Ashleyluvssugar’s the one to beat in Hollywood Turf Cup

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 22nd, 2016

Since the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) was transferred to Del Mar two years ago, both winners – Finnegans Wake (2014) and The Pizza Man (2015) – were rebounding from losses in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Friday’s renewal is likely to continue the trend. Three of the seven entrants were also-rans in the Turf, led by 124-pound co-highweight Ashleyluvssugar, who could be the controlling speed.

The best American-bred finisher when fifth behind Highland Reel, Flintshire, Found, and Ulysses at Santa Anita, Ashleyluvssugar turned in a creditable effort while suffering his only loss at the 1 1/2-mile trip. The Peter Eurton trainee had landed last year’s San Luis Rey (G2) and Charles Whittingham (G2) in his prior tries at this distance. And in 2016, the Cal-bred added a couple more trophies to his cabinet in the August 20 Del Mar H. (G2) and October 2 John Henry Turf Championship (G2).

Still just five years of age, and without too many miles on the clock, Ashleyluvssugar promises to be around for quite some time on this circuit. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, who’s been aboard for all of his graded wins, figures to capitalize on the lack of any obvious speed. Unless anyone else unexpectedly decides to play pacesetter, “Ashley” may take charge right out of the gate. He’s tactically drawn on the outside in post 7, so Stevens can watch early developments.

Texas Ryano is also exiting the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he dead-heated for sixth, only a head shy of Ashleyluvssugar. That’s the closest he’s come to beating his familiar foe, having placed to him in both the Del Mar ‘Cap and John Henry. By Curlin and out of the prolific broodmare Blending Element, Texas Ryano is likely a better horse now than when eighth in last year’s Hollywood Turf Cup. But trainer Carla Gaines may have wanted a stronger pace set-up for her closer, who reunites with Joe Talamo.

Doug O’Neill sophomore Ralis, ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, was previously sixth to Ashleyluvssugar and Texas Ryano in the John Henry. His better efforts have come in his own age group. Older stablemate Royal Albert Hall doesn’t have the Breeders’ Cup angle going for him, but he’s multiple graded-placed over this course – and in his only 1 1/2-mile attempt in Keeneland’s Elkhorn (G3), beaten just a length by Da Big Hoss. Third in an allowance in his return from a layoff, Royal Albert Hall adds blinkers and Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux.

Flamboyant was in career-best form for Paddy Gallagher last winter, winning the San Gabriel (G2) and San Marcos (G2) and reporting home a commendable fifth in the Dubai Turf (G1). Although a bang-up third in his domestic reappearance in the Eddie Read (G2), the French import regressed in his next two. He was no better than eighth behind Ashleyluvssugar in the Del Mar ‘Cap and John Henry. The step up in trip might help, but it’s terra incognita.

No distance is too long for Argentine veteran Quick Casablanca, who showed he’s still got it at the ripe old age of eight when rolling in the San Juan Capistrano (G3). He had no realistic chance last time in the Marathon (G2) on Breeders’ Cup Friday, thanks to being held up too far off the pace. A hampered fifth in last year’s Hollywood Turf Cup, the Ron McAnally trainee can make his presence felt with a smoother passage this time.

Fringe graded player Power Foot doesn’t enter in the sharpest of form for Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, but he’s cracked the superfecta at big odds in the past two runnings of this race. The Powerscourt gelding was fourth as a 39-1 shot in the 2014 Hollywood Turf Cup, and third at 59-1 last year.

Photo courtesy of Benoit