Some final Turf Festival selections

Here we go with the final day of the Turf Festival at Hollywood Park.

I like the 3-year-old filly Visit to give trainer Bobby Frankel his fifth consecutive victory in the $500,000 Grade I Matriarch Stakes. I think she’s coming up to her best race, where the others might be tailing off a bit.

In the $500,000 Grade I Hollywood Derby, I think Madeo and Gio Ponti are going to be tough.

Some others to watch:

8th — I love it when a trainer scratches one half of his entry, as Richard Mandella did in this maiden special weight. I think New Bay, a first-time starter by Cuvee, will come out running and win the start to the late pick three.

10th — Shelbydell is a major threat to go gate to wire in this maiden claimer for 2-year-old Cal-bred fillies, and Warrensmysterydice can pick up the pieces if the top choice falters late. Catsalot, dropping into a maiden claimer for the first time, is the chalk play.

Good luck today!

California Flag catches a breather

How does a speed horse like California Flag get away with early splits of :23.84 and :45.83 in Saturday’s Hollywood Turf Express Handicap? Well, to hear trainer Brian Koriner tell it, the riders on Delta Storm (Aaron Gryder) and One Union (Victor Espinoza) decided it was suicide to go out and run with the winner, so they took back and paid the price.

“I think those two riders down inside, they’ve watched this horse run before,” Koriner said. “They know if they go with him, they’re going to get in trouble. By doing it that way, they’re going to ride to run last. So I think we got lucky and they just left him alone.”

Koriner believes the 4-year-old gelding would have run better than 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita if they hadn’t elected to send California Flag.

“I really think, possibly, in the Breeders’ Cup if we didn’t give Joe (jockey Talamo) instructions just to run off and go to the lead, it might have been a whole different ballgame.”

Koriner said the son of Avenue of Flags might be freshened and then run back in the next stakes down the hill during the Santa Anita meet, which begins Dec. 26.

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What were the stewards looking at?

If you had a betting interest in Saturday’s seventh at Hollywood Park, or even if you didn’t, you must have an opinion on the stewards’ decision to let the orginal order stand. The 2-1 betting favorite, Taxi Fleet, clearly came out and bumped the Mike Mitchell-trained Hoist the Sail, yet the stewards ruled that both horses were at fault and there was no disqualification. Simply incredible. Taxi Fleet and Rafael Bejarano should have come down and the win should have gone to second-place finisher Street Lights, a 10-1 shot. If you bet Taxi Fleet, you’re counting your blessings, and if you had Street Lights, you should be upset. You should have won.
Anyone out there see the race, and more importantly the replays, and have an opinion? C’mon. Sound off about this.

Day two of Hollypark’s Turf Festival

I think the first half of today’s Turf Festival doubleheader at Hollywood Park, the $100,000 Grade III Generous Stakes, is a three-horse race between trainer Todd Pletcher’s duo — Bittel Road and Hype — and the Neil Drysdale-trained Bourbon Bay.

In the $150,000 Grade III Hollywood Turf Express, at six furlongs, I like Delta Storm and California Flag. The latter, with Joe Talamo aboard, finished 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and gets softer today. He’ll be on the lead and could go gate to wire, but Delta Storm will be sitting close up under Aaron Gryder and could win if the top one falters in the late stages.

I also like Chimera Star and Carrie With a C in the eighth, and I think the nightcap is a grab bag. The favorite, Threat, has had five chances, the past four as the post-time favorite, and came up short each time. He could win because he’s racing cheaper than he ever has, but he’s not a lock. Miss Caper, Skim the Pool and Burnt all have big shots.

Good luck today!

Two look good on Thanksgiving card

Two races stand out today today during Hollywood Park’s traditional Thanksgiving Day program, which begins earlier than normal at 11 a.m.

My best bet of the day comes in the fifth race, where trainer James Cassidy sends out 15-1 long shot Mississippian in the 1 1/2-mile event for optional claimers that is off the turf because of the recent rains. Don’t be afraid to bet Danny Sorenson, a veteran who doesn’t get many live mounts but takes advantage when he does.

