Elvis has left the turf course.
Make that Hey Elvis, an Australian-bred son of Clang who will make his first start on a course other than grass when he runs in Sunday's marquee race at Fairplex Park, the $75,000 Ralph M. Hinds Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at about 1 1/8 miles.
The 6-year-old bay gelding was claimed for $32,000 three races back on June 13 by Doug O'Neill, who is on his way to his second consecutive Fairplex training title. He had 10 wins through Thursday, four in front of runner-up Helen Shelley.
""The horse is doing fantastic,"" O'Neill said. ""He's a turf horse, but grass horses run well on the Fairplex course, and we're hoping he continues that trend.""
Since the claim, Hey Elvis won a $45,000 claiming race at Del Mar July 25, then missed by a nose in the restricted Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 25. All 23 of his career races have been on grass, with seven wins, seven seconds and one third, for earnings of $304,764.
""I don't know the origin of the horse's name,"" O'Neill said, ""but we're having fun with it and hope he runs well on Sunday.""
Either way, O'Neill and his entourage plan to enjoy the experience.
""I love it at Pomona and my owners love it,"" said O'Neill, who won the 2001 Hinds with Just Ruler. ""The Fair just has a real, raw feel to it. Management is so nice. They roll out the red carpet for us and that's a big reason we love racing here.""
Or, as Elvis would say, ""Thankyou. Thankyouverymuch.""
The field for the Hinds, which goes as the 11th race on a 12-race program starting at 1 p.m.: Red Door Drive, Martin Pedroza, 119; Cigar Man, David Flores, 118; Swift Winds, Felipe Valdez, 117; Spurrier, Joel Rosario, 119; Tres Borrachos, Christian Santiago Reyes, 116; Unusual Smoke, Omar Berrio, 116; Booyah, Alex Bisono, 112; Quindici Man, Victor Espinoza, 119; Hey Elvis, Martin Garcia, 118; All Saint, Daniel Sandoval, 114; and Cayambe, Alonso Quinonez, 117.
Red Door Drive and Spurrier are an entry owned by Arnold Zetcher and trained by Bob Baffert and were made the 6-5 morning line favorites by odds maker Brad Free.
FAIRWELLS: There were 36 winning tickets worth $2,176.40 each on Thursday's $1 Pick 9 wager, which had carried over since opening day . . . Martin Pedroza missed out on two winning horses Thursday when he took off his eight scheduled mounts due to illness. Fairplex Park's career leader in victories with 641 has 35 this meet and needs 17 over the final four days to break his record of 51 set over 17 days in 2004. The 45-year-old Panamanian was named on 10 horses Friday, five of them morning line favorites . . . Bar JF Hot Ticket, the 1-5 morning line favorite in Friday's first race, a 350-yard allowance dash for mules, had won a remarkable 40 times from 48 starts going into the race, with earnings of $192,402. The 7-year-old mare is owned by David Wood and trained by Ray Thomas . . . Through Thursday, favorites had won 59 of 127 races, 46.6 percent. Odds-on choices had won 34 of 58, 58.62 percent . . .
Jerry Antonucci, the veteran handicapper and turf writer who retired in August after covering racing at Fairplex since 1973, will be honored during the ninth race on Sunday . . . Mike Mitchell reports St Trinians doing well during her respite and hopes to have the runner-up to Zenyatta in last July's Vanity Stakes back to the races next March. ""I had no desire to run against Zenyatta (again) if she wasn't 100 percent,"" said Fairplex Park's training king in 2008. ""That race (Vanity) knocked her out, so I decided to give her a break."" Kerwin John has been riding first call for Mitchell this meet, and won two races for him Thursday, the third aboard Ifitwasntfor Texas and the fifth on odds-on favorite The Phenom. John also won the seventh race on Sarabella Mia for trainer Mark Glatt. John has five wins, 10 seconds and eight thirds from 36 mounts. ""I was in Kentucky for 11 days and was helping (owner Ahmed) Zayat buying yearlings, and I just didn't want to deal with entering horses and trying to get (Martin) Pedroza, who's taking third and fourth calls,"" Mitchell said. ""I like (agent Craig) O'Bryan's kid (Brandon, John's agent), and Kerwin seems like a nice guy, so it's worked out well.""