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Del Mar Handicapping News and Notes Nov 27

Del Mar completed their third week of racing on Sunday for their current four week fall meet and the main track continues to play fair, as does the turf course. Favorites are having their way at the meet winning at a crisp 41% overall with the main track leading the way at 46% and the turf course at 37%. However, odds on favorites are just 12 for 22 which is 55%, a pretty low number. As such, the pick six is hit with multiple winners each day and the single ticket jackpot has climbed to $155,879 into Thursday. The biggest win payoff on Sunday, out of 9 races, was just $9.20. We will have selections for the Del Mar track this week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, closing day.

Young jockey Drayden Van Dyke got the hat trick on Sunday and is now three up on both Flavian Prat and Giavanni Franco in the rider standings 15-12. Peter Miller won 4 on Saturday to break open the trainer standings as he is now 7 up on Jerry Hollendorfer, 14-7. The Dorf won 3 on Sunday including both of the stakes races. Bob Baffert has far and away the best win percentage having won 5 out of 10 races for 50%.

Lots of stakes action to report as a longshot wired the field on Thanksgiving in the Grade 3 Red Carpet stakes for older fillies/mares going 11 furlongs on the lawn. Off at 18/1, Tyler Baze lulled them to sleep on the front end and made every pole a winning one to the tune of $39.60. India Mantuana opened up as much 10 lengths on the back side of the marathon race and was desperate to hold on late, but hold on she did, to win by a half over the onrushing Siberian Iris. The winner was claimed by trainer Ray Bell for $40K back in August at Del Mar and first place money here was $60K. Then on Friday, they ran the Hollywood Turf Cup at a mile and a half on the grass, a Grade 2 for older runners and Chicago Style came from dead last to win the race for Tom Proctor and the Glen Hill Farm under leading rider Van Dyke. “Style” went off as the 9/5 wagering choice and paid $5.80. He will stick around here for the winter as Proctor will have 20 horses for the Santa Anita meet which begins on Dec. 26. Then on Saturday they ran two stakes on the grass and both winners were good prices. Elsa, an invader from the east coast for trainer Mike Stidham, got the money in the grade 3 Jimmy Durante stakes for two year old fillies at a mile on the lawn. This was her first start around two turns and she paid $24.80 for jockey Joe Bravo, who also shipped in for the race.  Then it was smoking Joe Talamo getting Caribou Club home in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit for older runners on the grass at $16.20, and beating the invading favorite Synchrony and a 72/1 shot, Secretary At War, by a length and a quarter. This was the second stakes win for Tom Proctor and the Glen Hill Farm over the weekend. Caribou Club is another who will stick around over the winter for stakes down the hill and at a mile up at Santa Anita. As mentioned earlier, Hollendorfer won both the stakes on Sunday, both with the wagering favorite, and both with small fields. Battle of Midway outgamed Dabster to take the Native Diver stakes at a 9 furlongs on the main track at 3 to 5 in just a 3 horse field, while Flying Scotsman won the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille stakes for juveniles at a mile on the turf, in just a five horse field at even money. Flavian Prat rode both winners. Battle of Midway will go in the San Antonio stakes at Santa Anita next on opening day, and with a good performance there, will look at the Pegasus in Florida in January. Flying Scotsman won easily in the DeMille stakes in just his third start and is highly thought of by his connections. He will look at turf stakes at the Santa Anita meet in late December.

They only run two stakes this coming weekend, but both are dandies. On Saturday they have the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at nine furlongs on the grass for sophomores and they will have a full field. River Boyne heads the locals but the shippers will be tough headed up by Carrick, Have At It, Instilled Regard, and Raging Bull. Raging Bull won two graded stakes this summer at Saratoga while Carrick won the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park in August. Then on Sunday older fillies/mares go a mile on the turf in the Grade 1 Matriarch. Vasilika, the former claimer, who has won 8 straight, including 3 graded stakes, will be the favorite for Hollendorfer. But she will face a top quality field as trainer Chad Brown, the top turf trainer in the country, will throw three bullets at her with Quidura, Rymska, and Uni. All have recent graded stakes wins on the grass as Uni has won 3 straight and Rymska has won 4 of 5. Others who will have a long look at the outcome are Daddy is a Legend, the ultra quick Fahan Mura, Insta Erma, Impassable, Ms Bad Behavior, and Valadorna. Both races will be deep in quality and quantity, making for some good wagering.

55 year old Gary Stevens, one of the greatest riders of all time, is calling it quits for good this time, and announced his retirement this past week. The Hall of Famer had an MRI this past Monday and the doctors found a spinal injury that could put him in a wheelchair for life should he take a fall. Stevens goes out with 5187 victories in his career along with three Kentucky Derbys. He won the Santa Anita Derby a record 9 times. He has worked for NBC as an analyst and was given acclaim as an actor in the movie Seabiscuit and the HBO series called “Luck’. He was a credit to the sport both on and off the race track.

The other big news of the week was the firing of track announcer Michael Wrona at Santa Anita Park by the Stronach Group. I’ve heard all of the announcers from all over the country, and I mean nobody could hold a candle to Wrona. He was and is, simply the best in the business. His calls were always right on with regards to accuracy and detail, and he could tell you more about the winner at the sixteenth pole than the trainer knew about his own horse. Wrona did not see it coming but management said they just wanted to make a change. Working for the Stronach Group is like being a member in the Trump cabinet, there is zero job security. Tim Ritvo, who did the firing for the Stronach Group, said they wanted a person that will be more involved. That means they want someone to park cars, sell some programs, and still do the announcing. But Wrona will land on his feet, because he is that good. But it means he will have to relocate to another part of the country. Today, Monday, the Stronach Group announced that Frank Mirahmadi will be taking Wrona’s place in the booth. Mirahmadi is 51 years old and is very talented, but he’s not as good as Wrona. He was a candidate before they hired Wrona and Michael beat him out of the job that time, two and a half years ago. As Vito Coreleone used to say in the Godfather, “It’s Just Business”.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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