A fascinating contest is in store at Del Mar on Friday, with the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup drawing a tight and talented field led by recent G2 winner Balladeer, who renews rivalry with G1 winner Speaking Scout and Planetario while east-coast shipper Francesco Clemente adds a little spice to the mix.


Hollywood Turf Cup

G2 – purse $200,000 – 1m 4f – turf – 3yo+ – 3.28pm PT

The Hollywood Turf Cup has lost a little of its old-time prestige but this year’s contest shapes up as a proper firecracker, with five or six horses bringing good credentials into Del Mar’s Friday feature, the betting market a tight affair as a result.

It also serves as a reunion from the 2023 G2 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita over ten furlongs, with gate-to-wire winner Balladeer a new arrival in the big league on his stakes debut.

He fitted in straight away, hanging tough to make it home by a half-length, with the late-running Speaking Scout a length and a quarter further back in third, no-kick Planetario a half-length away fourth and Yes This Time fading through the final furlong to be sixth.

Balladeer was never going to be good enough to make those tactics stick in the 2023 G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf last time, finishing ninth, but this is where he belongs. The extra yardage is a concern, though, given his preference to lead.

Speaking Scout is the morning-line choice despite drawing a blank in seven starts this year, although the return to Del Mar, scene of his victory in the 2022 G1 Hollywood Derby over a mile-eighth, could help. Stretching out may also be a positive, and it certainly will be for Planetario, romping winner of the 2023 G3 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita over a mile and three-quarters in June.

Chilean import Lukka makes his debut Stateside and is a little tricky to get a handle on, coming off a six-month layoff since the second of his two G1 scores in the old country. He can only improve but he may need this introduction to get back in the game – nevertheless, he makes much more appeal than Astronaut, who has sunk without trace in both his starts in 2023 and was only seventh in this race in 2021. He probably needs an easier spot to turn himself around.

Chad Brown sends Francesco Clemente cross-country on his return to stakes level. Big things were expected of this horse after he went unbeaten in his first three starts in Britain, but they never materialised and he is still rebuilding. He came from a long way back to win an allowance in a slow time at Aqueduct and the distance is fine, but he needs a big leap forward and rates an underlay.

Eastern Ocean makes his stakes debut and his first start for Peter Eurton. His overall profile suggests that this level is way above his pay grade and his last two wins have come at a mile.

Prediction  It has been a long time between drinks for SPEAKING SCOUT, a G1 winner at this track, but he stretches out now and that can make the difference.

2023 Hollywood Turf Cup Odds

HorseJockeyBetting Odds by JazzSports
Francesco ClementeUmberto Rispoli +300
Yes This TimeGeovanni Franco +1500
LukkaRamon Vazquez +600
PlanetarioHector Berrios +500
AstronautMike Smith +500
BalladeerVictor Espinoza +400
Eastern OceanAntonio Fresu +1500
Speaking ScoutJuan Hernandez +250

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