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Final Week Del Mar Turfdom News and Notes

•    Del Mar, the little track by the ocean, completed its 4th consecutive Fall season in stylish fashion this past Sunday with the completion of their Turf Festival. Both the turf course and the main track played without bias the last two weeks and it was evident by the higher than normal win percentages of favorites, especially on the turf course. Overall, favorites won at a 38% clip for the meet, but the turf course, where they ran 4 races every day, won at a 42% clip. Dirt favorites were at 35%. Odds on favorites were at 33%, 3 out of 9 in total. This is the exact opposite of the 7 week summer meet where favorites hovered around the low 20’s. In fact, this is the best time of year to visit Del Mar, as the temps are cooler and there is little or no traffic. Flavian Prat easily took down the riding title with 19 wins, five more than the apprentice Evin Roman, and he was on suspension for the final weekend, except for designated stakes races. Hometown boy Peter Miller easily won the training title with 19 victories, 10 more than his nearest rival. Top turf trainer Phil D’Amato won 3 on Sunday to end up second, one more than Jerry Hollendorfer and Doug O’Neill.

•    Other than the Breeders Cup, which was run here on the first week of the meet, the highlight of the meet was the Turf Festival ran on the final four days of the meet, with 8 stakes spread out over the final four days. And what really makes this good, is the influx of horses shipping in from back east and trying to compare how they match up with the locals. There are many top turf trainers in Europe, but I doubt that any of them are any better than the 38 year old Chad Brown, a disciple of the late, great Bobby Frankel. Of the 7 stakes on the grass this past week, he won 3 of them and was second in another. Our best local turf rider is Corey Nakatani, and he showed off his skills on Thanksgiving by getting home How Unusual at $21.80 to kick off the Turf Festival in the Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap at a mile and three eighths. She’s a Cal bred and she stormed home late to get up by a half length over the favorite, Responsibleforlove. Then another veteran rider, Mike Smith, won the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup on Friday at a mile and a half with a superb ride on Manitoulin, an Eastern invader owned by Darby Dan Farms. They scored at $10.40 in front running fashion with a dawdling pace and Chicago Style ran very well to close into that pace and get second. On Saturday the only main track stakes was taken by Prime Attraction ($16.00), the Nativer Diver, at 9 furlongs. This was quite a story in itself as he was nominated to the Turf Cup and seemed better suited to long races on the grass. But the owner insisted they run shorter on the dirt, and he turned out to be right. He got a superb stalking trip under Victor Espinoza and coming off longer distance races, he had plenty of stamina to finish and hold off the late runners. Top of the Game, the 2/1 choice in the wagering, had a brutal trip under Desormeaux at the ¼ pole, ended up 4th, and deserved better. They are talking Pegasus stakes in January for the winner, but he can’t run with Gun Runner, and they would be better off staying home and focusing on stakes at Santa Anita. On Saturday, trainer Tony Dutrow shipped Mo Town west to take down the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. As a two year old this horse gave Dutrow Derby fever, but he never developed as a sophomore until they moved him to the grass. He is now 2 for 2 on the lawn and he won fairly easy at 2/1 under Johnny V. who loves riding at this track. Then Daddy is a Legend ($7.40) came from way back to get the Jimmy Durante stakes for 2 year old fillies at a mile on the grass. Her previous race at Keeneland was well documented and she ran huge with a rough trip and still won easily. She took a lot of early action at the windows and proved to be the right choice. Then on Sunday, D’Amato got one of his three winners in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap with Hunt ($8.80) cutting back in distance and getting up to win by a nose under Prat. He had to hold off a late surge by He Will and the favorite, Pee Wee Reese, was just another length back. The latter needed this race coming off a layoff, and will be much tighter up at Santa Anita. This was Hunt’s third graded stakes this year and he is tough at these middle distances. Then Chad Brown took over and won the Grade 1 Matriarch at $11.20, (a Turfdom Best Bet) and nailed down the final stakes, the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille with the heavy 1 to 2 favorite Analyze It. Off Limits got a perfect ride from Rosario coming well off the pace and winning her 4th straight in the Matriarch. She got up by a length over Hawksmoor who ran huge at 12/1. It was a star studded field with Cambodia, the favorite, running fifth with a troubled trip early in the race. Analyze It won by six and simply outclassed everything in the race as the heavy choice for the juveniles.

•    Los Alamitos, in Orange County, opens this Thursday and will run for 3 weeks on a Thursday through Sunday basis. Then there is a week off before Santa Anita opens their long Winter/Spring meet on December 26. We will not be doing Los Alamitos so our selections and columns will return the day after Christmas, when the Great Race Place unfurls their banner opening day card headed up by the Grade 1 Malibu stakes at 7 furlongs for sophomores. We wish all of you reading this a safe and happy Holiday season, and we surely appreciate your patronage.

Rod Young
Turfdom  

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