At least four horses with championship hopes are among the 13 that were entered Friday for Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Turf Cup at Hollywood Park.
Of the starters in the 1 1/2-mile turf race, Vanlandingham has the most to gain--and lose. The 4-year-old colt has a bead on three titles--starting with Horse of the Year and including the male grass championship and the Eclipse Award for best handicap horse on dirt.
A win Sunday would clinch the grass title for Vanlandingham and probably make him Horse of the Year. A poor performance by Vanlandingham would push other horses, including Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Proud Truth, back into the Horse of the Year picture.
Other horses running Sunday with title aspirations include Yashgan, Win and Fact Finder. Fact Finder? Yes, it's been the kind of a goofy year when even a horse who went seven months without a win could wind up with a title by winning two races at the end.
Fact Finder, a 6-year-old mare, beat Estrapade, one of the best grass runners in the country, in the Matriarch at Hollywood two weeks ago. A win over males Sunday would attract voters' attention in the female turf division. The only other top candidate they have is Pebbles, whose lone American start was a spectacular win over males in the Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes.
Sunday's field, however, ranks with any that ran on Breeders' Cup day. "This might be as good a race as any we've seen all year," said Charlie Whittingham, who trains Fact Finder and Cariellor, another starter in the Turf Cup.
Yashgan and Win are also candidates for the male turf title. Yashgan has put together three solid races this fall--running second to Tsunami Slew in the Burke Handicap at Santa Anita, winning the Oak Tree Invitational there two weeks later and finishing second, a length behind Vanlandingham, in the Washington D.C. International at Laurel on Nov. 16.
After a slow start this year, Win took the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga and has added victories in the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park and the Shergar at Aqueduct. Unable to handle the soft turf in the International, he finished fifth, more than seven lengths behind Vanlandingham.
Tsunami Slew, who will be ridden by Fernando Toro, drew the inside post for the Turf Cup. Outside him, in order, are Long Mick, with Ruben Hernandez; Talakeno, Pat Valenzuela; Sharannpour, Angel Cordero; Yashgan, Chris McCarron; Zoffany, Eddie Delahoussaye; Foscarini, Alex Solis; Fact Finder, Sandy Hawley; Both Ends Burning, Russell Baze; Win, Richard Migliore; Vanlandingham, Don MacBeth; Mourjane, Laffit Pincay, and Cariellor, Bill Shoemaker.
A sex allowance accounts for Fact Finder carrying 123 pounds. The others will run with 126. Despite recent rain, there's a chance that the course will be firm by Sunday. Hollywood hasn't run a grass race since Nov. 24.