I’ve talked to three trainers in the past two weeks — Ron Ellis, Gary Stute and Doug O’Neill — who told me that Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track was playing more like a dirt track by the end of the 55-day meeting Sunday.
“It’s a little bit more firm and it’s not as velcro-like as Santa Anita and Del Mar can be,” said O’Neill, who returned from a 10-day Mediterranean cruise with his family Saturday night and wrapped up his fourth Hollywood Park spring-summer training title, outdistancing runner-up John Sadler 37-22 while saddling 78 more starters than his rival. Sadler saddled a meet-high seven stakes winners.
Ellis said he likes the Cushion Track better than Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride and Del Mar’s Polytrack surfaces, and O’Neill gave the Southland’s oldest synthetic track a ringing endorsement before winning Sunday’s opener with A Lil Dumaani.
“Knock on wood, we had a tremendous amount of luck training on this track,” he said. “We really didn’t have many hiccups, and that helped us start a lot of these horses two or three times throughout the meet. We were real happy with (Cushion Track), that’s for sure.
“We had a lot of starts … we were at a definite strong advantage winning a title like this because of the numbers that we run. But at the same time, hats off to the clients for investing in the horses and letting us run them as often as we do.”
Both Darrell Vienna and Jose DeLima enjoyed strong meets with small stables, winning with seven of their 25 starters — a 28 percent clip. Mike Mitchell saddled only 69 horses but finished fourth in the standings with 15 victories, a 22 percent success rate.