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Hollywood Derby Preview: Sharp Samurai goes for Five in a Row

Hollywood Derby Preview: Sharp Samurai goes for Five in a Row

The Grade 1 Hollywood Derby has drawn a solid field of nine horses, led by the streaking Sharp Samurai, who enters riding four wins in a row. The race will go as the seventh of a nine-race card highlighted by two other graded stakes races, including the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes and the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes (for daily cards across the country, check out our Entries page).

Since moving to the turf in April, Sharp Samurai has won five of six starts, each over a mile. During the Del Mar summer meeting, he won the Grade 3 La Jolla Stakes and Grade 2 Del Mar Derby over some rivals that he’ll face again here. He will break from post four.

Another California-based horse looking to win is the Tim Yakteen-trained Big Score. Earlier in the year, he shipped to Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Penn National, and Belmont Park to face some of the best 3-year-old turf runners in the country. He’s hit the board in five out of six races this year, including recent back-to-back second-place finishes behind Sharp Samurai.

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The out-of-town shipper with a ton of intrigue is Mo Town. You may remember him from the Kentucky Derby trail, having won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old. However, his 3-year-old season started terribly, with bad losses in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. After a freshening, he still didn’t run that well on the dirt, but when he tried turf for the first time in his last race, he dominated his competition. He moves right up to Grade 1 company off of that effort.

The field for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby from the rail out: Ann Arbor Eddie, Bowies Hero, Channel Maker, Sharp Samurai, Ritzy A.P., Souper Tapit, Mo Town, Just Howard, and Big Score.

Top Choice

#4 Sharp Samurai – The star of the show enters off of four straight victories, and Del Mar was kind to him this summer. He has never lost on the turf when going over a mile. Most of the horses entered here have already lost to him at least once, which makes you think that maybe the shipper, Mo Town, could be his biggest concern. Sharp Samurai has developed into a star on the turf and is growing in popularity with every win on the Southern California circuit.

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#7 Mo Town – He was a major disappointment this year, getting crushed in both the Risen Star and the Wood Memorial after being considered a strong Kentucky Derby contender based on his juvenile campaign. A four-month vacation later, he returned to the races but was still lackluster in allowance races on the dirt. Finally, they tried him on the turf in his last start, and he crushed his rivals by over 6 lengths in an allowance event. If he can repeat that kind of performance here, then he will be hard to beat, and he can also become a star as a 4-year-old. He is very intriguing in this spot.

#9 Big Score – This horse has faced every top-notch 3-year-old turf horse in the country this year! He debuted at Keeneland in April with an impressive win in the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes, then followed that up with solid on-the-board efforts in the Grade 2 American Turf and the Grade 2 Penn Mile. After struggling in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, he returned to California, where he finished second to Sharp Samurai in the Del Mar Derby and Twilight Derby. His class is impressive, and you can bet that he’ll come with another great effort in this spot.

Exotic Plays

#3 Channel Maker – Shipped to the West Coast for his last race at Santa Anita, and had a solid showing finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby. While that effort was encouraging it still doesn’t give you a lot of confidence that he can actually win this race. Throughout his career he has been a “hit the board” type, but has had trouble winning. I don’t see that changing in this tough spot.

#2 Bowies Hero – Has hit the board in his last two efforts against Sharp Samurai, but has yet to really give him a scare. In those races he was also beaten by Big Score, but the margins were closer with him. Maybe he can turn the tables on Big Score today, but I just don’t think he can run well enough to beat Sharp Samurai or Mo Town.

Party Crashers

NONE – If none of the top three horses win this race, then it will be a big surprise. It’s hard to recommend a longshot to play in this one, but I do advise using some prices underneath.

Throw Outs

#5 Ritzy A. P. – He picked up a victory last time out against allowance company, but that sort of race seems to be where he belongs. When facing stakes-caliber horses, he hasn’t had success, including a sixth-place finish in the Del Mar Derby.

#8 Just Howard – After entering the Twilight Derby on a four-race winning streak, he struggled to a sixth-place finish against tough company. He might perform better with a second shot against the same strength of competition.

#6 Souper Tapit – He made his turf debut two races back and finished seventh, then was third in an allowance event last time out. He’ll need to make major improvement here if he wants to compete.

#1 Ann Arbor Eddie – After trying turf for the first time in his last race, he struggled to a seventh-place finish. He faces many of the same horses again here, so it’s hard to imagine him improving enough to make an impact.

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