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Sept 8 Del Mar Recap and Los Alamitos News and Notes

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club ended their 82nd summer season on Monday and what a meet it was. Fans were back at the track and they set an all time record for average daily handle of $18.38 million, the highest ever for this little track that opened way back in 1937. And why did that happen this year? Itís all about field size and Del Mar knows how to attract horses from other parts of the country. Out of 293 races run, the average field size was 8.46 horses per race, and thatís what the wagering public wants. The incentives from the Ship and Win program are the best in the country in attracting out of state horses. A total of 181 horses competed at the meet who were brought in from out of state, many of them claimed by local trainers such as Bob Hess, Doug OíNeill, and Mark Glatt to name a few. And then there were trainers such as Mike Maker, Mark Casse, Ron Moquett, Jeff Engler, Matt Shirer, and Billy Morey, who all brought strings of horses out for the meet. And donít forget about the Nor Cal trainers who support the cards as well, such as Billy McLean, Ed Moger, Jonathan Wong, Tim McCanna, and many more, who wonít ship to Santa Anita, but canít wait to get to Del Mar, knowing in advance it will be very difficult to win a race. This all happens because Del Marís management knows how to handle people. Even when they ran five days in the final week, there were still countless cards with an Also Eligible list of horses trying to get in. Granted, the weather is outstanding, with those cool ocean breezes coming in off the Pacific, and one never needs to worry about an ďoffĒ track. But at the end of the day, itís the people at Del Mar that make it happen, from Joe Harper to Tom Robbins, and right on down the line. Like so many summers, itís sad to see it come to an end.

The meet started off with plenty of long shots winning but after awhile it settled down with favorites winning 34.24% of the races, just a tick above the national average. The main track was at 37% while the turf course was at 30.8%. Two turn races on the turf were dominated by off the pace runners throughout the meet, up until the final weekend. On Monday, Il Capitano, Beyond Brilliant, and Cane Creek Road all went wire to wire at either a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, and that was unheard of earlier in the meet. In fact, the latter knocked us out of our pick five and pick six in the finale when our Best Bet, General Mathis, lost by a lip right on the wire at 8/1. Even the rider, Jose Valdivia, thought he won the race. In the 5/8 turf sprints, early speed dominated throughout the meet. The main track played fair overall, but I noticed that early speed on most days dominated early in the card and the late runners were more productive in the last third of the program. They paid out on the pick six on Monday and with two odds on favorites in the sequence, the winning tickets amounted to $561.74. There were 8,238 winning tickets and whatís nice about those payouts, is that money will go right back into the pools, either at Los Al or Santa Anita. Racing will return to Del Mar on Wednesday, Nov. 3rd, and that means the best is yet to come, as this track offers the Breeders Cup two days later, Nov. 5th and 6th.

STAKES RECAP: There were four graded stakes run over the Labor Day weekend, two on Saturday, and one each on Sunday and Monday. The two on Saturday were both Grade 2ís and they were both 9 furlongs on the turf. Weíll start with the John Mabee stakes for older fillies and mares. This race changed completely when Quiet Secretary, the real speed in the race was a late scratch. That was very evident early in the wagering when Going to Vegas was bet from a morning line of 4/1 to 9/5 and pretty much stayed there until they left the gate. The scratch of the speedster left very little chance of the late runners being effective, i.e. Bodhicitta, Dogtag, or Maxim Rate. And the race played out in that fashion with Going to Vegas getting the dream trip from second chasing Nasty, who was completely outclassed in this field. ďVegasĒ won off by two under Prat with Dogtag running very well to get second, but never a threat to the winner. A doddling pace of 24.20 and 47.80 helped her cause immensely and she paid $5.80 for the victory. The other Grade 2 on the day was the Del Mar Derby for sophomores and 13 went to the post. This was a tough race to decipher with the large field and no real quick speed in the race. The fractions were once again on the slow side, i.e 23.80 and 48.00 for the half. Newcomer Joe Bravo gave None Above the Law a ground saving trip all the way and he got the money at $23.00. He was not the best horse in this race, but he got the best trip, and in a 13 horse field, thatís what itís all about. Hudson Ridge went off as the favorite in the race at 9/5 and had a horrible trip from the rail. The two horse bounced him around like a pinball right out of the gate and into the clubhouse turn. Then he was in tight with nowhere to run at the ľ pole and checked badly, then completely lost his momentum. Flashiest ran a bang up race to get second at 12/1 as did Hockey Dad, who was hounded every step of the way on the lead, yet hung tough in the lane and ran a strong third. Heíll be tough to beat back up in Arcadia where his speed will hold on much better on the turf. But you have to give the winner credit. Peter Miller has bounced him around from turf to dirt and short to long and back again so many times he doesnít really know where he belongs. And the Cal bred shows up just about each and every time. One other point about these two races, Kirk and Judy Robison, who live in El Paso, Texas, bred the winner of each of these two Grade 2 races.

