Hollywood Juvenile 1-2 finishers Alpine Luck and Ontology will meet
for the third straight time in Sunday’s Grade II $150,000 Best Pal
Stakes. And while the first two rounds went to Mike Harrington-trained
Alpine Luck, oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line has Simon
Callaghan-trained Ontology the 5-2 favorite with Alpine Luck and
Skydreamin co-second choices at 3-1 in a field of seven.
“That tickles me, I’ve beaten him twice and still they make him the
favorite,” Harrington said. “But it’s a pretty evenly-matched bunch and
there are several in there that could win it. We’ll just take a shot and
see what happens.”
Harrington has won the Best Pal twice. In 1996 with Swiss Yodeler
and, 15 years later, with Creative Cause. Like Alpine Luck, both Swiss
Yodeler and Creative Cause were owned by Heinz Steinmann. Creative Cause
went on to be one of the top 2-year-olds in the country and finished
fifth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness last year.
“I don’t think he (Alpine Luck) is any Creative Cause, and he’s not
like Swiss Yodeler either,” Harrington said. “He’s a big horse and he’s
still got to grow into himself; he’s actually kind of awkward now. I
think as he matures, he’ll be a better looking horse as a 3-year-old
than he is now. But he’s nice around the barn and he’s all business, all
racehorse on the track.”
On June 22 at Hollywood Park, in his third career start and first
when ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, Alpine Luck was a
wire-to-wire winner, besting Ontology by 1 ½ lengths. Three weeks later,
in the $150,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, it was another
front-running performance with the margin to second being a half-length.
“The first quarter was slow (:23.00) and Gary Stevens knew it and
that’s what won the race,” Harrington said. “This race is going to have
a lot more pace. I didn’t envision this horse being a front-running
horse so both of those races surprised me. I expect him to come from off
the pace (Sunday).”
The Ontology camp is hoping an equipment change will make a
difference for the son of Tapit who was a $210,000 purchase in a Florida
sale in March for owner J. Paul Reddam.
“He’s got the blinkers on for the first time and he’s been getting
over this track really well,” Callaghan said. “It’s certainly a
competitive race, he’s training well and we’re hoping for a good one.
It’s certainly what you’d expect for a Best Pal, but there’s no great
standout, that’s for sure.”