, which has “a high potential for affecting the outcome of a race,” according to guidelines on which the regulations are based.

Penalties recommended for Class 2 violations including a suspension of six months to a year, a fine of $1,500 to $2,500 and loss of a purse.

Racing fans take it on the chin again

So the TOC and ADW companies can’t come to some sort of agreement that would let racing rans outside of California bet the Hollywood Park autumn meet. What else is new, huh? I mean, at a time when this great sport is starving for publicity and good will, two of its major players decide that enough is not enough and they are taking their toys and going home. So instead of racing fans in Indiana betting races at Hollywood Park the rest of this meet, they’re going to have to find a different favorite track and two stubborn entities are costing everyone in the California racing industry money. I mean, let’s do the math here. It seems to me that 4 percent of a little is better than 100 percent of nothing. Am I missing something here? Asked if he was optimistic a deal between the TOC and ADW companies would get done soon, a Hollywood Park official shook his head no. This industry has a patent on making unwise decisions, especially at a time when a slumping economy makes any revenue at all better than no revenue. Are you listening, guys?

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More profits for our experts

Our handicappers’ selections turned profits on both days of the Breeders’ Cup, and they’ve kept the momentum on opening day at Hollywood Park, picking a lot of winners and one big long shot.

The consensus — available in the print editions of this and other L.A. Newspaper Group papers — picked five winners on top in the eight races Wednesday. It was a favorites-dominated card, but the consensus’ top picks returned $20.20 for $16 in win bets.

Ray Nelson, the long-shot specialist, tabbed first-time starter Golden Nicks for a $67.40 victory in the sixth race. Ray had picked Black Eyed Lady on top and Golden Nicks second, but Black Eyed Lady was scratched.

Bob Ike had six winners, including Silver Vista ($11.60) in the nightcap.

At the Breeders’ Cup, our consensus had Ventura and Zenyatta on Friday — for a total $10.60 return on $10 in win bets on five Breeders’ Cup races — and Goldikova, Midshipman and Midnight Lute on Saturday — for $22.20 in payoffs on $18 in bets.

Are you going Hollywood?

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Thanks to Art Wilson for letting me contribute to his blog.

It’s opening day of the Hollywood Park autumn season, the Rodney Dangerfield of Southern California’s racing meets. For some people, it’s a letdown after the excitement of last week’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. But as Art reports in his story today previewing the season, Hollywood Park hopes it will get some benefit from following the Breeders’ Cup.

I’ve always liked the Hollywood fall meet more than most people, maybe because when I started covering racing in 1991, the Turf Festival stakes program was just beginning, and such grass stars as Itsallgreektome, Miss Alleged, Flawlessly and Fraise were headliners. Flawlessly was a particular favorite of mine.

In recent years the meet has been headlined by 2-year-olds. In the past 10 years, the horses voted 2-Year-old of the Meet have included Excellent Meeting, Captain Steve, Point Given, Lion Heart, Declan’s Moon and Brother Derek.

Are you interested in the Hollywood fall meet, or are you in post-Breeders’ Cup depression? Any personal memories of this meet? Care to share your strategies for betting it?

Santa Anita will cut purses for 2008-09 winter/spring meet

An overnight purse cut of 7 to 10 percent looms for the Santa Anita 2008-09 meet, with the final decision to be made in the next few weeks. The TOC, which represents owners, has to sign off on the deal. This comes on the heels of Hollywood Park’s recent accouncement that it is cutting purses by 7 percent. Del Mar cut its purses over the summer and Fairplex Park, where business was slow this past summer, is considering cuts for its 2009 meet. It’s obvious horse racing is not immune from the economic downturn that is sweeping the country.