Farma Way was made the 2-1 favorite when nine older horses were entered yesterday for tomorrow's $1 million Hollywood Gold Cup.
Chris McCarron replaces Gary Stevens aboard the 4-year-old colt, who won the Pimlico Special before finishing third in the Nassau County Handicap in his most recent start.
"What we're trying to do is have our horse run his own race," said trainer D. Wayne Lukas at a conference call at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
"He's given every indication that he's at the top of his game," said Lukas. "I expect the real Farma Way to suit up, but you never know what could happen after a race like that."
Farma Way was caught in a speed duel in the Nassau County, and Festin surged past in the stretch for an easy victory.
Festin's win gave him a 30-25 lead in the American Championship Racing Series, which offers bonuses totaling $1.5 million at the conclusion of the 10-race series. Festin is skipping the Hollywood Gold Cup, the sixth leg, for the New England Classic July 20, seventh race in the series.
Farma Way drew post No. 3 for tomorrow's 1 1/4 -mile handicap. Summer Squall, the 1990 Preakness winner making his first start on the West Coast, was made the 5-2 second choice after drawing post No. 5. Summer Squall and Farma Way are high-weighted at 122 pounds.
Three horses are grouped at 6-1: Roanoke (No. 1), Prized (No. 2) and Itsallgreektome (No. 9).
Prized and Itsallgreektome are turf specialists, but connections for both expressed optimism about their horses' abilities on dirt.
Wally Dollase, trainer of 1990 turf champion Itsallgreektome, said the Gold Cup is worth trying "because he's so consistent, and I have a lot of confidence in him. Plus, it's here, right in our back yard, and it's a million dollars."
The shift to the West Coast has injected new blood into the ACRS. Only Farma Way and Summer Squall have run in the five prior events.
Post time for the Gold Cup is 5:38 p.m. The race can be seen on ABC and will be simulcast to tracks in 23 states, including Pimlico Race Course and the Laurel intertrack facility.
Except for the 1984 and 1987 Breeders' Cup championships, the race is the first for Hollywood Park in its 54-year history to be covered live on a major network.