Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who shipped Good Reward
west for a 16-to-1 upset victory in the 2004 Hollywood Derby, hopes to spring
another surprise with Imagining in the $250,000 Grade I test for 3-year-olds at
1 ¼ miles on grass at Hollywood Park Sunday.
The Derby climaxes the Turf Festival, five grass stakes for
a total of $950,000 in purses to be run here Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Hollywood Park
stable area took on the look of a mini-Breeders’ Cup Wednesday with the arrival
of horses from England, Ireland, New York,
for the rich races.
Imagining, a chestnut homebred owned by Phipps Stable,
arrived here Monday on a Tex Sutton flight that originated in New York with
stablemate Rescue Squad--ticketed for the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap here
December 3--and was stabled with Jerry Hollendorfer in Barn 70 South.
“They settled in really well and both galloped for the first
time this morning,” said Jennifer Patterson, assistant to McGaughey,
accompanied by groom Jorge Molina.
Imagining, a lightly raced son of Giant’s Causeway, broke
his maiden at third asking at 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont Park turf September 21
and finished fifth in an allowance race at one mile on the Belmont grass in his
last start October 26.
“I think he’ll really like this distance,” said Patterson.
“A mile was too short for him. A mile and a quarter should suit him really
well.” Javier Castellano has the Derby
Imagining was accompanied on the flight by two other Derby
candidates: Casino Host from New York for trainer Chad Brown, and Willcox Inn
from Kentucky for trainer Michael Stidham.
Casino Host, who finished third in the Virginia Derby in
July, arrived with groom Jose Pedro Morales and was stabled in Barn 70 North
with trainer Humberto Ascanio.
Brown, 32, is one of the fastest-rising young trainers in
the game and would love to win the race as a tribute to the late Bobby Frankel,
who died two years ago.
Brown worked as an assistant for Hall of Famer Frankel for
five years before going on his own in 2007 and credits Frankel as having the
most influence on his career.
“Chad worked here and I could see he was smart and had a passion
for the game,” said Ascanio, Frankel’s long-time chief assistant. Now Brown has
shipped his first Hollywood starter to the
barn Frankel long occupied while becoming the runaway all-time leader in Turf
Festival wins with 17.
Another homecoming story involves Stidham, who shipped
Willcox Inn with exercise rider Alfredo Alvarado to Barn 54 South with Mike
Puype. “It’s always fun to come back,” said Stidham. “I started training in Florida, but within a year moved to California. This is basically where my
career began from 1980 to the early 1990’s.” Stidham moved to Northern
California before relocating in 1994 to the Midwest, where he still retains a
circuit between Chicago, New
Orleans and Kentucky.
Willcox Inn, to be ridden by Robbie Albarado, figures to be
one of the favorites on the strength of victories in the American Derby and
Hawthorne Derby. “This is a race we had been looking at for quite a while if he
ran well in the Hawthorne Derby,” said Stidham.
Willcox Inn, named after a historical hotel in Aiken, S.C.,
is a Kentucky-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday and will have a new co-owner for the
Derby. Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable, which won the 2006 Hollywood
Derby with Showing Up, bought a 50 per cent interest from previous owner All In
Stable, a large partnership.
“We have been high on him from the start,” said Stidham. “He
won his first start with Animal Kingdom second and finished third in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf two races later.”
English invaders Western Aristocrat and Slumber, who both
cleared quarantine Friday, each worked three furlongs, although on different
Western Aristocrat worked three furlongs on Cushion Track in
35.40 seconds under Wayne Tanner, assistant to trainer Jeremy Noseda. “He was
happy,” said Tanner of the colt who shipped to New York
to win the Grade I Jamaica Handicap at Belmont
in his last start.
Slumber breezed three furlongs on a turf course listed good
in 38.40 seconds under exercise rider Heather Johnson to the satisfaction of
foreman Geoff Snook. Trainer Charles Hills
will be here to saddle the Juddmonte Farms colt before he is transferred to
Bill Mott in Florida.
The probable Hollywood Derby lineup: Cloud Man (Mike Smith),
Irish Art (Rafael Bejarano), Slumber (Garrett Gomez), Surrey Star (Chantal
Sutherland), Western Aristocrat (Corey Nakatani), Ultimate Eagle (Martin
Pedroza), Venomous (Joel Rosario), Cozy Kitten (Alonso Quinonez), Willcox Inn
(Albarado), Imagining (Castellano) and Casino Host (Joe Talamo).