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Crown of Thorns Takes Mervyn LeRoy

Hollywood Park logo.
Photo: Hollywood Park

Earning his first win in more than three years, Crown of Thorns upset Sidney’s Candy in the $147,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park.

The LeRoy was one of three stakes on the 11 race program and provided trainer Richard Mandella with a record-tying victory in the Grade II.

Winless in six starts since capturing the Robert B. Lewis, a Grade II, as a 3-year-old Feb. 2, 2008, Crown of Thorns was never too far off the pace set by Sidney’s Candy, ranged up alongside early in the stretch and went on to prevail by 1 ¼ lengths.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm LLC and ridden by Tyler Baze, the 6-year-old son of Repent and the Thunder Gulch mare Crowning Touch won for the third time in 10 starts. The $90,000 payday pushed his earnings to $777,080.

The win was the fourth in the LeRoy, which is the first major prep for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 9, for Mandella, the same as fellow Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Mandella’s previous wins had come with Super May (1990), Siphon (1996) and Out of Mind (2000).

Completing the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track in 1:42.73, Crown of Thorns, the 5-2 second choice, paid $7.40 and $2.60. The place price on Sidney’s Candy, the 2-5 favorite making his first start of 2011, was $2.10. There was no show wagering. Completing the order of finish were Spurrier and Honour the Deputy. Coffee Boy was scratched in favor of a $60,000 turf allowance Sunday.

The victory was the first in the LeRoy for Baze and his first in a graded stakes since he won the Royal Heroine Mile with Gotta Have Her last July 3 at Hollywood Park.

“It was pretty much as you would have figured it on paper,’’ said Mandella. “(Sidney’s Candy) looked like he’d be on an easy lead unless somebody teased him a little bit. That’s kind of what we had in mind, so he wouldn’t think he was out there by himself.

“I’ve always loved this horse. He’s a very good horse. Just a little accident prone. We always thought he would be better going long. Just circumstances. He’s fast enough to sprint and he can run on turf or anything we want, but I think two turns is better for him. He’s really good right now.’’

Two races after the LeRoy, M One Rifle set a Cushion Track record in defeating 1-2 favorite Cost of Freedom by a half-length in the inaugural $91,010 Cool Frenchy Stakes.

In the process, the 5-year-old One Man Army gelding out of the Bertrando mare Leanessa gave jockey Chantal Sutherland the first of two stakes wins Saturday, preceding her 8-1 surprise on Star Billing in the $100,000 Senorita Stakes.

Before the double, Sutherland’s last stakes victory at Hollywood Park had come with Mr. Rod in the 2008 Generous.

Owned by a partnership that includes breeders Ed Bernstein, Bryan Greenspun and trainer Bruce Headley, M One Rifle, who had finished behind Cost of Freedom in a pair of 2010 races, including the Los Angeles Handicap, at Hollywood Park, ran the five furlongs in 55.98. This bettered the standard of 56.14 set by Cost of Freedom in the Miles Tyson Stakes last Dec. 11.

The California bred has now won five of 13 and earned $471,002. He paid $9.60, $3.40 and $2.20 as the 7-2 second choice.

Seeking his sixth win in 10 starts over the Hollywood Park main, Cost of Freedom paid $2.40 and $2.10 while finishing 2 ½ lengths in front of Bulldogger. The show price on Bulldogger was 2.40. Dancing in Silks, Al Instante and Goggles McCoy completed the order of finish.

In the Grade III Senorita, Star Billing won for the second time in as many starts, rolling to a 2 ¾ length victory for owner-breeder George Krikorian and trainer John Shirreffs.

A 3-year-old Dynaformer filly out of the Thunder Gulch mare Topliner, Star Billing tracked pacesetter Wave of Applause for most of the trip, took over the lead early in the stretch and asserted her superiority in the final eighth of a mile.

A decisive winner down the hill at Santa Anita in her debut March 18, Star Billing ran the grassy mile Saturday in 1:34.52. She has earned $92,400.

In giving Shirreffs and Krikorian their second Senorita victory – the first was with Makeup Artist in 2003 – Star Billing returned $19.20, $8.20 and $3.60. Entrustment, the longest shot in the field at 42-1 under jockey Kayla Stra, outfinished 4-5 favorite Cambina by a neck for second. Entrustment paid $29.60 and $9 while Cambina, who had a three race win streak snapped, returned $2.10 to show.

“I worked her the other morning and she did a lot of looking around,’’ said Sutherland of Star Billing. “When I did get in the stretch she was looking and had her ears forward, so I did a little screaming. But she ran really well, she’s nice.

“I love riding for the Krikorians, they’re such nice people. And John Shirreffs, he always does such a great job. It’s an honor riding for these people. I feel really great. Let’s keep it rolling.’’




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