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Del Mar News and Notes for week of Sept 2

ē††††With 7 full weeks of racing in the books at Del Mar, and four racing days remaining, in spite of the Covid 19 pandemic, it has been a very successful meet so far. Favorites are winning right at the national average, 35% on the main track and 29% on the turf, and 32.5% overall. And even without any on track spectators, handle has been tremendous for the meet through advance deposit wagering. The exotic bets have been through the roof so far at the meet. The average pick six pool is up 26% vs. last year, the late pick five pools are up a whopping 62% vs. last year, and the late pick four pools are up 16% vs. last year. All of that without any on track attendance. And the racing has been good. Lots of full fields by racing just three days per week and lots of quality races as well. Plus this Saturday is Kentucky Derby Day, and that can only swell the coffers a bit more. It may be four months later than normal, but there is still a lot of excitement on racingís biggest day. For the most part both the main track and the turf course have played fair. Closers do have the advantage in route races on the turf when the rails are all the way in. For the last three days of the meet, Saturday, Sunday, and Labor Day, first post will be moved up one hour to 1PM. There will be a new track announcer for the last four days of the meet as Larry Collmus will head back to Kentucky to call the Derby for NBC Sports. John Lies, the track announcer at Will Rogers Downs, will call the final four days. Trevor Denman will be back for the Fall meet starting on October 31. Racing will resume on Friday with a 9 race card and no c/o in the pick six, as a single ticket winner hit it Monday for $686,600.

ē†††Lots of good stakes races are lined up for the final days of the meet starting with the Grade 2 John C. Mabee stakes at 9 furlongs on the lawn for older fillies and mares on Saturday. 8 will go to the post for this race that has been won the last two years by Hollendorferís talented mare Vasilika. Lady Prancealot, Quick, and Raymundoís Secret head up the field. On Sunday will be the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, the third leg of the 3 race series for sophomores on the grass here at Del Mar. Kiss Today Goodbye and eastern invader Pixelate (Rispoli) head up this field that may very well see two fillies take on the boys. Both Warrenís Showtime and California Kook are seriously considering running. Also on Sunday will be the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante for juvenile fillies and Princess Noor, who was so impressive in winning her debut on August 22, is expected to run on a 15 day turnaround for Baffert. She was never asked at any point to run in her debut and won handily by 3.The undefeated My Girl Red, who won the Grade 2 Sorrento stakes on August 7th will also be in the lineup. On Monday will be the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity for juvenile colts and geldings. Both the Debutante and the Futurity will be at seven furlongs on the main track. The very impressive maiden winner Dr. Schivel, the undefeated Weston, who won the Grade 2 Best Pal stakes, Baffertís Speilberg, and Dixieís Two Stents head up this field.

ē†††Of course, the only race most people want to see in America is the one at Churchill Downs this Saturday, and as of Monday, it looks like a field of 18 will go postward, the first time since 2003 they havenít had a full 20 in the gate. Tiz the Law has done everything right and looks like an absolute monster coming into this race and will probably be the shortest price since Point Given in 2003. The draw will be on Tuesday and about the only thing that will beat him would be an inside draw, where he would have to be used early to avoid being shuffled back. Other than that, heís the only one in the field to have raced and won at a mile and a quarter, and when he won the Travers in his most recent race, it looked like he hardly took a deep breath. However, itís still the Derby and heís not a front runner, so he could have some traffic trouble in an 18 horse field. The weather wonít beat him as the forecast is clear skies and temps in the high seventies. His only loss of his career was on a sloppy track. He does have enough tactical speed to stay out of most trouble. Honor A.P. and Art Collector are top three year olds and enter the race with strong credentials and are both in good form, but I donít think either are in the same league as Tiz the Law. There is still a way to make money on this race even if Tiz the Law does win, and thatís in the exacta and trifecta pools, if you can find the right ones to fill those slots. Two horses coming into this race in top shape and flying below the radar are Thousand Words and N Y Traffic, both of whom will be prices, and both who have a good chance of hitting the board. It isnít often a Baffert runner flies below the radar, but Thousand Words is the forgotten horse in this stable. He was 3 for 3 as a juvenile and a top prospect for this race, but he went off form in the spring, ran a couple of bad ones, and then was sent to the sidelines for a brief freshening. Since he has come back, he has found his form, and he comes off a victory where he paid $20 in just a five horse field, unheard of for a Baffert runner. This horse is all heart and is a fighter, and if he gets close to the lead at any point in the race, you will see his determination. N Y Traffic has never won a race of any consequence, but he has been right there in some pretty good company. Heís been second or third in all four stakes that he has entered and probably should have won the Grade 1 Haskell, as Mike Smith went to sleep on Authentic at the 1/8 pole and hung on for a desperate nose decision. Both of these horses will be double digit odds and in my humble opinion, have a very good chance of hitting the board. Authentic is training like a different horse for Baffert these days and though the distance is an issue, you might just get a speed bias surface, and he has been working behind horses in his last three drills, and has had no issue in passing those horses down the lane. Honor A.P. is also coming into this race in fine fettle and both his trainer and rider (Shirreffs/Smith) have teamed up to win this race once before. He worked 7/8 this past Saturday in a leisurely 1:27.40 and ran the last quarter in 24.40 working by himself. Heís on edge if Smith can keep him out of trouble and thatís a big IF these days. Thousand Words, Authentic, Storm the Court, and Honor A.P. all fly to Churchill on Monday, all on the same plane. We will have our selections for the Derby on Saturday along with our ones for the 11 race Del Mar card.

ē††††Umberto Rispoli and Flavien Prat entered Mondayís racing dead even in the race for the title at 39 victories apiece. More importantly, Prat has a good chance to break the record for the most stakes wins at Del Mar in a single season, he has 12, and the record is 13, currently held by Rafael Bejarano. Rispoli won 3 on Monday while Prat won two so the former is now one up.† One who is not doing so well at this meet is Mike Smith, the Hall of Famer who seems to have lost a step or two. For the last few years Mike and his agent have chosen to ride just 3 or 4 per day and they are very selective on who they ride. You wonít see him up on any $10,000 claimers. He is currently winning at just 6% of his mounts and for someone who hand picks their horses, this is hardly acceptable. His riding prowess was on full display this past Friday when he rode in back to back races and should have won both, the 7th and the 8th. Instead he finished second in the 7th and was lucky to get a dead heat for the win in the 8th, when he was clearly on the best horse and had the advantage all the way down the lane. In the 7th, he rode the race like Kent Desormeaux does these days, lollygagging along with his mind somewhere else. He found nothing but trouble in a race where it could have been avoided. Now this was a first time starter for Mandella and he may have been riding to instructions and just IN for the race, but I doubt it. Pizzazz had solid works and looked ready to rumble. In the 8th, Prat completely out rode him on a lesser horse. Prat was down on the inside and was hustling every inch of the stretch while Smith was hand riding like he was going to win by ten. Pratís horse came back to get the dead heat win while Smith showed little interest in trying to win. Maybe Smithís horse didnít like the whip and thatís why he didnít use it, or maybe he just underestimated the rider down on the rail. In any case, this happens way too often. Smith is 54 and though he keeps in top shape at all times, sometimes an athlete needs to know when to retire. Prat is 29 and Rispoli just turned 32 on August 31. Too many riders keep riding when they should be doing something else. Longden, Shoemaker, and Pincay come to mind.

ē†††Santa Anita opens their Fall meet on Sept. 19, and the prices for that meet and the Del Mar Fall meet on our web site now at We will not be sending out flyers for these two meets as even first class mail is just too undependable these days.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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