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Del Mar News and Notes September 8

•    In spite of the pandemic, Del Mar completed one of their most successful summer seasons ever on Labor Day. The average daily handle was up 44% vs. last year, up 8% in total wagering for the meet vs. last year, and remained the safest track in North America with regards to on track fatalities, a safety record they had in 2018 and 2019. All of that with no on track spectators, but owners were allowed on site midway through the meet. More importantly, field size increased to 8.4 horses per race vs. 8.0 horses per race in 2019. The top handicap horse in the country, Maximum Security, won twice at the meet, while juvenile stars Princess Noor and Dr. Schivel showed that they were something special and will be horses to watch as they start there sophomore seasons in 2021. And jockeys Flavien Prat from France and Umberto Rispoli from Italy put on a battle for leading rider that went right down to the final race, with Prat ending up the winner with 50 wins vs. the 49 for Rispoli. To put icing on the cake, Prat won 15 stakes at the meet to set a new record for stakes wins surpassing Rafael Bejarano who had 13. Management did their part by providing a safe environment for the horses and the riders, the racing office did their part by putting together many outstanding cards throughout the meet, and the fans did their part by stepping up to the plate and wagering. There will be no racing in Southern California for thoroughbreds now until September 19 when Santa Anita will start their six week fall meet, with many races in the first two weeks as preps for the Breeders Cup at Keeneland the first week of November.

•   There were four dominant graded stakes over the weekend and all of them were won by the post time favorites. Starting with the John C. Mabee stakes on Saturday, which came up pretty light for a Grade 2, Raymundo’s Secret made every pole a winning one as she wired the field in this grass test at a flat mile for older fillies and mares. However, she was life and death to hold off Lady Prancealot, who was flying at her late under Rispoli. Prat was on the winner at 7/5 and she survived by a nose. The fractions were slow for this quality of race and “Raymundo” had it all her own way as they went 24.87 and 48.60 for the half. The Mabee was Prat’s 13th stakes win of the meet tying him with Bejarano for the all time leader of stakes wins in a single meet. He would break the record on Sunday. But in was Rispoli’s turn on Sunday in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby for sophomores as he got the money with a late surge at the wire to nip longshot Margot’s Boy. The invader from the Midwest went off as the 3/2 choice and this soph has never missed the board in 11 starts. Margot’s Boy ran too good to lose, but as most riders are finding out this meet, it’s awfully hard to beat Rispoli on the grass. Also on Sunday was the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante for two year old fillies going 7/8 on the main track, and once again the favorite prevailed, as Princess Noor was the easiest of winners by six and a half lengths at 7/10. However, she had to survive an inquiry at the start as she veered in from the four hole and pretty much wiped out the 3 horse, who was her nearest competitor in the wagering. All three stews said it didn’t make a difference in the finish but I think the Baffert crew got away with one once again. It would have been a shame to take her down as she was much the best and now is two for two and has yet to be asked to run under Victor Espinoza. She looks like a tough cookie in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies and will have one more race prior. Then on Labor Day, closing day, they ran the same race, except for the boys in the Del Mar Futurity. Prat got stakes win #15 as Dr. Schivel sat the perfect rip from post six and got the money at 7/5 in the 7 furlong main track Grade 1 event. Speilberg, who is still a maiden, ran well to be second, but came up two lengths short at the wire. The winner was a private sale prior to the race and will now go to the Mark Glatt barn while previously being trained by Luis Mendez.

•   The Run for the Roses: Being from California, it was good to see one of our own win the big race, as Authentic ran the best race of his career so far to hold off the 3/5 favorite (Tiz the Law) late and get the big prize. The knock on Authentic is that he couldn’t get the distance, and if you saw his Haskell race, you could understand that theory. But Baffert had 7 weeks to work on him and his training involved running behind horses and then stuffed 14 furlongs of drills in him within five days. If a horse can take that kind of training, he’s a runner, and these were not slow drills. The mile was 1:38 flat and the six furlongs was a bullet 1:12.20. Still at the top of the stretch, the favorite was right where he wanted to be, and everybody and there brother thought he would inhale Authentic and that would be it. But to most everybody’s surprise, Authentic had another gear, and he kicked it in and may even have been pulling away a bit late at the wire. The $18.80 was easy to take and the 15/1 advance wager made way back in February was even better. Even with the victory, it was a tough day for the Baffert crew and he got quite emotional talking about it in the winners circle. His other entry flipped in the paddock (Thousand Words) and was an automatic scratch. Then his right hand man, Jimmy Barnes, fell in the mishap and broke his wrist. Even Baffert took a fall in the winners circle when the winner became rambunctious and starting kicking and knocking over people. But in the end, Baffert gets his sixth Derby to tie the late Ben Jones for the most Derbies in the history of the race. The time was good, 2:00.61 tying American Pharoah’s time in 2015 and he received a 105 Beyer figure. The winner came out of the race well and now Baffert says it’s on to the Preakness in just four weeks. That I don’t like to see as I think he could “bounce” big time in that race, which will have a large field including Thousand Words, Art Collector, and King Guillermo, all three that missed the Derby. Tiz the Law was non committal by his connections about his next start. Authentic had to work so hard to get ready for this race and when you’re on the lead all the way at 10 furlongs and resisting all challenges, it takes a lot out of a race horse. Why not just save her for the Classic in 8 weeks. After all, Monmouth Park has a $1 million bonus for any horse that wins the Haskell, the Derby, and the B/C Classic, and he already has two of them in the bag. Oh well, Baffert knows his horse better than I do and I’m sure he will make the right decision. Without live spectators at the Derby, the handle was down substantially. The Derby race itself was down 52% vs. last year, which was a record year in handle for the race. And the overall card was down 48% vs. last year even though the amount was $128.3 million, the largest handle of any day this year at any track. But when you don’t have 150,000 plus participants at the track due to the dreaded virus, it changes everything. The Preakness is set for October 3rd and no spectators will be allowed at Baltimore as well.

•    Umberto Rispoli and Flavien Prat staged an impressive duel for leading rider throughout the meet and each won kept coming back to the other whenever one would get in front. Rispoli came into the final day with a one win lead 49 to 48 in the standings. But the popular Frenchman won two on Labor Day and Rispoli blanked on the day and Prat came out the winner 50 to 49. Rispoli did have the better win % at the meet at 25 and won 31% of all grass events making him the new “Toro on the Turf.” Peter Miller easily won the training title with 28 victories, as he usually does here at Del Mar. He was 8 up on Phil D’Amato who had a fine meet and won with 24% of his starters. Simon Callaghan led all trainers in the top 20 with a 34 win percentage and claiming guru Bill Spawr won with 29% of his starters.

•   And for us at Turfdom, the summer Del Mar meet was one of our best, as we had positive ROI’s on all three of our starred wagers. Our Best Bet with three stars had a positive ROI OF a plus 35% while our Best Chance Bet with two stars had a positive ROI of a plus 237%. The two combined were a plus ROI of 85%, and you can’t make money like that in 8 weeks at the bank or even the stock market. Our prices for the fall meet at Santa Anita are on our web site at Thank you for reading our News and Notes and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Rod Young (Turfdom)

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