TURFDOM NEWS AND NOTES December 3
• The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club completed their four week fall meet on a high note this past Sunday with record wagering, resulting in a 9% increase for the meet in average daily handle. The daily handle this year was $11,291,574 and topped 2017’s total of $11,004,979. This was the sixth year that Del Mar has hosted their fall meet since the closing of Hollywood Park. This is the first time in their 82 year history at this track that they had to cancel racing due to inclement weather. They lost two Thursdays during the meet due to heavy rainfall. However, in each case both the main track and the turf course dried out quickly and they were fast and firm for the final day of the meet. Average field size for the meet was 7.4 runners per race and was down from last year where the average was 7.7. The single ticket jackpot of the pick six was hit by a Twin Spires customer the Saturday before the final day of the meet and paid out at $428,459 for the $128 ticket. The pick six, with the mandatory payout on Sunday was $65,295. Unfortunately there were a total of five fatalities for the meet, 3 in afternoon racing, all of which occurred in the first week of the meet, and then two in the morning training. Del Mar had gone all 7 weeks of their summer meet without a single fatality in afternoon racing.
• They ran seven graded stakes the final weekend of the meet with the turf course rated “good” on Saturday and “firm” on Sunday. They had 4 inches of rain prior to the weekend and though the ratings were good and firm, the course still retained plenty of moisture. Horses that prefer a softer going with some “give” in the course benefitted the most. On Saturday the signature race was the Hollywood Derby and the 5/2 betting favorite got the job done by ¾ of a length under Paco Lopez, who won three graded stakes on the day. Mo Forza, coming off a win in the Twilight Derby, a Grade 2, had a perfect trip from the rail post and held off Neptune’s Storm, who was the early pace setter. The Chad Brown duo of Standard Deviation and Digital Age both came flying at the end, but both came up a length short and finished third and fourth respectively in the 13 horse field. The winner will probably come back in the Mathis Mile, a Grade 2 event on opening day at Santa Anita, so says winning trainer Peter Miller. Mo Forza took six starts to break his maiden, but has now won three in a row. Also on Saturday, a former $8000 claimer took the Grade 3 Red Carpet stakes, a mile and 3/8 venture for older fillies and mares on the lawn. Zuzanna, who was claimed for $8000 by Bob Hess Jr. and a bunch of TVG colleagues 14 months ago, paid $48 as the longest shot in the field. She obviously liked the “softer” feel of the course. She is headed to Florida to race for the winter at Gulfstream where Hess will have 30 horses stabled. The next upset of the day was Next Shares winning the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at $56.40 under Jose Valdivia for trainer Richie Baltas. He slipped through on the inside and was good enough to hold off the 3 to 2 favorite, Sacred Life, by a half length for trainer Chad Brown. The winner was coming out of the Breeders Cup Mile where he ran dead last in a field of 13. He’s another that took to the softer going of the course on Saturday. The winner figures to make his next start on January 5 up in Arcadia in the San Gabriel stakes, where he could very well catch another “soft” course.
• On Sunday they ran the signature race of the meet, the Grade 1 Matriarch stakes for older fillies and mares over a mile on the turf course. Got Stormy, who had just run second in the B/C Mile vs. the boys, got the job done as the 7/5 wagering choice and a Turfdom Best Bet on the day. She held off a fast finishing Daddy is a Legend, who was also second in this race last year, by ¾ of a length. This was her second Grade 1 of the year and she is a candidate for the Eclipse award as the top distaffer in the country for trainer Mark Casse. The winner won 4 of 8 on the year and her total earnings now stand at $1,430,578. She will now get a freshening before she continues her career in 2020. The other significant stakes on the card, the Hollywood Turf Cup, at a mile and a half on the lawn produced another longshot, as Oscar Dominguez, a former claimer, got the money at $24.20 for leading trainer Richie Baltas. “Oscar”, who was claimed four times in 2018, the last being by Baltas for $40,000, got a Hall of Fame ride by John Velasquez to get the money, prevailing by a neck over the even money favorite, United, who had just run in the B/C and lost by a neck to the very talented Bricks and Mortar. “Oscar” was 10th and last with a half mile to go but hugged the rail and got up in the final strides. Flavien Prat, who seldom makes any mistakes on the grass, had the favorite too far back and couldn’t make up the necessary ground, as he was last with a quarter of a mile to go.
• Racing resumes this Friday when Los Alamitos runs their two week meet through December 15. We will not be covering that meet and will start up again on December 26, when Santa Anita starts their long six month Winter/Spring meet. Santa Anita is planning on running four days per week all the way to June 21. They will however reserve the right to have up to 12 days of cancellations due to inclement weather. I think they learned their lessons last year not to race under unsafe conditions. We will have our prices up on our web site, myturfdom.net, for the Santa Anita meet by December 11. A special “thank you” goes out to all that read our News and Notes, and we wish all race fans Happy Holidays for Christmas and the New Year.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)