The West Coast racing odyssey of Maryland-bred mare Mz. Zill Bear continues this weekend when she takes on two champions, Hollywood Wildcat and Flawlessly, for the second time in three weeks at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
Mz. Zill Bear, who accompanied sixth-place Preakness finisher Blumin Affair to Hollywood Park in May and joined the stable of Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, starts Sunday in the $300,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at nine furlongs on the turf.
It will be the second confrontation with Hollywood Wildcat and Flawlessly, whom she met in the Grade I Gamely Handicap on June 12.
Bill Dixon of Annapolis, who along with his wife, Phyllis, owns the horse, said he is amazed that their homebred mare raced so well in that race against such top-caliber horses.
"We looked at the card and thought we might as well go home," Dixon recalled. "But Jack Van Berg said 'Don't worry. You're not going to be embarrassed.' "
Mz. Zill Bear didn't surrender the lead in the nine-furlong turf race until the eighth-pole, when she was caught by Hollywood Wildcat, last year's champion 3-year-old filly and winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff, who beat her by 2 1/4 lengths. Mz. Zill Bear finished second, nearly three lengths in front of two-time national turf champion mare Flawlessly.
The Maryland runner received substantial weight breaks from the two champions -- 8 pounds from Hollywood Wildcat and 10 pounds from Flawlessly. Such will be the case Sunday when Mz. Zill Bear carries 114 pounds, 10 fewer than the two high weights.
The Dixons were reluctant to run Mz. Zill Bear back so soon, but were persuaded to do so by Van Berg. "He said that she is at the top of her game, and if we wait and run her later, she might lose that edge," Dixon said.
Although Van Berg looks after the mare in California, Mz. Zill Bear is still officially trained by Maryland horseman Ron Cartwright.
She is ridden at Hollywood Park by Alex Solis, who will ride her Sunday in the Beverly Hills Handicap.
NOTES: Downpours from heavy thunderstorms forced Laurel management to switch yesterday's two turf races to the main track. . . . Because Laurel will race on Monday, the track will be dark Tuesday. Regularly scheduled full-card simulcasts from out-of-state tracks will be simulcast as usual Wednesday.