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Posted by Brian Mulligan on 4/19/2010 12:43:42 PM

With less than 2 weeks left before the greatest 2 minutes in sport, all that is left is the shouting, the bragging and the posturing before May 1st so let’s shift gears to the opening this week of Hollywood Park, that some are envisioning as The Last Hurrah.

The movie The Last Hurrah is about an old-hand politician seeking office one last time and this stand in Inglewood, California could be the curtain call on the legendary track.

The thing that has helped the horseracing venue stay in business recently is the difficulty of getting huge loans to make the needed adjustments to turn the racing facility into either a mall, another sprawling gaudy edifice of the times, of one more strip mall, like California needs as much as a whole in the head.

This time of year, from April to mid-July are prime climate times for the area and have always given Hollypark and edge on consistency.

Hollypark has always been a magnet for stars and I’ve personally met some legends including Cary Grant and the great Richard Pryor but the equine stars are also out in full force as the juveniles start gaining reputations and the handicap horses point to the bigger races in the late summer and fall.

As for the track itself, the Cushion Track may play the most consistent of all of the main stops in Southern California.

To see the Cushion Track up close is a revelation. It is comprised of elastic, polyester, granulated rubber and polypropylne and mixed with multi-washed silica sand.

Some of the fibers are not unlike what you would find if you cut up the sole of sneakers. These materials are strewn across the surface to help with consistency and endurance.

By the end of last year, the track was playing much like a conventional dirt track. Check out these observations thanks to Art Wilson from some of the circuit’s leading trainers.

Doug’s O’Neill: It’s a little more firm and it’s not as Velcro-like as Santa Anita and Del Mar can be.”

The patient Ron Ellis had this to say: “ Knock on wood, we had a tremendous amount of luck training on this track. We really didn’t have many hiccups and we were real happy with the Cushion Track, that’s for sure.”

There is nothing wrong with having tactical speed on this track and when you can stalk from an outside slot, a runner is usually in a great position to show his best stuff.

As far as the human element is concerned, the usual suspects of O’Neill, John Saddler, Mike Mitchell and Bob Baffert will be winning races in bunches but there are some value trainers to keep an eye on.

Last season guys like Darrell Vienna, Dan Hendricks, Walter Solis, who is particularly potent with babies, and Bill Spawr all that their average winner pay double digits.

The chauffeurs that demand respect are last year’s title winner Joel Rosario, current Santa Anita leading man Rafael Bejarano and Victor Espinoza.

During the fall Hollywood meet Rosario joined Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr. and Kent Desormeaux as those that have won 6 on a single Hollypark card.

With a couple of stalwart riders from this colony taking their tack elsewhere, there are a couple of riders that are about set to take off on this circuit.

Michael Baze, ninth in the standings at Santa Anita this meet, is leaving, as is the very capable Jose Valdivia.

The new faces to watch include Silvio Amador and Felipe Valdez.

Finally, you have to be careful about betting just off the Santa Anita form as horses that have been stabled or have shown and affinity for Hollypark have an edge.



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