July 17, 2024

Hollywood Turf Cup attracts graded winners back to Del Mar

Speaking Scout and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

The connections of Speaking Scout and Astronaut perhaps hope the return to the Del Mar turf on Friday will inspire the two warriors to shrug off recent disappointments in the $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2).

Speaking Scout’s only previous visit to the San Diego-area course occurred nearly a year ago, when the gelding walked away with a victory in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in a mild 8-1 upset. However, after a solid third in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) to start the season, Speaking Scout has placed only twice in six subsequent outings.

Astronaut, meanwhile, has returned to the barn of trainer John Shirreffs, who saddled the son of Quality Road to an upset score in the 2021 Del Mar H. (G2). Tom Albertrani took over training duties in 2022 and had some success, getting Astronaut into the winner’s circle following the Red Smith (G2) after placing in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1). However, the six-year-old has fared poorly in two starts this term.

Balladeer led all the way in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at Santa Anita two back, and then set the pace before fading to ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) earlier this month. However, the son of Distorted Humor has failed to place in four previous attempts over Del Mar’s grass course.

The distance of the 1 1/2-mile Turf Cup should be of benefit to Planetario, who checked in behind both Balladeer and Speaking Scout in the John Henry Turf Championship. He captured the about 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano (G3) in June.

The stakes-placed Francesco Clemente has won four of seven, thus is much less exposed than his rivals. The Chad Brown trainee ships in from New York following an entry-level allowance win at Aqueduct, and is a son of Dubawi produced by a half-sister to champion turf mare Islington.

The wild card in the field is Lukka, a multiple Group 1 winner at three in his native Chile last season. The son of Lookin at Lucky makes his U.S. debut in the Turf Cup for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.