Before jumping into analysis of this weekend's top stakes races, we asked TimeformUS contributor Bob Barry to reflect on the closing of Hollywood Park.
The Hollywood Park Swan Song
By Bob Barry
What can you say about a seventy-five-year-old racetrack that died?
That she was young and beautiful back when “Old Hollywood” was still just “Hollywood”; that she remained beautiful years later, even as the pictures got smaller and Cary Grant’s hair turned white; that for decades it was the place where Hollywood’s and racing’s biggest stars came out to play.
It is no secret that newspaper editors love both celebrities and these “end of an era” stories, and the upcoming closure of Hollywood Park gave license to run enough of those archived photos to fill a warm, nostalgic bath. The New York Times filled more than two pages in last Sunday’s Sports section with some tender memories of people who will sincerely miss the place. And while some of those great photos traded on the celebrity angle (the one of Shirley MacLaine, circa “Irma la Douce,” horsing around with her chestnut filly namesake is a classic), it was the great horses who got top billing.
Seabiscuit. Citation. Dr Fager. Affirmed. Spectacular Bid. If you were a great race horse from the golden days of the pari-mutuel era, chances are, you came to race at Hollywood Park. Even as Old Hollywood began to die off, and the crowds thinned out, and surrounding Inglewood went to seed, you could still count on horses like Cigar and Zenyatta to provide the missing star power.
Track management at Hollywood was quite inventive at its best. It was Hollywood that originated the Pick Six, and the track’s website claims they also originated the exacta (who knew?). But as Joe E. Brown could tell you, nobody’s perfect, and yes, mistakes were made. A Goose Girl would not have played at stolid old Belmont Park, but at the Track of the Lakes and Flowers she made sense. Sinking the Goose Girl and importing flamingos from Hialeah made no sense whatsoever, and moving the finish line farther down the stretch to improve the view for the high rent district at the expense of the grandstand patrons was downright hostile. By the time Churchill Downs flipped its fixer-upper to the Bay Meadows Land Company in the midst of the real estate bubble, the writing was on the wall, and on Sunday it becomes an epitaph.
In their advance obituary, the LA Weekly’s headline blared “Hollywood Park is Shutting Down. Will Horse Racing be Next?” Well, everything comes and goes, but to say that a track that got caught up in a land rush is somehow perfectly illustrative of racing’s future is, in a word, nuts. Those who show up on-track and supply 10% of Hollywood Park's handle surely deserve better, and we hope they find a nice simulcast location, either at home or not far from it. But late Sunday afternoon, just south of Pincay Drive, a bell will ring one last time, an allowance field will take one last lap around the turf course, the “official” light will come on one more time, and that will be that.
Sunday Betfair Hollywood Park, Race 10, Local Post Time 5:05pm PT
The King Glorious Stakes, 7F, 2YO Ca-Bred, Synth
By Justin Finch
Jerry Hollendorfer has had quite a meet, and it looks as if he has a good chance to add a win in the King Glorious.
• FREE TimeformUS PPs for the King Glorious
• A Special Offer on Unlimited PPs for Bloodhorse Readers
The TimeformUS Pace Projector puts Pray Hard on a clear early lead today, but he has proven that he doesn't need one to run well.
He has strong speed figures. Hollendorfer gets Trainer Ratings of 100 when using Bejarano, 98 in two-year-old stakes races, and 94 when coming off a maiden victory.
We don't love the way Pray Hard was lugging out in the stretch last time, but in other respects, he was visually impressive in his last two starts.
He is our selection.
Saturday Gulfstream, Race 9, Local Post Time 4:33pm ET
The G3 Dania Beach Stakes, 1 Mile, 2YO, Turf
By Douglas Salvatore
Normally, when we see a 5/2 morning line favorite who isn't competitive on our speed figures, we get very excited about the prospect of tossing him and cashing in on an exciting betting opportunity.
• FREE TimeformUS PPs for the Dania Beach
• A Special Offer on Unlimited PPs for Bloodhorse Readers
However, said favorite Pleuven is one that we aren't very excited about opposing. Yes, his most recent speed figure is only a 78, but that figure came in a minor stakes race in France, at Longchamp. The race was also in Mid-July, and two-year-old colts start to develop by leaps and bounds this time of year.
Pleuven has had 161 days to mature since his last race. He is bred to greatly appreciate the added distance. He is going to get the medication lasix for the first time, and he's trained by the mighty Chad Brown.
Chad Brown has been an absolute alchemist with foreign imports. Throughout his training career, Brown is 10-for-25 (40% wins and a $3.20 ROI) with foreign shippers making their first start for him. In many instances, he's succeeded at turning the base metal into gold, and they've made grand form reversals.
The last time Pleuven was defeated in a race was on June 2nd, when he finished 3rd to Testa Rossi, a filly who was later transferred to Chad Brown and captured the Miss Grillo at 5/1 odds before finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The bottom line is that Pleuven is an import with many powerful angles working in his favor. However, we must still oppose him simply because he's a short price and must really make a leap to win this.
The best value of this race, based on Morning Line price, is certainly Request at 8/1 odds. This second-time starter by Dynaformer is also trained by Chad Brown. Get a look at Chad Brown's Trainer Ratings in the relevant statistical categories with this horse!
Request ran an excellent 89 speed figure in his debut, and he did it with a wide trip. Javier Castellano retains the mount, and he wins at 31% on Chad Brown horses.
For exotic wagering purposes, the two other horses that interest us are Yes I'm Lucky and Bon Accord. Both of them ran extremely well in their most recent turf race and have obvious credentials.
A final note from this race is to pay attention to Mr. Speaker once he gets lasix. This Shug McGaughey-trained horse caught our eye with his maiden win at Belmont last time out. We think Mr. Speaker is in very tough today, but Shug's Trainer Rating is a poor 42 with no lasix. The Phipps family is against two-year-olds racing on lasix. Look for this horse potentially to improve quite a bit in his next start, when he gets the medication. Orb made a grand form reversal with the addition of lasix as a three-year-old, and this one might also get a boost from the medication.
Betting Strategy: Win bet on Request. Use him with Yes I'm Lucky and Bon Accord in the exotics.