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News and Notes Dec 1

Del Mar completed their eighth consecutive fall meet on Sunday, a meet that also included their second ever hosting of the Breedersí Cup, which had a record handle for the two day event. The entire four weeks of the meet were fast and firm without any precipitation coming from the skies. However, they did have some Santa Ana winds coming from off the desert this past week that produced some wickedly fast fractions down the back side with a very strong tail wind. If this isnít one of the best tracks in this country, I donít know what is. They had record handle for the meet at $171.58 million and most importantly, they only had one horse that had to be put down due to any type of injury. Thatís one horse from 426 races and 3552 starters, and no track in the country can match that mark. Plus, you got world class racing on both the turf and the dirt in a beautiful setting. July 22, 2022 cannot come soon enough for this punter. Overall, favorites won at 32.8% which is about the national average, with 36.36% on the main track and 29.40% on the grass. Juan Hernandez won the riding title 17 to 14 over Flavien Prat even though he blanked on Sunday, while Phil DíAmato won the training title 13 to 9 over Bob Baffert. But the real star of the humans participating at Del Mar was 51 year old Kent Desormeaux, who won races from gate to wire, from well off the pace, and won some of the most important stakes at the meet. He won twice on Sunday to finish 4th at the meet in wins and tied Hernandez with the best win percentage at 23%. The Hall of Fame rider was riding like he did 20 years ago along with his 77 year old agent, Tony Matos. The Rainbow pick six paid out on Sunday from a pool that went up to $4.5 million. There were 358 winning tickets each amounting to $10,142 for those that got it right in the six race sequence.

STAKES RECAP: They ran seven graded stakes this past week with their highly successful fall Turf Festival and we will touch on six of them. They started it off on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, where they had the Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap at 11 furlongs on the lawn for older fillies and mares. They only had five go to the post and Luck, who was coming out of a head loss in a Grade 1, was made the 3/10 favorite. But you know how it is in small fields, there is usually a large price and such was the case here, as Juan Hernandez lulled the other riders to sleep on a slow pace and wired the field at $24.80. Luck, as she did in her previous race, put in a strong stretch bid only to come up a head short at the wire once again. Neige Blanche, a French bred, just like her trainer Len Powell, is a four year old filly who was winning her 6th start in 15 trips to the post. J.J. nursed her along through fractions of 25.00, 50.60, and a very slow ĺ in 1:16.35 and had just enough left in the tank to hold off the fast closing Luck. On Friday, once again there was a mild upset in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup for older runners at a mile and a half on the lawn. Say the Word, for hot riding Kent Desormeaux, put up a heady ride and came from dead last to nail his stable mate, Acclimate, in the closing strides and paid an even $13.00. Acclimate did all the heavy lifting as usual and tried to take the field gate to wire and really ran too good to lose, but paid a nice $.8.80 to place. Rockemperor, a Chad Brown runner, who was coming out of the Breedersí Cup and was odds on finished a disappointing 4th. Trainer Phil DíAmato trained both the winner and the runner up.

On Saturday, that man Desormeaux put up a masterful ride on long shot Beyond Brilliant, and took down the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at $23.80 for trainer John Shirreffs. He nursed him along with moderate fractions of 49.23 for the half and 1:13.62 for ĺ in this 14 horse field at 9 furlongs on the lawn. Santin, another long shot came to him late, but it was too late, and Brilliant held on to win by a neck. As usual, Kent gave all the credit to Shirreffs for getting this horse to relax early while on the lead, but the rider was just as responsible for that to happen. Cathkin Peak finished third with another strong kick under Prat. The winner is a son of the good sire Twirling Candy and was purchased for $200K. His winnerís share of the purse Saturday was $240,000. The other stakes of importance on Saturday was the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap for older runners where the shippers dominated running one two vs. the locals. Field Pass ($9.00) under Umberto Rispoli got the money under a savvy ride, where sensing a soft pace early on, he surged his mount to the lead at the half mile pole, yet still had enough left in the tank to hold off the favorite Sacred Life by a head at the wire. The win was Field Passís 8th in 23 starts and 7 of them were in stakes at 7 different race tracks. His career earnings are now at $913,143.

