News and Notes August 18 – by Rod Young Turfdom
The weather turned “hot” at Del Mar on Friday, and stayed “hot” the rest of the weekend. A strong
inside speed bias developed on the main track and stayed there for 3 consecutive days. Not sure if it
was from the heat alone or over watering from the maintenance crew, but the rail was golden and the
jockeys soon discovered the bias, hustled their mounts to the lead and kept right on going. Temps
return to normal this Wednesday and I would assume the track will play “fair” once again. The turf
course played fair all last week. There was a c/o in the Pick Six once again going into Sunday’s card
and two tickets got it right, to the tune of $257,589, with both tickets being purchased off track.
• Sharla Rae won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on Saturday for her first graded stakes win, and paid
$14.40 to win on a nice ride by newcomer James Graham. The stewards promptly hit Graham with a
$500 fine for excessive use of the whip down the lane. This is one of the more ridiculous rules that
California racing has, just to appeal to groups like PETA. Along with the “voided” claiming rule, the
California Horse Racing Board has no clue on how to run racing in this State. They really need to do
away with the current CHRB board and replace them with the Board from the TOC, a group that
knows and cares about the sport. On Sunday, heavily favored Taris easily won the Grade 3 Rancho
Bernardo sprint, a Grade 3 for fillies/mares on the main track. Simon Callaghan only had her about
85% cranked up for this race, as she had been off since December, but she won under a hand ride by
Stevens by three, and it could have been much more if he had asked her. She’s the one to beat in the
B.C. filly/mare sprint on October 31 in Keeneland. Then later on in the card, Chati’s on Top ($13.80)
easily won the Solana Beach stakes, a Cal bred event for fillies/mares on the turf. She ran the mile in
a quick 1:34.49 off a brief freshening with a powerful turn of foot down the lane.
• This week they run 3 graded stakes on Saturday with the meet’s signature race, the Pacific Classic at
a mile and a quarter for older handicap stars. With Shared Belief and California Chrome both on the
bench recovering from injuries, the local handicap group is weak. Thus Mandella will send his
talented mare Beholder into the fray, and she may even go favored. She’s probably the best horse in
the lineup with the only drawback, coming back in 3 weeks. But she has won her races so easily that
I doubt that will be an issue. He also has his improving Argentinian, Catch a Flight, ready to go as
well. Baffert will counter with Bayern and Hoppertunity, neither in top form right now, Sadler has
Gold Cup winner Hard Aces primed, and there will be a decent Eastern influx in Red Vine (with
Rosario coming out to ride), Coach Inge and Effinex. The other locals will be Imperative, Class
Leader, and Bailoutbobby. All in all, it should be a good race. Also on Saturday will be the Del Mar
Handicap at 11 furlongs on the turf for older grass runners. Defending champ Big John B heads the
field along with Ashleyluvssugar, Finnegans Wake, and Power Ped. Then sprinters will hook up in
the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien at 7 furlongs on the main track. That will probably be a small field of
Appealing Tale, very sharp right now, Kobe’s Back, Wild Dude, Indexical, and Turnover. Sunday
will have an outstanding field for the Del Mar Mile on the turf, i.e. Obviously, Bal a Bali, Talco,
Rock Me Baby, Pure Tactics, Avanzare, Winning Prize, and maybe the undefeated Jimmy Bouncer.
• This past Sunday between races, top rider Victor Espinoza was awarded the Laffit Pincay Jr. award,
given out annually since 2004 to any rider that has served the sport with integrity, dedication, and
distinction. Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to the Triple Crown this year is a worthy winner.
He has won 12 riding titles in Southern California, has ridden more than 3200 winners, has won 17
races worth over a $1 million, and holds the Del Mar record with 7 winners in one day back in 2006.
He also donates 10% of his winnings annually for the last 10 years to the City of Hope in Duarte for
cancer research, without seeking any recognition. Pincay, now 68, rode for 39 years, won 9530 races,
and is one of the all time greats.
• John Nerud, 102 years young, passed away last Thursday. Back in 1968 he trained the fastest miler
I ever saw race. Dr. Fager could run 3/4 in 1:07 and keep right on motoring. He still owns the North
American record for a one turn mile in 1:32.20 and in 1968 he won 4 championships as he was
voted top sprinter, top turf horse, top handicap horse, and Horse of the Year. He regularly carried
weight from 130 to 139 lbs. Dr. Fager was admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1971 and his trainer, Mr.
Nerud went in one year later.