Del Mar News and Notes Nov 20

• Del Mar reached the halfway point in their four week fall meet on Sunday and the main track has changed the past couple of days. It was favoring early speed earlier in the week but was back to playing fair over the weekend, but the times were considerably slower, much like it was for the summer meet. They must have dug up the track to make it deeper. The turf course continues to play fair regardless of the placement of the rails, but early speed has the advantage in those 5/8 turf sprints they run. They run four days this week on a Thursday through Sunday basis and they have stakes races all four days. Thursday is of course Thanksgiving with an early first post of 11 AM. There is just one carry over into Thursday’s card and it is the single ticket jackpot of the pick six which has climbed to $83,347. We will have our selections all four days this week.
• They ran just two stakes over the weekend, the Grade 3 Bob Hope for two year olds on Saturday and then the Cal bred Cary Grant stakes for older runners on Sunday. Both races were at 7 furlongs on the main track. After late scratches, only five went in the Bob Hope and it’s no surprise that the winner was odds on and trained by Baffert. There’s not many two year old stakes on the main track that don’t run through the Baffert barn these days. Mucho Gusto remained undefeated and ran a gutty race up on the front end Saturday under Talamo, who continues to make inroads in the Baffert barn. In fact, behind Drayden Van Dyke, smokin’ Joe has become the #2 rider for Baffert these days. Gusto won by a length and a half and will now be stretched out and pointed to the Grade 1 Los Al Futurity on December 8th. Del Mar has always been a “horse for course” race track and that was very evident once again in the Cary Grant stakes on Sunday. The stretch running Solid Wager, who won this race in both 2015 and 2016, and was 2nd last year, got enough pace to run at and won easily by six on Sunday. He paid $11.40 to win and came from far back as he usually does. Peter Miller has done a good job of holding him together and the 7 year old hasn’t seem to have lost much over the years, especially if he runs here. He was supposed to have run in a $40,000 claimer, but that race didn’t fill so they ran him in a $100,000 stakes instead. Drayden Van Dyke picked up the winning mount. Miller has had him since he was a two year old and his bankroll now is over $740,000.
• Lots of stakes action this week as the Grade 3 Red Carpet gets it started on Thursday. This race is for older fillies/mares run over the turf course at 11 furlongs. Neil Drysdale has the probable favorite in Vexatious, who just won a Grade 3 in Keeneland over better than she contends with here, but don’t forget about Escape Clause, who goes for 10 straight and won the opening day Kathryn Crosby just 13 days prior. She’s coming back quick and has never run this distance, but this four year old filly, that cost all of $3200, is all race horse. Then on Friday, they run the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup at a mile and a half on the grass for older runners. Beach View and Ashleyluvssugar head up the local contingency but the shippers coming in look the most dangerous. Trainer Michael Maker has two in the race, Bigger Picture and Krewe Chief, while trainer Tom Proctor has Chicago Style, who ran 2nd in this race a year ago. Plus Graham Motion ships in the 7 year old Can’thelpbelieving, all of which should make for an interesting race. On Saturday, they have two stakes, the Grade 2 Seabiscuit at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf for older runners, and then the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at a mile on the turf for two year old fillies. Then on Sunday, Isotherm heads the field for the Grade 3 Native Diver at 9 furlongs on the main for older runners and then two year olds run a mile on the turf for the Grade 3 Cecil DeMille stakes. The Native Diver stakes is named for the outstanding handicap horse that terrorized Southern California in the late sixties. He was extremely quick and could win anywhere from six furlongs to a mile and a quarter. He won the Hollywood Gold Cup three successive years.
• How bad have the California fires been? Besides 73 dead and over 1000 people missing, they had to cancel racing at Golden Gate Fields both Friday and Saturday due to poor air quality, and the fires are 200 miles away. Rain is due in California on Wednesday and it won’t be none too soon for the Golden State, which is looking golden now for all the wrong reasons.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)