“After taking his time getting to the start gate for Saturday’s $150,000 MervynLeRoy Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park, Morning Line left no doubt who was best in the Grade 2 stakes.

Morning Line ($13.20) set early fractions of 23.57 and 47 seconds, leading by 1 1/2 lengths on the backstretch. He held off a late threat from 8-1 Prayer for Relief to win by a half-length, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.42. Kettle Corn, making his first start since December, finished third in the field of nine. Awesome Gem, the 9-year-old gelding and 5-2 favorite, finished eighth after racing in fourth on the turn.

Morning Line was ridden by Joe Talamo, his second stakes win of the day. Talamo won the Cool Frenchy Stakes earlier on the card with Flightofalifetime.

The MervynLeRoy was Morning Line’s first start for trainer John Shirreffs. Previously trained by Nick Zito, Morning Line won the 2010 Pennsylvania Derby, finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile that year, and won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in 2011. The Mervyn LeRoy was Morning Line’s first start since an 11th in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga last August.

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