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Del Mar News and Notes August 27

•    Both the main track and the turf course continue to play fair at Del Mar Race Course with six of the seven weeks of summer racing now in the books. There have been no racing fatalities in the afternoons now for six straight weeks here and nine weeks overall including Los Alamitos. The PETA people are getting tired of carrying around those signs with no action from the race track. However, not everything at Del Mar is as “cool as ever”. Both on track attendance and overall handle are down 14% this year vs. last year, and there are about 650 horses less in training in Southern California vs. last year.  In spite of those numbers, the racing office has done an excellent job of maintaining a five day schedule per week and for the most part the cards have been fairly full and with good quality racing. This is the final week and with six days of racing, including closing day next Monday, which is Labor Day, it will be more of a challenge. Yet the cards for Wednesday through Friday, which are already drawn, have mostly full fields and in many cases an also eligible list of 3-4 horses. There are two carryovers into Wednesday’s racing, the super high five at $15,050 and the single ticket jackpot of the pick six at $157,141. Through six weeks of racing favorites have won at a 38% clip, 40% on the main track and 36% on the turf, both numbers above the national averages. Odds on favorites have won at 51%, 25 for 49.

•    Del Mar closes with eight stakes this week, a Cal Bred sprint for fillies on Wednesday, then the same thing for colts on Friday. Then they have two stakes each for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Saturday probably has the best races with the Grade 1 Debutante at seven furlongs for juvenile fillies and this race is loaded with talent. John Sadler, who has already won eight stakes at the meet and tied the record, has the very fast Inspiressa to head the field. She won her debut very impressively and was not fully extended in doing so. And then there’s Baffert who has dominated this race over the years. He has Immediate Impact and she also broke her maiden impressively. Doug O’Neill, the leading trainer at the meet has Comical, who has already won a stakes at Saratoga this summer and Brian Koriner has Pure Xena who is a very nice filly. There will be at least 7 going to the gate which also includes Powerful Attraction. Also on the Saturday card is the Grade 2 John Mabee stakes at 9 furlongs on the grass for older fillies/mares where Vasilika is the defending champ. She is back again for the Dorf and is coming off a close up third in the Yellow Ribbon stakes on August 3rd. On Sunday they have the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby which should have a large field headed up by Neptune’s Storm, Kingly, Jasikan, and Nolde. All four of them were either first or second in the preps leading up to this race, the Oceanside on opening day and the La Jolla in early August. Also on Sunday is the Del Mar Juvenile Turf at a flat mile. On Monday, closing day, there is the Grade 1 Futurity at 7 furlongs on the main and Baffert’s Eight Rings heads up this field. Post position will have a lot to do with this outcome and entries will be drawn on Wednesday. Doug O’Neill has two solid contenders in Defense Wins and Fore Left while other starters include Ginobili for Richard Baltas, Storm the Court and Wrecking Crew. The latter is named for the horse that was in the 1973 movie the “Sting”, a classic that starred Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw, the man that was being conned about winning at the track. Wrecking Crew was the name of the horse that won the set up race orated by the late Ray Walston at Narraganssett Park. Also on Monday will be the Juvenile Fillies Turf which should have Shedaresthedevil for Callaghan and Lazy Daisy for O’Neill. Entries will be drawn on Friday for Labor Days card.

•     Flavien Prat is a lock to win the riding title at the meet as he has 34 wins going into Wednesday, ten more than Drayden Van Dyke. Last summer Van Dyke nipped Prat on closing day for the title. A surprising third is the rider from Northern California, Abel Cedillo, who has had an outstanding meet with 21 victories. He won two on Sunday to jump past Bejarano. Prat is far and away the leader in money won and has the best win percentage as well at 27%. The training title may go down to the final day as Doug O’Neill leads with 18 wins, Richie Baltas and Peter Miller have 16 each and John Sadler has 13, but Sadler has won all the money with his 8 stakes victories. Any of the four would love to win the title so don’t be surprised if you see some suspicious drops in claiming prices this week. The horse may very well be up for sale but the objective is to win the race. Bob Hess Jr. continues to have an excellent meet with 11 winners and leads all trainers in win percentage at 32%.

•    THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING: The schedule is out for 2020 and there are a number of changes taking place in the racing dates. The first half of the year will stay about the same with Santa Anita opening up on December 26 and running right on through until June 21. That is one week longer than normal, but the track has kept the right to shut down up to 12 days during that period for inclement weather if it makes the track unsafe or for lack of race ready horses. With the foal crop not getting any better year after year, they estimate they will still be down about 600 horses in inventory next year. Los Alamitos will race for two weeks until July 5th and then there will be no racing at all for 13 days, until Del Mar opens on July 18. Because Labor Day is not until September 7 in 2020, they will get 8 weeks of racing instead of just 7. Then Santa Anita will start up that same week on Sept. 11 with their fall meet and Los Alamitos gets squeezed with no racing in September. Santa Anita will run until October 25, then Del Mar starts their fall meet on Halloween, October 31. They will run until November 29 then Los Alamitos gets two weeks from Dec. 3-13. Then there is no racing in Southern California for another 13 days until Santa Anita opens the day after Christmas, as they always do. Los Alamitos gets just four weeks of racing on the calendar next year for thoroughbreds and needless to say, they are not happy about it. Although this schedule is not totally etched in stone, I doubt that it will change.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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