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To probably no one’s surprise, there is a carryover into Wednesday’s Hollywood Park Pick Six of more than $555,000. With large fields and incredibly competitive races on Sunday’s Gold Rush card, there was only one winning favorite in the Pick Six sequence (and on the card), one second-choice winner and four double-digit winners. Predictably, no one was able to isolate all six winners, meaning Week 2 kicks off with the best possible scenario for small to mid-size Pick Six players: a huge carryover into what normally would be a small pool.

The 10-race Gold Rush card featured good, competitive racing, with Cal-breds divvying up more than $1.3 million in purses. Although every race on the card was called a stakes, two were maiden races and two were first-level allowance contests. But of the six legitimate stakes, jockey Michael Baze was the star of the day, winning three races worth $550,000 in purses. Baze had a mediocre Santa Anita meet but busted out in a big way here, taking the B. Thoughtful with SPENDITALLBABY (the Barry Abrams/Unusual Heat combo just keeps on rolling); the Khaled with MR. WOLVERINE; and the Snow Chief with longshot maiden HARLENE. In other stakes, TUTTA BELLA wired the Fran’s Valentine field; STELLA MARK pulled off another upset in the Tiznow; and BEL AIR SIZZLE, wheeling back in just three days for Abrams, was moved up by the stewards after the correct disqualification of GAMBLER’S JUSTICE in the Melair. The real victim in that race was favorite FINAL FLING, who almost got put over the rail in mid-stretch, so ‘SIZZLE inherited the win as the third-best filly in the race. Again Abrams and Unusual Heat. When you’re going good…

The disappointment of the day was once again LAVA MAN, who was returning from a near five-month layoff but working splendidly by all accounts. Ending last year with three terrible efforts after his dramatic third straight HP Gold Cup win in June, it seems abundantly clear that Lava Man no longer has what it takes to compete with good Cal-breds, let alone the top echelon of the handicap division. We wrote extensively at the time of his Gold Cup win that it was an exciting but objectively lousy race, which failed to produce a single next-out winner. His Pacific Classic, Oak Tree Mile and Cal Cup Classic efforts were abysmal, producing Beyer speed ratings of 89, 90 and 92, respectively. This time, after a perfect trip pressing a very soft pace, ‘Man was blown away by Mr. Wolverine and could never get by pacesetter EPIC POWER for second.

Decisions to retire obviously are difficult ones (see the scores of athletes who have “retired” only to come back time and time again), but in the case of a thoroughbred, that decision has to be made by his connections, not the horse himself. Hasn’t Lava Man, undoubtedly the greatest claim in racing history with earnings of over $5 million, brought enough money and glory to his connections? What better way to go out than retiring him now and parading him in front of the fans on Gold Cup Day?

NOTES: The very first race of the meet started off with SEISMOMETER getting (correctly) DQ’d after veering in sharply and wiping out the two horses to his inside…DIAMOND DIVA made it two straight in this country, taking the Wilshire Handicap for trainer Jim Cassidy…short fields and formful results produced a whopping $315 Pick Six payoff on Thursday. Favorites won six of the eight races on the card…Friday night’s announced attendance was 10,212. There was a definite buzz in the air as SKY CAPE stormed home to win the featured Harry Henson…once again, Friday night lights produced a P6 carryover into Saturday…SURF CAT won his second Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, with Alex Solis up. ‘CAT is one of the few mounts Solis has retained for Headley since the rider’s blow up at The Derby Restaurant on George Woolf Award day…I like that HP is showing replays of historical races and horses during its 70th anniversary season.

Finally, the Kentucky Oaks post position draw was held today and with EIGHT BELLES drawing the extreme outside, it looks like a cinch that she will also be entered, and most likely start, in the Derby. What again must be addressed for next year’s Derby is the need for also-eligibles in case of late scratches. Why not just draw 24 (four also-eligibles) and allow a horse or two to scratch into the field in case of late defections? After watching BIG BROWN’s races on tape again yesterday, it’s obvious that he is the most talented horse in the race. He showed he was something special in his first start at Saratoga, debuting in a turf route and destroying the competition with a devastating turn of foot in the final furlong. He’s never been in a dog fight, true, but that’s because there might not be anything out there able to give him a fight. If he runs his race (hey it’s the Derby, there are no cinches), it’s all over. COLONEL JOHN for second, with GAYEGO, Z HUMOR, SMOOTH AIR and DENIS OF CORK to fight out the trifecta/superfecta spots. Readers in the Reno/Tahoe area, please join handicapper Steve Fierro and myself at the Grand Sierra Resort at 6:30 Friday night for a free Derby handicapping seminar. Perhaps we can get lucky again like in ’06, giving out the trifecta in Barbaro’s year.

To View Free Samples of last week’s Premium Plays, click on the links below: Apr. 23Â Â Apr. 24Â Â Â Apr. 25Â Â Apr. 26Â Â Apr. 27

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