News and Notes September 8 – by Rod Young Turfdom

The 40 day 8 week meet at Del Mar came to a close on Monday, Labor Day, with another wide

open full field card. For the final week, both the main track and the turf course played “fair” but that

didn’t stop the avalanche of long priced horses the last two days. On Monday there were horses that

won and paid $95, $91, and $75 throughout the day leading to unusually high exotic payouts. With a

one day c/o in the P6, the wager was hit twice on the final day with a payout of $694,742. The 50

cent P5 also had a huge payout of $313,842 on the first 5 races of the day. Overall handle for the

meet was up 10% but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The track had two more racing days this year

vs. last. The DAILY average handle was down 1.2%, which is still very good, but on track

attendance was down 12%, and that’s the scary number. Along with that, on track handle was down

15%, and the novelty of going to Del Mar physically has changed. Three things have led to this

decrease. 1. They now have a FALL meet which starts up on October 29 (the botiqueness of the

Summer meet is gone). 2. It’s extremely expensive to go to Del Mar. Prices are sky high for lodging,

restaurants, and the on track concessions. 3. The rainy weather knocked out the first weekend and

the inner track took a week to dry out. But I will say this, the Management crew at Del Mar are very

shrewd, and they will go back to the drawing board and find a way to reverse this trend for next year.

Rafael Bejarano easily won the riding title once again by 10, but two new riders on the scene made a

name for themselves and they will remain on the circuit. Flavian Prat, just 22 years old, finished

second in the standings with 30 victories and newcomer Santiago Gonzalez finished fifth with 23.

Both riders are well above average when riding the turf. The BEST trainer, and the hardest working

one, won the training title, and that is Jerry Hollendorfer. He finished two ahead of Peter Miller, and

he did so with 40 fewer mounts. But no one had a day like Doug O’Neill, make that TWO days. He

won five in one day the second week of the meet, to set a track record for a trainer. Then on closing

day, he won the Grade 1 Futurity with unbeaten Nyquist, and a few hours earlier, won the Grade 1

Hopeful at Saratoga, both for the same owner, Paul Reddam. That’s a daily double that’s never been

done before. To top it off, he took the other stakes on the Del Mar program with Jakeby Jade in the

Fillies Juvenile Turf.

You won’t find either Mike Smith or Gary Stevens in the Top Ten for the riding title on this circuit,

but when the big money is on the line, both of these riders rise above the flock, and both of them are

over 50 years of age. They gave some lessons to their younger rivals over the weekend by winning

most of the graded stakes. On Sunday, Om won the Del Mar Derby at 6/1 ($15.00) on a patented

wire to wire score. The public bet Prospect Park all the way down to an unplayable 2/5, while Om

went from 5/2 all the way up to 6/1. Trainer Dan Hendricks did two things with this front runner. He

took the blinkers off to get him to relax better on the front end, which he did, and then changed

riders from Fernando Perez to Gary Stevens, an obvious upgrade. As the lone speed in the race, he

was the play. Then Mike Smith timed his ride just right to get the money in the Grade 2 Yellow

Ribbon at $14.60, (a Turfdom Best Bet), with She’s Not Right. This filly is a 3/4 sister to the great

Zenyatta. Then on Saturday, Smith won the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante with the talented filly

Songbird over previously unbeaten Pretty N Cool. The latter ran her heart out down the lane but

Songbird had the best tactical position, being on the outside. If they can keep Songbird sound and

healthy, she is the type of filly that can win races like the Santa Anita Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks

as a 3 year old. Hollendorfer is the trainer.

I hope I’m not alone in this line of thinking, but for the second consecutive week, the Stewards let a

winner stay up that I thought should have been disqualified. In Sunday’s first race, a 33/1 shot,

Pleasant as Pie, easily won the race by 4 lengths. But she came over at the head of the stretch and

badly bumped two horses costing them at least two lengths each. The main victim was Untouchable

U who finished third, but was only beaten a NECK for second. The Steward’s reasoning was that the

incident “DID NOT COST UNTOUCHABLE U A BETTER PLACING.” Are you kidding me??

Second is ALWAYS better than third. It’s the difference of 8% in purse money!! Now there’s no

doubt that the winner was much the best horse in the race, but she still caused interference in the

stretch that did indeed cost the third place horse a better placing. Now either the Stewards are totally

incompetent OR the rules are written so badly by the California Horse Racing Board, that it’s

difficult to interpret them. Either way, something has to change, or will it? It will soon be all

forgotten and the same incompetent stewards and CHRB members will remain in place. The game

will go on and the same players will continue to play. I guess there’s just too much “good” in the

sport that overcomes all the negatives. This column will be off for two and a half weeks and we’ll

see you back when Santa Anita opens their Fall Meet on September 26.

 

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