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Aug 23 News and Notes Del Mar

Week five is in the books at Del Mar and the racing has really settled in as favorites are starting to dominate most of the races. Of course, there are exceptions to that thinking as on Friday the Rainbow pick six was hit by a single ticket winner for $595,000 plus, and that was created by two long shot winners that paid $76 and change and $60 and change, all with a $432 purchased ticket. But overall, favorites are now winning at 36.66% for the meet and that is above the national average. The main track is at 39.8% while the turf course is at 33.8%. For the most part, field size has remained strong with many of the races continuing to have an also eligible list. And more importantly, any significant biases have disappeared and both the main track and the turf course are playing fair. Stakes action is on the slow side for now but will pick up measurably on Labor Day weekend with a huge Saturday, Sept. 3rd, Pacific Classic Day. Racing returns on Thursday with an 8 race card and a four day race week, but they will race five days the following week. The Rainbow pick six pool is starting over again and has $165,128 up for grabs this Thursday.

STAKES RECAP: There were three stakes at Del Mar this past week and we will cover all three of them. Eastern trainer Graham Motion shipped two horses west last week from his training center in Maryland and both horses got the job done, one on Friday and the other on Saturday. Sister O’Toole came from last to first in the 11 furlong CTT and TOC stakes Friday under Umberto Rispoli and paid a nice $11.00 mutuel in the process. The five year old mare made two moves in the race, one on the back side to go from last to third in the 7 horse field, and then another at the 1/8 pole to prevail by a half length at the wire. Scarabea was second while Bellamore ran third in this non graded stakes worth $131,500. Neige Blanche, who was the odds on choice and won this race last year, had a good trip but just didn’t fire and missed the board completely. The winner boosted her bankroll up to $298,032 with the victory. On Saturday, 13 sophomore fillies went to the starting gate in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at 9 furlongs on the turf, and once again Motion got the money. Tyler Gaffalione, one of the top riders on the east coast flew out to ride the 6/5 choice, Spendarella, and she won as easy as a horse can win a race on this turf course. She sat third down the back side, went to contend for the lead at the 3/8 pole, then showed a quick turn of foot at the top of the lane and won geared down by four and a half at the wire. Bellabel, off at 7/2 ran second, but this was a one horse race all the way. The winner has now won four races from five starts to the post and her lone defeat was in a Group 1 at Royal Ascot where she ran a good second. She sure looks like Breeders Cup material to me at Keeneland in November.

On Sunday they ran the Solana Beach stakes for Cal bred fillies and mares and 8 went to the post for this one mile affair on the turf course. Eddie’s New Dream, who had been facing much better horses in “open” graded stakes events, was sent off as the even money favorite. And had she switched leads when she should have, she probably would have won, but she lost by a head in a real thriller as Warrens Candy Girl just did get up on the outside to prevail by a head under top turf rider Umberto Rispoli. The winner was coming back in just 7 days and won an allowance race under Hernandez, but J.J. switched to Rose Dawson for this race and she ended up 7th. Jocks and their agents don’t always make the right decision. Hernandez normally has first call for all of Craig Lewis’s stock, but may have committed earlier to Phil D’Amato to ride Rose Dawson. The winner moved her bankroll up to $357,000 plus with two nice wins in just 7 days and will now get a well deserved vacation.

There are just two stakes coming up this week at Del Mar and both are graded stakes sprinting on the main track. On Saturday it’s the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien stakes at 7 furlongs on the main track for older runners. This race is a “Win and Your In” race for the Breeders Cup and there were 17 nominations for this race headed up by the recent Bing Crosby winner, American Theorem. Pat O’Brien was a Hollywood actor and is the co-

founder of Del Mar, along with Bing Crosby, when they opened their doors way back in 1937. Other contenders in this race are the Peter Miller duo of C Z Rocket, who won this race in 2020 and Get Her Number. Eastern trainer Bill Mott is expected to ship in Speakers Corner for this race and if he does, he could very well go favored. He has been hooking the likes of Flightline and Life is Good lately and we know how good they are. On Sunday older fillies and mares will go six and a half on the main in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernado stakes where they had 14 nominations. Last year’s winner, Edgeway, is expected to run and may very well be the post time favorite. Other contenders expected to run are Grace Adler, who made our HTW List in her last start, Slammed, who was so impressive in winning an allowance race on this track earlier in the meet by five lengths, and the graded stakes winner Private Mission for Baffert. The Breeders Cup Distaff sprint winner Ce Ce is also nominated to the Rancho Bernardo, but is expected to run in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga instead. The purse for the Rancho Bernardo is $150K while the Pat O’Brien is $250K.     

In the jock’s room, Juan Hernandez had another big day on Sunday winning four races and has now opened up his lead on Rispoli to 16, 35 to 19 in the rider’s race. Rispoli did win two on Sunday and is four in front of Ramon Vasquez who has 15 victories. Joe Bravo is having a fine meet and is 4th with 14 wins and has the 2nd highest win percentage of any rider in the top 15 at 23%. J.J. leads all riders at 29% after his 4 win day Sunday. Jockey Tyler Baze had to take off his mounts all four days last week as he still had traces of medication in his system from taking high blood pressure medication. This was his second consecutive week of not riding. He is named on five horses this Thursday and hopes to be cleared to ride.     Trainer Phil D’Amato is back on top in the trainer standings by one over Bob Baffert 12  to 11. Just as Baffert gets most of his winners from the main track, D’Amato dominates his rivals on the turf. Three trainers have 10 wins, i.e. Peter Miller, George Papaprodromou, and Doug O’Neill. John Sadler won two on Sunday and is now sixth with 9 victories. Baffert has the highest win percentage at 29% followed by Nor Cal trainer Andy Mathis at 27%.

As I write this on Monday morning, the Pacific Classic is just 12 days away, and what a race it should be, headed up by the exciting Flightline, who is undefeated and for that matter unchallenged in all four of his races. He is coming off a dominating win in the Met Mile in New York where he had nothing but trouble early on in the race, yet still went on and won by six handily for trainer John Sadler. However, this is his first start at 10 furlongs and around two turns, as the Met Mile was a one turn race at Belmont Park. Doesn’t matter, as this horse is a complete beast, and he should dominate again as Sadler has kept him in one piece and his works have been terrific leading up to the signature race of the meet. He worked 7 furlongs in 1:24 flat Saturday and galloped out strongly. His main rival could very well be Baffert’s Country Grammer, who also worked Saturday, six furlongs in 1:12 flat and out 7/8 in 1:25.40. He won the very rich Dubai World Cup earlier this year. Even though these two horses are two of the best in America, it won’t be a walkover for either one. Richard Mandella may very well run three in here headed up by Royal Ship, who has already won at 10 furlongs, along with Tizamagician. John Shirriffs is planning on running Express Train, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at 10 furlongs and Ed Moger will be saddling Stiletto Boy, who won the Grade 2 Californian over Express Train. Throw in 3 graded stakes on the grass that day along with a stakes for sophomores on the main track and Sept. 3 is going to be a day to remember. Don’t miss it.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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