News and Notes August 4 – by Rod Young Turfdom
With three weeks completed of the eight week Summer Del Mar meet, the main track remains a
challenge from a handicapping perspective. Overall, it is a deep, tiring track and many horses just
don’t handle it. For a dirt track the kickback is minimal and the times are anywhere from a full
second to two seconds slower than Santa Anita. Since the inside has dried out from the rains of
opening weekend, there is no bias inside to outside. The main problem is that some days speed holds
on well and some days the rally wide closers have the best of it. And some days this changes
midway through the card. The unpredictability of the surface has led to numerous pick six c/o in just
14 days of racing, and management loves it. Nothing raises the handle on this circuit like a pick six
c/o. This stat is amazing. Out of 11 odds on favorites at the meet (4/5 or less), only 3 have won, a
27% record. That stat is normally in the 65 to 70% range. Yet the fans are wagering. The 50 cent
late pick 4 on Saturday went over $1 million, the first time ever at this track. The old record was
$960,755 on August 1, 2004. The pick six pool on Wednesday, after a two day c/o, went over $3
million. The winning payoff was $57,658 and was hit by 34 different players. On the other hand, the
turf course is much more predictable and is getting a lot of play. Inside speed is the most important
aspect with the five furlong races and overall the course is playing “fair” for the two turn routes.
Horses from mid pack have the best chance of winning in the route races as the shorter stretch hurts
the deep closers, especially when the turf rails are out 18 feet or more.
• One of the odds on favorites that didn’t disappoint over the weekend was the talented mare Beholder.
She won about as easy as American Pharoah taking the Haskell on Sunday. She won by seven
lengths in a Grade 1, was never asked for her best, and this was the best company they could find
on the West Coast to go up against her. With Mandella’s reluctance to ship her East, other than for
the Breeders Cup at Keeneland, there is a good chance she will come back in three weeks and tackle
the boys in the Pacific Classic. With California Chrome and Shared Belief out of action due to
injuries, the timing is ripe, as the local handicap contingent is pretty weak these days. If she starts, I
think she would win.
• They carded 8 races at Del Mar last Wednesday, and trainer Doug O’Neill won five of them, the first
time that has ever happened at Del Mar in a single day, and this facility has been open since 1937.
And they weren’t all favorites either, as he took the opener at $28.80, won the seventh at $10.80 and
completed the exacta in that race as well with a 12/1 shot. He tops the trainer standings with 9 wins
through 14 days, with defending champ Jerry Hollendorfer second with 7 victories. Richard Baltas
and Peter Miller are tied for third with six wins apiece. The jockey standings are very tight. Both
Rafael Bejarano and Tyler Baze won two Sunday and are tied for the lead with 14 wins. Joe Talamo
has 13, Flavian Prat has 12, and Santiago Gonzalez has 11. However the top win percentage goes to
Mario Gutierrez who has 10 wins and has been winning at a 24% clip, most of them double digit
prices. Kent Desormeaux flew to Saratoga over the weekend and got the money with local horse
Texas Red in the $600,000 Jim Dandy stakes, beating a top 3 year old in Frosted, who was second to
American Pharoah in the Belmont.
• Speaking of Pharoah, his dismantling of the competition in the Haskell was most impressive. He
only won by two lengths, but it could have been 10 if Espinoza wanted, as this horse was geared
down at the 1/8th pole. A good rider knows to never squeeze the lemon completely dry, and always
save something for another day. They had over 60,000 in attendance at Monmouth and rightfully so,
as this horse just seems to be getting better and better. Although they won’t commit to his next race,
the Travers at Saratoga seems the most likely in late August.