News and Notes July 21 – by Rod Young Turfdom

Del Mar got off to their normally strong start last Thursday with 40,304 patrons going through the
wickets, but that was 4% less than last year on opening day. Plus they came to party more than
wager as on track handle was down more than 7% vs. last year. However, that’s not a bad thing at
this place as the concession prices are through the roof and there’s plenty of profit to go around.
With Saratoga still a week away from opening, the overall handle was up 2.6% and came in over
$15 million. Throw in the fact that this was the 12th consecutive year that the opening day crowd
surpassed 40,000 and you can see that this is the place to be. What other track in this country can say
that? However, those numbers dropped dramatically over the weekend as Mother Nature got in the
way and dropped a half inch of rain on the track Saturday morning along with thunder and lightning.
The lightning postponed the first race Saturday 15 minutes. And to make things worse, it rained
through most of the Sunday card forcing races off the grass, lots of late scratches, and a sloppy
surface which became difficult to handicap. Southern California just doesn’t get rain at this time of
year, ever. But this was the remnants of Hurricane Delores coming up from Mexico and hitting the
San Diego area pretty hard. The horses out here just aren’t use to thunder and lightning, and many of
the humans are not as well. Management had to be proud however as both the main track and the
turf course held up well. The track played “fair” the first two days and then early on Saturday, there
was a pro-speed bias for the first 5 races. But after that, the track played fair on Sunday and the
second half of the program Saturday. They rated the turf course “yielding” but that was incorrect as
it was “good” both days and the times were very good considering the amount of rainfall. Three
races were taken off the grass Saturday and two on Sunday. Attendance on Saturday was 12,609 and
was up to 14,952 on Sunday; not bad considering both afternoons were rainy with plenty of
scratches.
• The stakes races did stay on the grass over the weekend and both were won by stretch runners
putting in powerful moves to overtake the front runners. Gabriel Charles won the Grade 1 Eddie
Read on Saturday coming from well off the pace to pay $11.40 for trainer Jeff Mullins, who won 4
races the first week. Then on Sunday, Santiago Gonzalez, who won 4 races on the day, came from
dead last for Jim Cassidy in the Grade 2 San Clemente, and got the money on Prize Exhibit at $9.20.
Mullins also won the opening day feature, the Oceanside stakes for three year olds, with Soul Driver
at $7.80 also coming from well off the pace. So far, the late runners are pretty much prevailing on
the turf. Soul Driver will be pointed for the Del Mar Derby at the end of the meet.
• The rain should be over for the meet as racing begins again this Wednesday with a very good stakes
race on tap called the Wicker. It is for older runners at a mile on the grass and the field is pretty
evenly matched throughout 11 runners. We’re siding with Footstepsinbronze, and he should be a
decent price because there is no stand out in the race. There are two stakes on Saturday led by the
Grade 2 San Diego which is a mile and a sixteenth on the main. Bayern, who won the Breeders Cup
Classic last year heads up that field, but he is no slam dunk by any means. Baffert will also run
Hoppertunity there as this is the prep for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic in late August. Then there are
two stakes on Sunday headed up by the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at six furlongs on the main track for
older sprinters.
• It’s funny how things in life always have a way of working out. In last week’s column, we were
criticizing the principle owner of California Chrome for totaling mismanaging the 2014 Horse of the
Year. Now we learn he will return to Art Sherman’s stable at Los Alamitos in 90 days and be trained
to race in 2016, after recovering from a bruised cannon bone. Sherman is excited as can be to have
his stable star back and you can bet he will make a fine handicap runner out of him, including the
Pacific Classic right here at Del Mar.

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