INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Before the weekend Turf Festival at Hollywood Park begins Friday with the first of five grass stakes, Cushion Track remains the focus Thursday with two key races on the main track.
Early post Thanksgiving is 11 a.m. Riveting Reason faces maidens in race 1, his first start since he set the pace and finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. A victory by Riveting Reason at 1 1/16 miles would lead to the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 18.
Cost of Freedom is favored Thursday in race 7, the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes, while moving up in class. The veteran crushed the California Cup Sprint by more than six lengths last out, and could be loose on the lead at six furlongs on Thursday.
Six were entered in the $100,000 Underwood, in which Cost of Freedom will try to lead gate to wire over E Z's Gentleman, Canonize, Gato Go Win, Scenic Blast, and Square Deal.
Cost of Freedom and E Z's Gentleman were considered BC Sprint candidates in fall, but after finishing fourth and third, respectively, Oct. 9 in the Grade 1 Ancient Title, their campaigns were redirected.
Cost of Freedom dropped into the Cal Cup Sprint and won by more than six lengths with a 103 Beyer. John Sadler trains the 7-year-old gelding, who has won nine races and $752,263 from 19 starts. Joe Talamo rides.
E Z's Gentleman has not started since the Ancient Title, but fast recent works suggest he is on his game. A Grade 1 winner at Hollywood at seven furlongs, E Z's Gentleman has won four races and $359,711 from 17 starts. Joel Rosario rides for trainer Bob Baffert.
Lightly raced Canonize, 3 for 7, enters as an unknown. After Canonize missed the summer with a back issue and illness, trainer Ron Ellis shipped him to Keeneland for a sixth-place comeback in the Grade 3 Phoenix.
"I ran him at Keeneland to dodge the [Ancient Title] out here," Ellis said. "The race at Keeneland ended up being a tough race. He needed the race, and he got tired."
Ellis hopes for an improved effort Thursday, but admits Cost of Freedom "was so damn impressive last time, and I don't know if there's anyone that can go with him."
Square Deal might apply pressure. If he pushes Cost of Freedom early, then E Z's Gentleman or Canonize will have a chance to upset.