On Sunday they ran the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante for two year old fillies at 7/8 on the main track and the race was loaded with early speed. The early splits were 21.78 and 44.37 for the half and Eda, Elm Drive, and Dance to the Music, the three choices in the race, were battling it out on the front end. And all three of them were dead tired at the ľ pole and toast. Prat sat back with Grace Adler and circled the field with ease as the daughter of Curlin remained undefeated and paid a nice $11.20 for her 11 length victory. Dance to the Music held on for second but they were all staggering toward the wire, with the exception of the winner, who was trained by Baffert, who won this race for the 10th time. The winner will probably stretch out to two turns up at Santa Anita as a prep for a possible Breeders Cup appearance. And then on Monday the juvenile males got their chance as six went to the post in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, also at 7 furlongs on the main track. This time the speed did hold on throughout the race as Pinehurst virtually went wire to wire at 4/1 under Mike Smith, who is just a shell of his former self when it comes to riding winners. The fractions were strong for two year olds at this distance, i.e. 22.09 and 44.77 for the half, but he re-broke again at the top of the stretch and went on to an easy four and a half length win over 38/1 shot Finneus. The winning trainer was Bob Baffert, who else when it comes to juveniles, and he won this race for 15th time and capping a double on the weekend taking down both Grade ones. Pappacap, our choice in the race and off at 4/1, drew the rail, and then bolted when he saw the gap at the six furlong marker. He knew where home was and thatís where he wanted to go. Bravo got him straightened out and he still posed a threat at the ľ pole, but after that, too much energy had been wasted. Worse yet was the favorite, Murray, who was odds on, and was totally flat at the 3/8 pole under Prat. But this race was all about Pinehurst and Bob Baffert, who continues to dominate with two year olds on this circuit.

Flavien Prat, who spent a number of weekends away at both Saratoga and Arlington Park, still easily won the riding title with 47 victories, 15 more than the runner up, Juan Hernandez. Abel Cedillo finished third with 29 wins and Umberto Rispoli was 4th at 27. Joe Bravo was fifth with 21 wins and next to Flavien Prat, had the second highest win percentage of any rider. And the good news is that Bravo plans on staying here through the fall and winter. He has broken into the powerful barns of John Sadler and Phil DíAmato, and both trainers are using him on a regular basis and the 49 year old from New Jersey is not disappointing either of them. Also sticking around for both of the fall meets is Nor Cal rider Kyle Frey, who had a good meet finishing 8th in the standings. A big disappointment during the meet was Trevor McCarthy, who only won with 4% of his mounts and then injured his ankle and is in re-hab for the time being. Both Edwin Maldonado and Geovanni Franco resurrected their careers with both of them making the top ten. And then there is Kent Desormeaux, who can be as good as almost anybody when he wants to be. He finished sixth in the standings and had a good meet, but when he sees he canít win a race, he pretty much stops riding. Heís not the kind of rider you want if you are into playing exactas, trifectas, or the super trifectas. Peter Miller easily won the training title, 26 to 20 over Bob Baffert, but started more than twice as many runners. Baffert had the best win percentage of any trainer in the top ten at 31%. And John Sadler had an excellent meet finishing third with 18 wins and a 20% win ratio. He also won the meetís biggest race, the Pacific Classic, with Tripoli.

A STAR IN THE MAKING: On Sunday, trainer John Sadler unleashed his $1 million purchase, Flightline, for his 2nd start of his young career and he didnít disappoint. Coming off a 13 length blowout of his debut back in April, he faced a first condition allowance field of six and he destroyed them the way he did in his debut. Off at one to five, he broke well from the outside in this six furlong dash under Prat and sat 2nd early to the speedster Notre Dame. When Prat asked him for run at the 3/8 pole, he simply blew by the leader, all on his own, and won in hand, this time by 12 in the time of 1:08.05, a time we havenít seen all meet. His Beyer number came back at 114, which ties the highest number in the country for the entire year. He received a 105 in his debut. Sadler is taking his time with this son of Tapit and instead of trying to run in the Cup this year, he will focus on the Grade 1 Malibu on opening day at Santa Anita, Dec. 26. In that race he will face 3 year olds and the distance will still be around one turn (7 furlongs). One of these days he will be asked to run and we may find out how good he really is.

We are now off until Santa Anita starts their five week fall meet on October 1st. There will be three weeks of racing at Los Alamitos starting this Friday. Prices for our selections for Santa Anita along with Del Marís fall meet, will be up on our web site by mid September at myturfdom.net. We thank you for reading our News and Notes each week along with our Horses to Watch list, which is also available at Todayís Racing Digest.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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