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Dec 5 News and Notes Los Alamitos

Del Mar’s four week fall season for 2022 came to an end this past Sunday and was another successful meet for the seaside oval. Overall handle was the highest they have had for a non Breeders Cup year totaling $744.68 million for the entire Del Mar racing year. And average field size per race for the fall meet went from 7.76 in 2021 to 7.91 in 2022 and 2021 was a Breeders Cup year at this track. And speaking of the Cup, Del Mar has put in their bid to host the successful fall World Championships for 2024. Jockey Juan Hernandez, who led the riding standings every day of this meet until the final one, saw Flavien Prat win six on Sunday and sail right on by him to win the title 24 to 20. Prat’s win rate for the meet was an impressive 36%. Trainer Phil D’Amato won two on Sunday and crushed the field for the training title 19 to 8 over the runner up Bob Baffert. The pick six pool paid out on Sunday and patrons who held the winning tickets were awarded $1003 each for the 20 cent wager. Racing returns to Los Alamitos on this circuit this Friday and will run for two weeks, and then there will be a one week break in the action for the Christmas Holiday. Racing will then start up at Santa Anita in Arcadia on December 26 and will run up until mid June at that track. There will be a two week break in April for the turf course to get a brief freshening. Turfdom will be back in action on Dec. 26 with our selections, News and Notes, and our Horses to Watch list.

STAKES RECAP: They had five stakes run over closing weekend and we will cover four of them, starting with the signature race of the meet, the Grade 1 Matriarch for fillies and mares on Sunday. Regal Glory was shipped out west by the Chad Brown stable to defend her title and on paper she literally towered over this field. She had won two Grade Ones earlier in the year and both of them were made up of stronger fields than she would face on Sunday. This was her “swan song” race as she was heading for the breeding shed at the first of the year. She was bet down to 3/5 status and she didn’t disappoint her backers with an impressive five length victory under the red hot Flavein Prat. Hamwood Flier set the pace as expected, and she appeared to be running well within herself down the back side, even though she had opened up 8 on the field. Prat allowed the winner to sit back and run from well off the pace, dropping back as far as 10 lengths at one stage of the race. But when Prat asked her to run at the ¼ pole, she quickly closed the lead from six to two within a blink of the eye, then sailed right on by “Flier” to win going away. England’s Rose rallied for second with Pizza Bianco gaining third, but neither of them were really in the race. It was a most impressive display of talent by Regal Glory and she heads to the shed with earnings of $2,619,134 winning 13 races from 23 trips to the post. Also on Sunday was the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille stakes for two year olds at a mile on the turf and Baffert’s Speed Boat Beach went to the post as the 8/5 choice. She appeared to be the speed of this field but when Game Time broke running under Rispoli, he went on with him and was the early leader through quick fractions of 22.82 and 47.30 for the half. “Speed Boat” was content to sit in second and track the leader under Prat and the two sailed away from the field by five lengths down the back side. Prat engaged the leader at the top of the lane, but like his name, Game Time responded, and the two of them dueled head and head down the lane. The favorite got up at the wire to win by a half over a very game runner with Game Time making our Horses to Watch list in the process. The winner paid $5.40 and it was another two lengths back to First Peace, who was second in the wagering. The winner can handle turf or dirt and will be spotted in various stakes around the country in 2023.

On Saturday, the highlight of the race card was the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby for sophomores going 9 furlongs on the turf and 10 horses lined up for the final race of the day. The race did appear pretty wide open and there was not much speed from the 10 horse field. Then they walked the first half mile with fractions of 24.51 and 49.86 leaving the early runners in the best position for the drive. In spite of the slow fractions, J.J. Hernandez was able to guide Speaking Scout through traffic and rally all the way back from ninth place for trainer Graham
Motion, who left the horse in California after running in an earlier stakes late in the Santa Anita fall meet. He won by ¾ over the ultra game maiden, Spycatcher for trainer Mark Glatt, and Speaking Scout paid $18.40 for the victory. Wit, who was the wagering favorite in the race, closed resolutely for third and was just a nose back of Spycatcher. The winner earned $240,000 for his victory and was his 4th win in 14 starts. He was purchased at a yearling sale by his owner, Pedro Hernandez, for just $3000 in 2020. The eastern invaders won three of the four graded stakes on the final weekend with Chad Brown and Flavien Prat teaming up to get two of them. The other one on Saturday was the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante stakes at a mile on the turf which they won quite easily with Liguria, the 7/5 post time favorite in a full field of 12 juvenile fillies. She was much the best after going four wide into the clubhouse turn and six wide into the stretch, yet still pulling away at the wire. The winning margin was two and a half over the long shot Decorated My Life, who was making her U.S. debut. Sell the Dream was just a nose back in third. Of the five stakes races run over the last weekend of the meet, the two top riders, Prat and J.J. won all five races with Prat getting 3 of them. Earlier in the day J.J. won the Stormy Liberal at 5/8 on the turf with Turn On The Jets at $6.60, and bet down off a 5/1 morning line.

THE RIDERS: Kent Desormeaux won his first race on the comeback trail on Sunday with a long shot that paid $17 and change in race 8. He had been cleared to ride at Del Mar earlier in the meet but had no word from Santa Anita until Friday, when he received their blessing. He has had mostly long shots to ride but trainers Vladimir Cerin and Bob Hess Jr. still believe in the 52 year old and the mounts should start getting better by the time December 26 rolls around. Speaking of riding long shots, that’s all that Tyler Baze has had since his arrival back in California, so he is packing it up and heading east once again. He will be at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas starting this month and will stay there for their entire meet. When Santa Anita opens their doors on the 26th, it’s going to be a very busy riding colony with plenty of the top names staying at least until April. Flavien Prat and Johnny Velasquez are both committed until Easter and Frankie Dettori is committed for the total meet so says his agent Ron Anderson, the best in the country. And now 23 year old Japanese born Kazushi Kimura will also move his tack to Southern California as well. He has been the leading rider at Woodbine for the last two years and has been the runaway leader in victories both years. Their current meet ends Dec. 11 and he is heading straight for the warmer weather that Southern California offers in the winter time.

Seven months ago trainer Richard Baltas was banned from entering horses in California races for medication violations by the California Horse Racing Board. This past Friday he was handed down a one year suspension in addition to those days by a panel of three stewards. The violations consist of administering unpermitted substances to 23 horses on race day from April 15 to May 8 of this year. All of this was conducted by video surveillance of his barn during that time frame. Baltas, who is 61 years old, and has been a top five trainer in Southern California the last five years, will be appealing this decision. The supplements administered to the horses during this time frame were to prevent bleeding and to aid nervous horses. California trainers are under severe restrictions of administering medications and supplements within 48 hours of race time. In the past I have been sympathetic to violations against trainers like Hollendorfer and Baffert for their violations, but it is hard to feel sorry for Baltas, who has been caught on camera for three straight weeks and involving 23 different horses. The only question is, why did it take so long for the California stewards to call him on the violations? After just one day is a violation, why let it go on for 22 additional horses? Even though the substances are not performance enhancing per se, they are still a violation of the rules. I’m afraid this is a case Baltas cannot win under any circumstances.

by Rod Young  (Turfdom)


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