INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The $500,000 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park on Sunday will test Worldly in several ways.
Is he back to the form that led to two graded stakes wins during the spring? Can he be as effective over 1 1/4 miles on turf as he was over shorter distances? Has he fully recovered from a throat ulcer diagnosed after a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2?
Worldly has not started since the Del Mar Derby, but has still earned $60,000 since that race for owner Christopher Wright. Earlier this fall, Worldly was promoted from second to first in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap after original race winner Medici Code was disqualified for testing beyond the legal amount of clenbuterol.
When Medici Code was disqualified from the winner's share of the La Jolla purse, Worldly's portion of the purse increased from $30,000 to $90,000. That will not seem like much if Worldly can win the Hollywood Derby, which carries a first-place prize of $300,000.
"I think he can win the race," trainer Ben Cecil said. "If you take out Nobiz Like Shobiz, I'm very confident."
Cecil has a right to be concerned about Nobiz Like Shobiz. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Nobiz Like Shobiz, a six-time stakes winner, finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.
Over the last month, Worldly has caught Cecil's eye with the way he has trained. The losses at Del Mar are not much of a concern, he said. In the La Jolla, Worldly was sixth on the final turn and finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Medici Code.
"The La Jolla, he had too much to do," Cecil said.
"In his last race, he had every opportunity to fade and he still ran credibly."
Also expected for the Hollywood Derby are Augment, Bold Hawk, Daytona, Medici Code, Mostacolli Mort, Patch of Blue, Ten a Penny, Twilight Meteor, and Warning Zone.
Wait a While ships in for Matriarch
Wait a While, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2006, arrived at Hollywood Park on Tuesday from New York for Sunday's Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares. So far, this trip to California has gone much better than her journey for the CashCall Mile in July.
Wait a While did not start in the CashCall Mile after she spiked a temperature upon arrival in California. She was in much better health Wednesday, according to Michael McCarthy, who oversees trainer Todd Pletcher's California stable.
McCarthy said Wait a While's temperature has been taken twice a day along with the other Pletcher-trained horses.
"The way she came off the van squealing, she doesn't need a follow-up," he said.
Wait a While finished third in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 29 in her last start. She has won two stakes this year - the Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park in March and the Ballston Spa at Saratoga on Aug. 23.
In the Matriarch, Wait a While will face a tough field that is expected to include Black Mamba, Dance Away Capote, Lady of Venice, Naissance Royale, Precious Kitten, and Vacare.
The Green Monkey fades in turf debut
The Green Monkey, purchased for a record $16 million as a 2-year-old in training in 2006, finished fourth in Wednesday's fourth race and remains winless after three starts.
Making his first start on turf and first start around two turns, The Green Monkey finished 7 1/2 lengths behind race winner Rather Be Lucky in a turf maiden race over 1 1/16 miles. The Green Monkey was the 6-5 favorite in a field of nine.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, The Green Monkey stalked the early pace, led on the final turn, but faded nearing the quarter pole when challenged by Rather Be Lucky and Go All In, the eventual runner-up.
The Green Monkey, a Forestry colt, was third and fourth in sprints at Belmont Park in September and October. Owned by Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor, The Green Monkey is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Rather Be Lucky ($8.60) was ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., who won three of the first four races on Wednesday's eight-race program.
Wing Forward opts for allowance
Wing Forward was nominated for the Hollywood Derby, but a $54,000 allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on Friday has greater appeal to trainer Mike Puype.
From Puype's perspective, Wing Forward will be facing the Hollywood Derby hopefuls in the not-too-distant future.
"It's not the right place with only three starts," Puype said of the derby. "He couldn't look any better right now."
An Argentine-bred, Wing Forward won his U.S. debut in an allowance race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Sept. 29. He rallied from last in a field of 12 to post a 12-1 upset in that race, run over a mile on turf. In Argentina, Wing Forward won his second start last April against maidens over about a mile on turf.
In Friday's race, the third on a 10-race program, Wing Forward has eight rivals, including Courtnall, who was third in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile on Oct. 7; Perfect Casting, who was fifth in the Grade 2 American Derby at Arlington Park in July; and the front-runner Quest Venture.
Puype realizes that the allowance race will still be a test for Wing Forward.
"He'll have to step up to get the win," he said.
Wing Forward is owned by a partnership that includes the Little Red Feather syndicate. One member of the syndicate is radio and television sports talk-show host Jim Rome.
Last year's winners fail to make returns
At last year's turf festival, Ashkal Way (Citation Handicap), Price Tag (Matriarch Stakes), and Showing Up (Hollywood Derby) won the three Grade 1 races. Since then, two have been retired, and the only one still in training will not race again until next year.
Price Tag has been retired to Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, where she was born and where she will begin a new career as a broodmare next spring.
Showing Up just recently returned to training after straining a ligament earlier this year. His trainer, Barclay Tagg, said Showing Up should be back to the races early next year in Florida.
Ashkal Way, like Price Tag, has been retired. But since he is a gelding, he is not headed to the breeding shed. Fortunately for him, he found a welcome home in Maryland as a riding horse for Jeannine Edwards, the ESPN television reporter who is an accomplished horsewoman.
"He's such a little doll," Edwards said. "Everybody says they cannot believe he was a racehorse because he's so mild-mannered. He's docile. He literally follows me around the barn like a puppy dog."
Edwards said she took ownership of Ashkal Way in August, four months after Ashkal Way's final start.
"I had always liked the horse," Edwards said. "He settled in really well. Some day I'd like to compete with him in eventing. Right now, I'm teaching him a little dressage, and doing some cross-country work. Later on, we'll go over the jumps."
Edwards is also a triple threat. After starting on ESPN as a reporter exclusively for racing, she is now doing college football and will report on college basketball this winter.
Sea Chanter tops Miesque Stakes
Sea Chanter, winner of the Epitome Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26, will be favored among 12 2-year-old fillies in Saturday's $100,000 Miesque Stakes over a mile on turf. The race has also drawn stakes winners Bathed in Blue, La Mina, Golden Doc A, Runforthemoneybaby, and Set Play.
Night Chapter, fifth in the Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 27, is among 10 entrants for Saturday's $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express over six furlongs.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman