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News and Notes Aug 1 Del Mar

Week two is in the books for the mighty Del Mar Summer meet and racing continues strong with mostly full fields in each race on both the turf course and the main track. And that will continue for quite some time as this track is loaded with race ready horses in almost all classifications. The main track has played fair from a pace standpoint through the first seven race days, but the outside lanes is where the bias exists and it was extremely strong this past Saturday, July 30. Any horses that raced on the inside on that day should be given extra scrutiny when they return for their next start. The turf course played fair overall in the route races. The first week when the rails were in, off the pace runners had a distinct advantage, but as soon as the rails moved out to 12 and 24 feet, frontrunners had a legitimate chance and a number of winners went wire to wire. The turf sprints favored speed all the way with 5 of the 7 races won in wire to wire fashion. The turf rails will be all the way out to 30 feet this Thursday and Friday. Jockey Juan Hernandez won 3 on Sunday, (they were the first 3 races of the day) and is the leading rider after 7 days. No big surprise here. Racing returns on Thursday with the 2 PM post and the Rainbow pick six jackpot for any single ticket winner is up to $495,729. First post on Friday will be 4 PM.

STAKES RECAP: We’ll cover four stakes this past week starting with the Daisycutter at 5/8 on the turf last Friday for fillies and mares 3 and up. Trainer Wesley Ward, who specializes in five furlong turf sprinters, sent Twilight Gleaming out west but had to duel with Leggs Galore, who is as quick as any female on the back side. Those two hooked up early through fractions of 21.90 and 44.91 and not much separated either of them throughout the race. “Gleaming” pulled away just at the end to win by a half length, but only because she was on the outside rather than the inside. The winner was 7/5 in the race while “Leggs” was 6/5. Xmas Surprise ran huge to get second at 29/1 and did just nip Leggs for second at the wire, and may have won this race with a stronger rider up. She is one to follow for her next couple of starts. The winner won for the fifth time in eight starts and is now 2 for 2 on this course, having won a Breeders’ Cup sprint here last fall. On Saturday, they had two strong stakes races on the main track and it was a shame they had such a strong outside bias, as both winners took advantage of being in the outside lanes for the entire trip. American Theorem got the money in the Bing Crosby, which was a Grade 1 race, although a weak Grade 1 this year. Nonetheless it was a Win and You’re In for the Breeders Cup sprint back in Keeneland this fall. He broke from the 9 hole, stayed outside early on, made a big move at the ¼ pole around horses, and won like much the best, although aided by the bias. Get Her Number had the same trip from the 10 hole and ran 2nd. Theorem won by a length and a half, paid $17.60 to win, and ran the six furlongs in a very good 1:08.67. Shaaz went off as the favorite from the two hole, never did really get untracked, and finished fourth, well beaten.  

It was much the same in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap for older runners later on in the Saturday program, as Royal Ship rode the outside bias throughout the race under Mike Smith and got the money at $21 at a mile and a sixteenth. The San Diego came up with an extremely strong field for a Grade 2 in California and Country Grammer, who has earned more than $10 million on the race track, was off as the 2/1 favorite in a nine horse field. He also was on the outside throughout his trip and rallied to get second beaten two at the wire. This was not his best distance and this race sets him up perfectly for the Pacific Classic in September at 10 furlongs. No other horse was in contention down the lane. Stilleto Boy did get third and has a real habit of getting on the board in big money events. The winner is a nice horse but I’m not sure he was that much better than the rest of this field. Mandoulin had a very rough trip as the second choice in the wagering, while Defunded raced against the bias throughout coming out of the two hole. Then on Sunday, they ran the Grade 2 Eddie Read stakes for older runners at 9 furlongs on the turf. The upset winner was Master Piece, who got in from the also eligible list when There Goes Harvard was scratched earlier in the day, as he ran on Saturday. The winner came out of the ten hole and promptly bothered two horses when he came over and cut them off just after the start. The two that were hurt the most were the second and third place finishers, Hong Kong Harry and Cathkin Peak, both trained by leading trainer Phil D’Amato. No inquiry was posted by the stewards, so D’Amato raised an objection for the stews to take a look at it. That lasted 10 minutes, but they felt it was not severe enough to change the order of finish. Even though “Hong Kong” was my Best Bet of the day, I agreed with the decision, even though it did hurt both of the horses involved. The problem is that this happens in almost every race when a field of 10 or 12 horses are leaving the gate. If there was an inquiry of this sort in every race, they would never finish the race card. You just have to write it off as bad racing luck and move on. The winner paid $34.20 and got an excellent ride from Abel Cedillo, as this was just his second start of the year, and he ran very little in his first start. But, he is just another horse who has perked up with the cooler atmosphere here at Del Mar. The Chilean bred won for the sixth time in 18 starts and had a very good second over this course last summer in the Del Mar Handicap.

There are five stakes lined up for this coming week with one on Friday evening and two each on the weekend. The Real Good Deal stakes at 7 furlongs for Cal bred sophomores is the headliner this Friday. There were 12 nominations for this sprint led by Big City Lights, who is undefeated, Grade 2 winner Slow Down Andy, and multiple stakes winner Straight Up G, along with Smuggler’s Run. The big race on Saturday is the Clement L. Hirsch stakes, a Grade 1 for older fillies and mares at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track. Shedaresthedevil is the defending champ and figures to ship west once again to defend her title. There were 12 nominations for this race and other contenders are likely to be Private Mission, Soothsay, Desert Dawn, and Blue Stripe. The companion feature Saturday is for Cal breds at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf and had 17 nominations. It’s called the California Dreamin’ stakes and will be headed up by The Chosen Vron, Grade 2 winner None Above the Law, Jimmy Blue Jeans, and Carmelita’s Man. Then on Sunday, three year olds are in the spotlight with the Grade 3 La Jolla Mile at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. There were 13 nominations for this race and a few who ran in the Oceanside on opening day will try the La Jolla. War at Sea and Sumter are lined up to run but Balnikhov will wait for the Del Mar Derby later in the meet. Also on Sunday will be the Cal bred CTBA stakes for juvenile fillies which had 15 nominations. Tom’s Regret, who won a stakes back east earlier in the year will head up this field along with contenders Absolutely Zero and Ceiling Crusher.  Looks like another strong week of racing where “the turf meets the surf.”

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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