News and Notes August 25 – by Rod Young Turfdom
For the second consecutive week, early speed has dominated on the main track at Del Mar, as the
course has tightened up considerably and the times are much faster than the first 4 weeks of the meet.
In fact, the new “El Segundo Sand” put in to replace the old poly track, finally resembles the Santa
Anita strip, and I’m sure it will stay that way the rest of the meet. The turf course is playing “fair”
but favorites are only winning at a 24% clip through the first six weeks on the lawn, while they are
up to 30% now on the dirt. Sunday was a pretty “chalky” day.
• Saturday was Pacific Classic Day, and although on track attendance was very light (20,424), they
witnessed a very impressive performance by Richard Mandella’s Beholder, who romped to an 8
length win as the 2/1 favorite in the Classic. I’m sure the attendance figure was a major
disappointment to Management as the weather was perfect and the 11 race card was a good one.
They did set a record for the late pick 4 as the handle was $1,310, 045 surpassing the old record by
over $300,000. All sources handle was down 4% vs. last year overall, but they did have computer
glitches late in the program with both Xpressbet and TVG unable to handle wagers, both for
different reasons. But back to the Classic, as Beholder overwhelmed her opponents and became the
first female to win this race in its history. At no point in the race did Stevens really ask her, and
although the Handicap division is fairly weak this year, she won very easily. She will have one more
race before the Breeders Cup, the Zenyatta Stakes September 26 at Anita, and then probably go in
the Breeders Cup Classic and a possible showdown vs. American Pharoah and Honor Code. Other
graded stakes over the weekend took place as Big John B took the Del Mar Handicap for the second
consecutive year ($6.20), and will probably go into the Breeders Cup on works alone. Appealing
Tale took the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien at 7 furlongs in just a 4 horse field, as the 6/5 favorite in good
time, and is also Breeders Cup bound for the Mile. He won by just a half length over a stubborn
Wild Dude while having a distinct pace advantage and he will be up against it in the Mile. Then on
Sunday, Avanzare posted a mild upset in the Del Mar Mile ($15.40), while getting the first jump on
Talco at the head of the stretch and prevailing by a neck. They are also thinking B/C with this one
but he would be totally outclassed at Keeneland in the Turf Mile.
• Only two stakes on tap for this coming weekend at Del Mar, and both are at a flat mile on the main
track. On Saturday three year olds will line up for the El Cajon and then on Sunday three year old
fillies take the stage in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines, where Stellar Wind will probably be a huge
favorite. However, most eyes will be turning East as Saratoga unveils the Travers Stakes for 3 year
olds on Saturday, and Triple Crown champion American Pharoah is set to go. He worked 7 furlongs
Sunday at Del Mar in a fast 1:23.20 and never turned a hair. As he matures, he may be getting better,
if that’s possible, and he should cakewalk Saturday no matter who lines up against him. Baffert
hasn’t had much luck at Saratoga over the years, and even though it’s called the “graveyard” of
favorites, he has never had a horse like “Pharoah”.
• The racing schedule will change for Southern California in 2016 and I think it’s a good change.
Instead of Santa Anita running straight for six and a half months, they will get a break in between
with Los Alamitos getting a 3 week meet in April from the 14th to May 1. Then Santa Anita will run
from May 5 to July 10 and Del Mar will open on July 15 for their Summer meet. This allows for a 3
week renovation of both the main track and the turf course at the Great Race Place. The rest of the
calendar year remains the same. Santa Anita will host the Breeders Cup once again in 2016 on
• It’s still too inconvenient to go to the track in California. On track handle is down 10% through July
vs. 2014, yet overall is up 3%, as account wagering and simulcast wagering more than make up the