Hollywood Park will be the center of the racing world on Sunday due to the retirement ceremony for the great Zenyatta. She will be paraded by the grandstand for the final time before she heads off to her second career as a broodmare at Lane's End Farm. The feature event at Hollywood on Sunday is the Grade 2 $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap. This is a race named for a horse that stands as one of a very short list of horses that have won the same Breeders' Cup race in consecutive years. Of course, the second of those triumphs was overshadowed by tragedy when Go For Wand broke down in the stretch drive, marring what had promised to be a legendary edition of the Distaff. However, Bayakoa's accomplishments should not be lessened because of those tragic circumstances. She was a great racehorse in her day and this race is a fitting tribute to her.
This is a tough race to settle on a win with, especially given the fact that Zenyatta's trainer is part of the connections of one horse I like and her jockey is aboard the other horse I like. I will go with the defending champion here, trained by John Shirreffs, #3 Zardana. She was ridden to victory in this race last year by Victor Espinoza and he gets the call again here. I expect her to rebound nicely after a disappointing trip to Keeneland and a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Spinster. She is back in familiar surroundings and if you look at her past performances, you will notice some of the names she has run against. Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Unrivaled Belle, St. Trinians, Life Is Sweet are on the list of her competitors. It is certainly not a bad resume'. For second, I will go with her neighbor, #4 Silver Swallow. Her Sire is 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Alphabet Soup. Mike Smith rides her on Sunday and it is worth noting that Silver Swallow has never missed the money in eleven lifetime starts at Hollywood Park. That includes an Allowance win with Smith aboard in July and a third in the Playa Del Rey last time out on November 14. My third choice will be #8 Lady Railrider. She has been top three in 18 of 21 lifetime appearances, but this will be some tall cotton she is facing here. She posted two scorching bullet workouts within a week of each other at Golden Gate, at five and six furlongs respectively. She also should be comfortable with this distance given her recent history. Finally, I will put #6 Sweet August Moon in the fourth spot. Joel Rosario gets the riding assignment Sunday. This mare ran fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Sprint on November 5 and was passing horses at the end despite a wide trip. She was a winner in the Grade 2 A Gleam at Hollywood Park back in July at 13-1. Here is the play for the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap:
$5 WP #3
$1 EX BOX 3-4-6-8
$1 TRI 3-4 with 3-4 with 5-6-7-8
Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!