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Del Mar News And Notes Week 2

Del Mar completed their second week of racing in their four week fall meet this past Sunday and the main track continues to play fast from a time standpoint, only not as fast as the Breeders’ Cup week. The track has played fair for the most part but shorter fields and lower priced horses have been dominant this past week. The turf course played fair with regards to pace and the turf rails were out 30 feet all three days. This does give the speed horses a better of chance of sticking around at the finish versus when the rails are all the way in. They will keep the rails out 18 feet this week and we anticipate a fair result. The 5/8 turf sprints also played fair this past week and closers have been winning their fair share whereas early speed was dominant in the first week of racing. If you want long shots, look to the turf course this meet where they are using the course 50% of the time. Although the win rate overall at the meet is 31.5%, turf racing has favorites winning at just 18.9% while the main track is playing very true to form at 44.4%. For those bridge jumpers, odds on horses in the money are 17 for 19 so far at the meet. Racing returns this Friday with an 8 race card and the first post will continue to be at 12:30 all three days. The single ticket jackpot of the pick six, which could very well go all the way to closing day on Nov. 28 is now up to $245,885.

STAKES RECAP: They ran two stakes over the weekend and both had small fields. Both were won by odds on favorites and both were trained by Bob Baffert. Enough said.

STAKES THIS WEEK: This week will be better. They will run the Grade 3 Native Diver on Saturday at 9 furlongs on the main track for older runners and the stakes closed with 11 nominations. The field will be headed up by multiple graded stakes winner Midcourt for the John Shirreffs barn. The field should attract a couple of shippers in Bal Harbour and Wicked Trick while other locals will include Azul Coast and Established. The race in named for the ultra game race horse Native Diver, who could win from six furlongs to a mile and a quarter, had tremendous early speed, and won the Hollywood Gold Cup at a mile and a quarter in three successive years from 1965-1967. On Sunday, Cal breds will line up at 7 furlongs on the main track for the Cary Grant stakes where Loud Mouth will return to defend his title. Fashionably Fast, who won this race in 2019 is also expected, and there will be plenty of others, i.e. Colt Fiction, None Above the Law, Peaceful Transfer, Positivity, Rookie Mistake, Whooping Jay, Ultimate Bango, and Principe Carlo. Graded stakes action really kicks into gear the following week with the Turf Festival with an abundance of shippers coming in for the Thanksgiving four day week.

The riding star this past weekend was Juan Hernandez, who garnered the hat trick on both Saturday and Sunday to creep within three of leading rider Flavien Prat. Prat won two on Sunday to keep his three win lead over both J.J. and Umberto Rispoli, but he will be out all this week while serving a three day suspension, so by the time he comes back on Thanksgiving, there could very well be a new leader in the clubhouse. Baffert has a one win lead in the trainer standings over Doug O’Neill and Phil D’Amato.

With the weather changing dramatically at this time of the year back east, graded stakes races on the turf are hard to find. That is to California’s advantage on the final four days of the meet as there will be a bountiful amount of shippers to fill out the race cards. Mike Maker has five horses nominated for the Hollywood Turf Cup, the Hollywood Derby will see horses from Chad Brown, Dallas Stewart, Ken McPeek, Jack Sisterton, and Graham Motion. Chad has won this race three of the last four years. Maker and Motion have nominations for the Seabiscuit Handicap. Brown, Motion, and Maker have nominations for the Jimmy Durante stakes for two year old fillies while the big one on Sunday, the Grade 1 Matriarch will have runners from Mike Stidham, Joe Sharp, and of course Chad Brown, who won this race last year. Full fields lead to good priced horses and plenty of handle.

UPDATE: The saga of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer lingers on as he continues his legal fight against the Stronach Group to enter race horses on tracks which they own. This started back in September of 2019 when the “Dorf” was made the scapegoat for the Stronach Group and all of the horses that were breaking down at Santa Anita due to their careless handling of the racing surface. The “Dorf” recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to race horses at the upcoming winter meet at Santa Anita, which opens on December 26. He’s not asking for stabling, as his California string is stabled at Los Alamitos, a track that has not banned him from any break downs. Hollendorfer is no better or no worse than any other trainer on the circuit, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Stronach Group was looking to put the blame somewhere else, instead of taking responsibility for their actions, or in this case, the lack of. Yes, he has had his share of breakdowns, but he also starts so many more horses than anyone else in California, including Doug O’Neill. It’s a shame to see what big companies can do to individual trainers in this sport. The “Dorf” is just a shell of his former self as his clients were forced to move onto other barns. The same thing happened to Ron Ellis with the Breeders’ Cup and he has had to start over from the very bottom. Life isn’t fair, and it’s a long, tough battle, but it’s one I hope the “Dorf” wins in the long run.

Rod Young, Turfdom

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