In the nightcap, I like Dark Intrigue, 6-1 on the morning line. Jose Valdivia Jr. stays aboard for this 4-year-old Deputy Minister gelding, who raced wide in his last for trainer Mike Puype, who’s having a fine meeting with three wins from 18 starters.

Good luck today, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Racing in the rain

Wow … there is a winter in Southern California after all. We have rain today at Hollywood Park, witnessed by the fact we had two scratches in the first race Wednesday, leaving us with a three-horse field.

Here are a few horses to check out:

4th — Ann’s Plan and Joe Talamo will be tough here. Turks Rebecca also figures, and Red Lollipop is the long-shot play.

5th — Cool Haleigh looks strong with Joel Rosario aboard, and Carmel Coffee also looks live in this spot. Held Fast will set the pace and could go gate to wire in a race taken off the turf because of the rain.

6th — Delaware Doe switches to Garrett Gomez after finishing third at Golden Gate. Trigranaut is the long-shot play.

7th — Double Dip could give Gomez back-to-back wins, and Street Match also figures to fire in this allowance event.

8th — This race is also off the turf and I think three horses have good shots here — Our Man Luke, Lahcotah and Hog’s Hollow.

Good luck today!

Where are the larger fields?

One of the benefits that the mandated synthetic tracks were supposed to provide were bigger fields. But it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for proponents of the artificial surfaces to use that argument after looking at the sizes of fields recently at Hollywood Park.

Last week, there were 42 races run at the Inglewood oval and almost half — 20 — included fields of seven or less horses. Six races last week included five-horse fields.

The jury is also still out on whether these synthetic surfaces are safer for the horses. There were two more fatalities on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track on Saturday, and Fil’s Regent broke down after Sunday’s ninth race shortly after the wire.

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Hollywood Park picks for Sunday

We had a tough beat on Fire Wood yesterday. He came flying home at 10-1 in a six-horse field and came up a half-length short to the 4-5 favorite, but that’s been the history of his career. He’s run second 13 times now in 32 starts.

Here are a few horses we like today:

3rd — All Saint should get the job done here under jockey Luis Contreras.

7th — Cayambe likes the 7-furlong distance, having won twice in five starts, and gets the services of Tyler Baze. Absolute Glory, with Chantal Sutherland in the saddle, is the upset special in this optional claimer.

9th — Fil’s Regent is my best bet of the day at 12-1 on the morning line. He gets a five-pound weight break with Michael Martinez riding and I think he’ll be moving fastest of all in the stretch.

Good luck today!

A couple of strong plays at Hollywood Park

I love Hi Flyin Indy in today’s second race at Hollypark. The 2-year-old son of A.P. Indy has a race under his belt, is stretching out for the first time and retains the services of Rafael Bejarano. He’s my best bet of the day after we clicked with Ransom Captive ($9.60) last night.

Here are a few more horses I like today:

3rd — Fire Wood’s win record is dismal (32-2-12-4), but he’s never raced this cheaply. He was wide in his last and trainer Ron Ellis might have found the right spot for this 6-year-old gelding. Bridled Quest also deserves a look.

4th — Matching Whites is solid in this maiden special weight.

5th — Swiss Ski, Evaluate and Tactical Talent are all live. Good spot for an exacta box.

8th — Dusty Trail, Cee Bargara and Funny Me are difficult to separate. Another good spot for exacta box.

9th — Sweetwaterwind looks live here after a pair of runner-up efforts, and Dollabeeratcoaches is the upsetter.

Good luck today!

Money, money, money

Hmmmm … more purse cuts on the horizon at Hollywood Park, so the TOC and the account-wagering companies get a California deal done in order for out-of-state bettors to wager again. What a coincidence, huh? This deal should have been done at the start of the Hollywood Park meeting, not almost a month into it and at a cost of millions for all concerned.

Still no national agreement, which is what the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group is seeking. But negotiations on that front continue. No details announced on the settlement, but you can bet that both sides gave a little, which is what should have happened before the mess reached this point.