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Morning Line Headlines Mervyn Leroy

Multiple graded stakes winner Morning Line will make his first start of 2012 and first for trainer John Shirreffs in  the $150,000, Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
 
The Kentucky Derby – which has a scheduled post time of 3:24 p.m. PDT – will be shown between Betfair Hollywood Park’s eighth and ninth races. The entire Derby Day card will be simulcast. Track gates will open at 7 a.m. The first import is 7:30 a.m.
 
Owned by a partnership that includes Will Farish, Dixiana Stables and Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, Morning Line hasn’t run since finishing last in the Grade I Whitney Invitational Handicap last Aug. 6 at Saratoga.
 
Formerly trained by Nick Zito, the 5-year-old son of Tiznow and the A.P. Indy mare Indian Snow has won four of 12 and earned $1,122,300. His victories include the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park – now Parx - in 2010 and the Grade I Carter Handicap April 9, 2011 at Aqueduct. Additionally, Morning Line was second behind Giant Oak in the Grade I Donn Handicap last year at Gulfstream Park and second – beaten by a head by Dakota Phone – in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Nov. 6, 2010 at Churchill Downs.
 
The Mervyn LeRoy will mark the first start over a synthetic surface for Morning Line. “I really like what I’ve seen so far,’’ said Shirreffs, who is seeking his first win in the LeRoy. “He looks very competitive and like typical Tiznows, he’s very versatile. The owners just decided to give him some time off after his last race.’’
 
Joe Talamo, who won the 2009 LeRoy aboard Ball Four, has the call on the Kentucky bred.
 
Awesome Gem, who earned the sole Grade I win of his career when upsetting Rail Trip in the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup, will make his second start as a 9-year-old.
 
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Craig Dollase, who won the 2001 LeRoy with Futural, Awesome Gem is 10-for-48 with a bankroll of $2,761,370.
 
 The gelded son of Awesome Again and the Pentelicus mare Piano is 1-for-1 in 2012, having captured a $38,500 allowance April 12 at Golden Gate Fields.
 
In search of his first LeRoy victory, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will send out a pair of 4-year-olds for owner Ahmed Zayat – Jaycito and Prayer for Relief.
 
A son of Victory Gallop and the Ascot Knight mare Night Edition, Jaycito has won once in seven starts and earned $301,300. This will be the second race of 2012 for Jaycito, who was a distant second behind Ultimate Eagle in the Grade II Strub Stakes Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.
The sole victory of Jaycito’s career came in the Grade I Norfolk Oct. 2, 2010 during the Oak Tree/Hollywood Park meet. Jaycito was trained by Mike Mitchell at that time.
 
A well-traveled Jump Start colt out of the Mr. Sparkles mare Sparklin Lil, Prayer for Relief has five wins in 13 attempts and earnings of $1,057,225. Three of his wins came in Derbies as a 3-year-old, including the Iowa at Prairie Meadows, the West Virginia at Mountaineer and the Super at Louisiana Downs. His other two wins came in three starts over Cushion Track.
 
John Sadler, who is also without a win in this race, is also scheduled to run two – Gladding and Kettle Corn.
 
Owned by Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, Gladding has three wins in 15 starts and a bankroll of $219,560. The 5-year-old Sarava gelding out of the Island Whirl mare Cannon Whirl will be making his Betfair Hollywood Park debut.
 
Kettle Corn, also owned by the Searings, is 2-for-2 over Cushion Track, including a victory in the Grade III Native Diver Handicap in his most recent appearance last Dec. 3. The 5-year-old Candy Ride horse out of the Lil E. Tee mare Somethingbeautiful is 6-for-12 with earnings of $171,891.
 
An upset winner of an optional claimer at six furlongs April 19, Great Warrior will seek his first synthetic victory. Owned by breeder Coudelaria Jessica and trained by A.C. Avila, the 4-year-old has won three of 13 and banked $136,706. The Brazilian bred is a son of Leroidesanimaux and the Seeking the Gold mare Esther Rose.
 
Honour the Deputy will be looking to end a 10 race losing streak for a partnership that includes Barnett Stables LLC, Mark DeDomenico and George Todaro and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
 
The 5-year-old Honour and Glory gelding out of the French Deputy mare Deputy’s Delight is 3-for-14 in his career with earnings of $110,690. His last win came in an optional claimer Nov. 26, 2010 at Laurel.
 
Thirtyfirststreet will be trying to bounce back after consecutive eighth place finishes in the Santa Anita and New Orleans Handicaps.
 
Trained by Doug O’Neill for Mark Gorman, Neil Haymes and Sterling Stables, Thirtyfirststreet has four wins in 16 races. The 4-year-old Good Journey colt out of the Sky Classic mare Avian has earned $355,200.
 
The California bred is 1-for-3 over Cushion Track, having collected his maiden win in his second start Nov. 20, 2010.
 
From inside out, the field for the 33rd Mervyn  LeRoy Handicap: Jaycito, Brice Blanc rides, 116 pounds; Prayer for Relief, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 116; Great Warrior, Omar Berrio, 114; Morning Line, Joe Talamo, 119; Kettle Corn, Alonso Quinonez, 116; Thirtyfirststreet, Eswan Flores, 113; Gladding, Victor Espinoza, 116 and Honour the Deputy, Kevin Krigger, 113.

 

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