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Del Mar News and Notes for July 30

•    Yes, its summer time, and the ocean breezes are coming off the Pacific Ocean down at old Del Mar and keeping the temps in the mid seventies, and racing is in full swing where “the turf meets the surf”. But as Del Mar completed its second week of racing this past Sunday, this is not your normal Del Mar season. First of all, the horse population is down significantly. The eastern stables haven’t shown up and full fields with 5 or 6 horses on an also eligible list do not exist. Yes, the racing office is doing a tremendous job with the horses they have and they are still racing five days a week. But they only card 7 races on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 races on Fridays and Sundays, and 9 races for Saturday, and that’s OK. The quality is still there and the racing has been good. But where are all the longshots that Del Mar is so famous for the first three weeks of the meet? They don’t exist this year. Favorites are winning at a very high 46% so far, 48% on the main track and 44% on the turf course. Odds on favorites are winning at 69% so far, (9 for 13) and odds on favorites in the money, (you know those situations where a bridge jumper will dump $40K to show), are a perfect 13 for 13. For the most part the main track has played fair, but early speed was significant this past weekend, with all the main track winners running either first or second by the 3/8 pole. Late runners were closing to hit the board, but they weren’t winning. And on those sprint races from 5.5 furlongs to 6.5 furlongs, the outside lanes are clearly the best. The turf course is playing very fair, with an equal amount of winners from on or off the pace, depending on the early fractions and the early speed contention. They have two pick six pools each day and both are $2 wagers, which is different from what Santa Anita does. With all the favorites winning, the regular pool gets hit each day while the single ticket pool continues to carry over, which is now at $209,286 when racing resumes on Wednesday.

•    They ran two Grade 1 stakes over the weekend and both races were a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders Cup in the Fall. Normally a Grade 1 brings together a bunch of Grade 1 winners, but not this year, as both races could have easily passed as a Grade 2 or 3. On Saturday, they ran the Bing Crosby at six furlongs on the main track and Cistron went wire to wire and won the race over a very dull track in 1:09.95. He went to the post at 9/2 yet was 5/2 on the morning line. This race was loaded with early speed and looked like it had to be won from something off the pace, but when Calexman was a late scratch from the rail, the pace changed dramatically. Cistron caught a major break there and then for some reason, Mike Smith decided to take the other speed horse back after breaking alertly from the outside. Just like that, Cistron was alone on the lead through very moderate fractions of 22.10 and 45.16. Earlier in the day maidens were running 21.92 and 44.80 for early fractions. When a sharp horse like Cistron gets an early lead with those type of fractions, the race is over, long before they hit the 1/8 pole. When the very sharp Cal bred Desert Law came to him at the top of the lane, Cistron had plenty left and was able to hold on and win the race. It was nice to see Victor Espinoza win a Grade 1 race after suffering such a horrific accident at this same very track last year. And trainer John Sadler is pressing all the right buttons these days. However, Cistron won’t get that kind of lead in the Breeders Cup with those ordinary splits. Then on Sunday, in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch stakes for older fillies/mares on the main track at a mile and a sixteenth. Ollie’s Candy pulled off a mile upset by going almost wire to wire and winning at 4/1 for that man Sadler once again. The four year old filly had only been in Sadler’s barn for a brief period of time, as he inherited the horse when Billy Morey dismantled his stable over a medication violation. This filly hadn’t been on the lead in quite some time and figured to lay mid pack under Desormeaux. But when she broke well, and Paradise Woods (who is just a shell of what she once was) didn’t, Kent went on with her and she was one game customer down the lane. Twice Secret Spice made runs at her down the lane and she just couldn’t get by as “Ollie” was as game as they come. She dueled through some quick fractions early yet was still game enough to hold off the favorite in the lane. She now has four wins from 8 starts, along with 3 seconds and has won on the turf, the dirt, and the synthetic up at Golden Gate. She is all race horse.

•    After two weeks of racing, Flavien Prat is off to a hot start and leading all riders in victories with 15 wins and a smart win percentage of 36%. However, he is on a 3 day suspension and will have to serve this Wednesday and Thursday before he is back to riding full time. Drayden Van Dyke is hot on his heels and is riding sensationally with 12 wins, picking up two more on Sunday. Its pretty much a two horse race. In the trainer standings, it’s no surprise that Peter Miller is on top with 8 wins and followed by Richie Baltas and Sadler, each with five. Other trainers that are off to a very good start at this meet and have smaller stables are Bob Hess Jr., Jeff Mullins, and Ron Ellis.

•    The “Dorf” is back: For the first time in a number of months, Jerry Hollendorfer was on the back stretch Sunday morning watching his exciting mare, Vasilika, work ¾ on the turf for this Saturday’s Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap. On Friday, he won an injunction in a Superior San Diego court room to be allowed to resume training at Del Mar after being ruled off by the ownership team of the track, due to his 15% fatality rate at Santa Anita. Although the Dorf may have won this battle, he certainly has lost the war. He is down to just 17 horses at this track where he had 50 last year. He was forced to sell over half of his horses and many of his owners just switched stables to other trainers when he was told to vacate the Stronach Group tracks at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields earlier this summer.     Jerry, who is in the Hall of Fame, became the scapegoat for the Stronach Group when they were unable to run a safe race track this past winter at Santa Anita Park. Instead of laying low and being cautious with his horses, Jerry used poor judgement and it was business as usual for the 73 year old conditioner. Many trainers shipped parts of their stable to Kentucky where some of their questionable stock could fly under the radar, and many trainers just laid low and didn’t enter horses that were on the “sore” side. Jerry continued to enter horses when all the world was watching and his breakdowns came back to bite him. His string in Northern California is at different county fairs where he is still able to enter horses in his name. But his horses at this track have had to run under his assistant’s name, Dan Ward.     Jerry reminds me a lot of the late Bobby Frankel, who started with nothing, claimed some cheap horses, and made a name for himself in the business. But once Frankel started getting top clients who could go after the better class of horse, he left the claiming game far behind him. Hollendorfer has those types of owners now that most trainers only dream about. When you have owners like Larry Best, George Todaro, Thomas Stull, Jim Rome, Rick Porter, etc., etc., why are you messing around with 9 year old $10,000 claimers that are on and off the vets list every other month? I guess it’s just hard to break old habits.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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