The Hollywood Turf Cup was one of the staples of the fall meet stakes schedule at Hollywood Park, dating back to 1981. John Henry won the race in 1983 and it’s been won by such Hall of Fame trainers as Charlie Whittingham, Bobby Frankel, and Jack Van Berg, as well as by riders Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Pat Day, and Bill Shoemaker.
So when Hollywood Park closed back in 2013, it was a no-brainer that one of the races Del Mar would adopt for its fall dates would be the Hollywood Turf Cup. They even kept the name intact, notably because it fit in nicely with the showbiz theme for the Bing Crosby season.
Since the change of address, the Hollywood Turf Cup remains a coveted trophy for some of the best marathon grass runners in horse racing. The tradition continues Friday at Del Mar as a field of seven line-up for the 41st running of the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 2 event.
The race appears to be a wide-open affair with some horses stepping up to a graded stakes for the first time, while others are trying to prove they belong at the that level. Del Mar’s current leading trainer, Phil D’Amato, brings two of his horses to the dance. Irish-bred Prince Abama is coming off a runner-up finish in the Lure Stakes Oct. 29 at Santa Anita. Prior to that race the 4-year-old Tamayuz gelding finished third in the City of Hope (G2) there Oct. 1.
“He’s a horse on the improve,” D’Amato said. “We gave him time off as a 3-year-old to grow up, and he’s come back better, more mature and more competitive.”
D’Amato’s other horse is Cash Equity. The French-bred came to his barn earlier this year and won a second-other-than allowance at Santa Anita in May. But he ran eighth in the Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar this summer and fourth in the John Henry Turf Classic (G2) Oct. 1 at Santa Anita.
“We’re just trying to get to know him and find out what he’s best at,” D’Amato said. “He’s a horse that always trains very well. I think it’s a question of what exact style he wants to have and at what distance.”
British-bred Dicey Mo Chara, out of the Leonard Powell barn, could be sitting on a big race. He missed by a half length in finishing third in the Del Mar Handicap (G2) in September then missed by a neck to Masteroffoxhounds in the John Henry (G2) last month. The 4-year-old Adday gelding has finished in the money in four of his five races on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
“The horse is doing well,” Powell said. “He’s had a very good year. Every time we came up a bit short against stakes level horses and hopefully Friday we’ll be a bit more lucky. He’s getting better with age and hopefully he continues to mature.”
Irish-bred The Grey Wizard is shipping in from the Graham Motion barn in Maryland. He was a distant second to Nations Pride in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational (G3) in September at the Belmont at Aqueduct meet and is still eligible for an entry level allowance. He fired a handy half-mile bullet workout in :48.80 at Del Mar Sunday.
The Hollywood Turf Cup is the seventh race on the nine-race Friday card. First post is 12:30 p.m (PT).
The full field from the rail with the jockey, morning line odds: The Grey Wizard (John Velazquez, 4-1); Cash Equity (Umberto Rispoli, 7-2); Go On (Mario Gutierrez, 8-1); Avenue (Juan Hernandez, 5-1); Dean Martini (Edwin Maldonado, 15-1); Prince Abama (Flavien Prat, 3-1), and Dicey Mo Chara (Ryan Curatolo, 5-2).