On Sunday, they ran the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille stakes for juveniles and then the signature race of the meet, the Grade 1 Matriarch for older fillies and mares. Trainer Chad Brown, who has always done well with his grass shippers into Del Mar, sent 8 horses here for the Turf Festival and going into Sunday had been blanked so far, as in 0 for 6. He also didnít win with any Breedersí Cup horses this year. But that all changed on Sunday as he won both of the stakes on this day. Verbal took down the DeMille stakes with a furious stretch run to just get up at the wire under Jose Ortiz. With only one previous start in his career, an impressive maiden win at Belmont, he was still bet down to even money and was life and death late to get by 49/1 shot named Barsabas. The winning margin was a half length and was a Turfdom Best Bet on the day. Verbal got the mile in 1:36.16 and was fortunate to get a quick early pace of 22.04 and 46.10 set by Groovy Huey, a long shot. Riding the turf at Del Mar with the short stretch and tighter turns is much different than Belmont Park, which is a mile and a half oval. Then in the Matriarch, the same two paired up again with Ortiz jumping to an early lead in a paceless field and easily wiring the field with Regal Glory, who was the class of the race. She won off by two and a half when she opened up two on the back side and was never threatened in the race. In a surprise move on the tote board, all the late money went on Princess Grace under Desormeaux and Regal Glory was the actual second choice in the race at 8/5 in the six horse field. Grace rallied for third, but nobody was going to beat the winner on this day. Zofelle, who was second in the Grade 2 Goldikova here on Nov. 6 ran on very well to nail down second. Regal Glory now has earnings of $1,244,844 for her career and may make one more start before going to the breeding shed, that being the Grade 3 Pegasus at Gulfstream for fillies and mares on January 29 which carries a $500,000 purse.

Something I have always wanted for this game is fixed odds wagering like they have in Britain and Australia. New Jersey was the first state to get this going this past summer at Monmouth and now the state of New York has introduced a bill in the state Senate to offer this type of wagering right along with sports wagering that will soon take place in the state. The bill will be considered when the next legislative session resumes in January and is being pushed hard by state Senator Joseph Addabbo. The more states that legalize fixed odds wagering, the better the chance that we will retain those punters, rather than lose them to sports wagering, where the odds are fixed. In California, sports wagering is on the ballot for November of 2022 but not fixed odds wagering for horse racing, at least not yet.

84 year old trainer Art Sherman decided to hang it up this past week and retire to enjoy some of the better things in life before itís too late. A jockey in his early days, he was the regular exercise rider for the great Swaps back in the mid fifties. Always a 20% trainer when he was on the Northern California circuit, the water got much deeper when he moved his stable down south to Los Alamitos. Then two of his clients purchased a colt for $8000 named California Chrome and the rest is history, as this one went on to be the Horse of the Year in this country in both 2014 and 2016. They won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2014 and Art became the oldest trainer to ever win this race at 77, surpassing the record Charlie Whittingham once had. Then in 2016 Chrome won the Pacific Classic, the Awesome Again stakes, and the Dubai World Classic, all Grade Ones. Sherman was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago but says he is now cancer free. His final starter will be on Dec. 10 at Los Alamitos with a horse named Chasing Alchemy, who just so happens to be a son of California Chrome.

One of the greatest jockeys to ride in this country is Joel Rosario, who is one of the strongest finishers in the game. We have always had the privilege of watching him ride for the first three and a half months at Santa Anita the past few years, but that all changes this year. Ron Anderson, who just might be the top jockey agent in the country, has laid out a plan for Rosario for the coming year as he gets close to cashing in on some huge records before the end of this year. The record for the most stakes wins in one year is held by the late Garrett Gomez who set the record in 2007 with 76. His agent at that time was Ron Anderson. The most money ever won in one year was $34,109,019 set by Irad Ortiz in 2019. Joel has an excellent chance of breaking that record in 2021. Itís hard to believe, but Joel has never won an Eclipse award as the top rider in the country, but that will probably change this year. Joel will ride the first week of racing at Santa Anita starting on Dec. 26 when that week is loaded with stakes races, but after that he will winter at Oaklawn Park until Keeneland opens in April. Last year at Oaklawn, riding sparingly, he won with 17 mounts out 45 starters for a 38% hit rate. The native of the Dominican Republic first started his career in Northern California, and my trainer at the time was Ed Moger Jr., who was one of the first to give Rosario a shot to ride, even though he spoke zero English. We have many a winning photograph of Rosario in the Winners Circle as Moger rode him on a regular basis and was the very first to give him a chance. Rosario is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, very humble, and extremely kind to everyone, and that includes hot walkers and grooms. He is a class act all the way. Our loss is Arkansasís gain.

The Southern California racing circuit moves on to Los Alamitos this Friday for a two week stint. We will be off for four weeks as usual in December, then picking it up once again when Santa Anita opens their gates on December 26 at a track that first opened their gates on Christmas Day in 1934. Thank you for reading our News and Notes this past year and we wish each and every one of you a safe and Happy Holiday season.

by Rod Young (Turfdom)

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