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Nov 20 News and Notes Del Mar

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is halfway through their four week fall meet and both surfaces continue to play fair. Favorites are winning at a touch above average on both surfaces hovering around the 35% hit rate. Del Mar will race four days this week with a first post of 11 AM set for Thanksgiving Day and an 8 race card which is just OK. However, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will all have good race cards as Del Mar is saving their best for last with plenty of turf racing to boot. Jockey Juan Hernandez is well in front in the jockey standings as expected and even though Flavien Prat and John Velasquez are riding full time at the meet, they are both off to a fairly slow start considering their talent level. And they are both getting very good mounts and in most cases, getting over bet by the public. Phil D’Amato, whose barn is just loaded with good grass horses, is off and running for the training title. They had 25 horses work on the turf course Sunday morning, and D’Amato had 17 of the workers. Santa Anita does not allow horses to drill over their turf course due to the length of their meets, but Del Mar does. The Rainbow pick six pool is up to $225,435 for any single ticket winner when racing starts back this Thursday.

STAKES RECAP: They ran three stakes over the weekend, all were at 7 furlongs on the main track, and the post time favorite won all three races. All three winners ran exceptionally good races, but the one that caught the eye the most had to be Justique winning the Desi Arnez stakes on Saturday for juvenile fillies. She came from dead last in a field of seven, was five wide around the turn, and exploded in the lane to win going away by two at the wire under a hand ride. Blessed Touch ran second and she was 7 in front of the third place horse. This was just her third career start for trainer John Shirreffs and both of her sprints have been exceptional. The key will be how well she can perform going two turns. She tried it once in her second career start and ran a decent third in a Grade Two. My guess is that she will perform just as well going long as a sophomore for the ever patient Shirreffs.  Also on Saturday was the Cary Grant stakes for Cal bred older runners and The Chosen Vron made it look awfully simple as he easily outran three others to win off by four and ran the distance in a sharp 1:20.66, which is not too far off the track record. Berrios never once had to go the whip and he cruised up to the early leader, Big City Lights, all on his own at the 3/8 pole, and then just easily extended his lead from there. This one is all race horse as he was winning his 8th race from just 12 starts and his trainer, Eric Kruljac, says he is even better on the grass. He pushed his bankroll up to $522,678 and of his 8 wins, 7 of them have been stakes. He is all race horse. Another small field was on hand Sunday in the Grade 3 Bob Hope stakes for two year olds as just five went to the post, and Baffert had three of them. Havnameltdown was off as the 4/5 choice and he didn’t disappoint picking up his third career win from just four starts. His lone defeat was a second to his barn mate, the talented Cave Rock. He tracked the leader from the start and easily took over the lead at the ¼ pole and pulled away to beat his stable mate, Newgate, by a length and a quarter. Hernandez was aboard the winner and got his 4th stakes win of the meet and his 31st at Del Mar overall. Baffert got his second stakes win of the meet, 154th overall at this track, and is 69 stakes wins ahead of his nearest competitor in that category. The winning time was 1:21.68 over a track that is playing quicker than at the summer meet.

Plenty of stakes action this week. First there is the Red Carpet stakes on Thursday, which is at 11 furlongs on the grass for fillies and mares, 3 and up. This race consistently produces longshots in the past, but the race starts with the shipper, Sister O’Toole, who shipped out in August and won a stakes here at the exact same distance. The trainer is Graham Motion and he is deadly with stakes shippers to this track. He will probably be the choice and is certainly beatable. Quattroelle may be one of those capable as she is coming off a second allowance condition win up at Arcadia at 9 furlongs. Can she get an additional half mile? We think she can. Scareba gets J.J. up and will get first run on the closers, and finished a close second to the “Sister” in that August stakes. And then Prat is up on a Euro making her 1st start in this country for Glatt. She has never run in a group stakes but has won three of her last four in England, and these probably aren’t much more difficult than the ones she’s been running against. Nine are scheduled to go to the post. On Friday, the race is even longer as 7 will go to the post in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup for 3 and up at 12 furlongs on the grass. D’Amato runs two in here with Prince Abama, who is on our Horses to Watch list but has never run this far, and Cash Equity, who has never been further than 10 furlongs in this country, but was more of a stayer overseas. Len Powell counters with Dicey Mo Chara, who has been a close second and third in her last two starts, both Grade 2’s at marathon distances, while Mike McCarthy has a contender with Avenue and J.J. has the mount. And that man Graham Motion has a shipper in her called The Grey Wizard, who doesn’t seem to fit on the class scale, but you know he is here for reason.  Should be an interesting race with plenty of possibilities. Then on Saturday they will run the Grade 2 Seabiscuit stakes with a number of out of town shippers. Brad Cox is sending out Set Piece, Brendan Walsh has nominated Grade 1 winner Santin, Chris Clement has City Man, and Graham Motion will counter with Wootton Asset. Then the following week they will have five graded stakes on closing weekend including two Grade 1’s, the Hollywood Derby and the Matriarch, with some household names shipping in for Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher. Regal Glory, who will be making her final start of her career ships in for the Matriarch for Chad Brown.

Regal Glory has won three Grade Ones in her career amongst her 12 wins and has $2.3 million in the bank. She is also the defending champ in this race.

If you look at the programs this week, you will see plenty of Doug O’Neill horses entered but he will not be the trainer of record. Instead you will see his assistant, Leandro Mora. O’Neill was handed down a 60 day suspension by the stewards at Golden Gate Fields when one of his runners tested positive for lidocaine, which is a pain killer and a Class 2 drug. The suspension begins this Thursday and has been reduced to 30 days providing O’Neill doesn’t have any more Class 1,2, or 3 violations in the next year. That’s hard to do when you have as many horses race as often as O’Neill does. Year after year, at just about every meet, he is the racing secretary’s best friend, as he has more starters than any trainer on the circuit. I don’t believe O’Neill is a cheater. He has too many top clients and he doesn’t need to cheat to win. He has been training since 1988 and his career winnings total more than $152 million. He has also won two Kentucky Derbys, both for owner Paul Reddam, and it was one of his horses that tested positive, Worse Read Sanchez, who just ran third this past week here at Del Mar. This is not O’Neill’s first suspension by any means and Mora always does a great job of filling in and the stable never misses a beat. But it does look bad on his record just the same. It’s not easy being a trainer these days. Just ask some of the good guys in the sport like Baffert and Hollendorfer.

by Rod Young (Turdom)

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