Week five is in the books for the summer season at Del Mar but it was no ordinary week where the “turf meets the surf”. For just the 2nd time in the 84 year history of this historic track they had to cancel a day of racing due to inclement weather. With Hurricane Hilary moving up the coast from Mexico on Saturday evening and the threat of 3 inches of rain and 50 MPH winds, management cancelled racing for Sunday on Saturday morning. With Del Mar’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and sitting right at sea level, 3 inches of rain can flood this back stretch very easily. So erring on the side of caution, Sunday’s racing was cancelled with no make up date set for the future. Del Mar will run the Sunday stakes, the Cal Bred Solana Beach, this coming Friday, August 25th. Many of the other races will be added to future weekend racing cards.
The main track played fair this past week with regards to pace, but the outside lanes were clearly best on both Friday and Saturday. The turf course has pretty much stayed the same. Early speed is dominating in the 5/8 turf sprints but closers have all the best of it in the turf route races, regardless of where the inner rails are placed. Through five weeks of racing, field size has been excellent, averaging 9.1 runners per race. And that is because of the excellent Ship and Win program that has been put in place by Del Mar management.
Through five weeks of racing, 153 horses have shipped in from out of state and ran at this track. 10 new trainers are on the grounds with a string of horses and newcomer Rohan Chrichton has had the most starts of any of them with 18 runners. “Chalk” has been on a roll lately and the win percentage of favorites is now at 37.1% for the meet, with the main track at 36.5% and the turf course at 37.8%. However, if you’re thinking of wagering on those heavy odds on favorites, they are just 14 for 25 at 56% for the meet. Racing returns this Thursday with an 8 race card and on Friday, the post time will move up to 3 PM for their 8 race card.
STAKES RECAP: They ran just two stakes this past week with the cancellation of Sunday racing and the same ownership group won both of them. Both races were on the turf and both winners came from dead last. On Friday, Sister Otoole shipped west to defend her title in the ungraded CTT/TOC stakes at 11 furlongs on the lawn for older fillies and mares. And even with an extremely soft pace of 25.79 for the opening quarter and 50.69 for the half, she still rallied late and mowed them all down in the lane for a mild upset that resulted in a $12.00 mutuel.
Eylara, a Turfdom Best Bet on the day and off at 7/2 rallied for second and finished a length back of the winner, who was ridden by Antonio Fresu for trainer Graham Motion. The post time favorite in the race was Neige Blanche, who finished third two lengths back at 2/1. She appears to have lost a step over the years. Sister Otoole is owned by the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, who also won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks for soph fillies on Saturday. The Oaks had 10 runners go to the post at 9 furlongs on the turf with Anisette the heavy 3 to 5 choice off two excellent race wins here in the states. And she electrified the crowd once again with a sterling performance, going from last to first with a quick turn of foot in the stretch to win off by three at the wire. She was ridden by turf kingpin Umberto Rispoli, who won three on the day. As far back as 12 lengths down the back side, he made a daring move at the top of the lane diving to the inside, and then that quick turf turn of foot took over and she rolled to another impressive performance. The winner paid $3.60 on the front end with the lone shipper in the race, Be Your Best, rallying for second, a neck in front of Impact Warrior. The win was the 4th in a row for Anisette, who is trained by Len Powell, and the winning time was 1:48.15 on the firm course. I’m not sure where they will race her next but this soph filly may just stay in her own age group the remainder of this year.
THIS WEEKS STAKES ACTION: As mentioned earlier, the Solana Beach stakes for Cal breds will kick off this week’s stakes action this coming Friday. They only had six lined up for this race this past Sunday, but they may have a few more this time around when entries are drawn on Tuesday. Eddie’s New Dream, Rose Maddox, and Ultimate Hy head up the list of contenders. Then on the weekend, two graded stakes for main track sprinters will take place with the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien on Saturday for older runners and the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo for older fillies and mares on Sunday. The Pat O’Brien is named for one of the co-owners of Del Mar when the track started operation way back in 1937 along with the crooner, Bing Crosby. This race is a Win and You’re In for the B/C Dirt Mile. The Rancho Bernardo stakes will be at six and a half furlongs on the main track Sunday.
THE RIDERS: To nobody’s surprise, Juan Hernandez is the leading rider at this meet, even though he has missed four days of riding due to suspensions for careless riding and whip violations. His only real competition is Umberto Rispoli, only because he rides the turf course so well and 50% of the races for the final three weeks will be on the lawn. He won three on Saturday and has closed the gap to four, 24 to 20. Hector Berrios is in third with 16 wins and having a fine meet. J.J.’s win percentage of 26% is far and away the leader of the top 15 riders in the jocks room. Phil D’Amato picked up one win on Saturday and leads the trainer standings with 15 victories, three more than Bob Baffert, but he has had 46 more starters. Baffert’s win percentage, which is 32% for the meet, is just slightly ahead of Peter Eurton, who has won 10 races at the meet with a win percentage of 30%. Peter Miller also has 10 winners at the meet and is tied with Eurton for third. But this is a two way battle for the meet, D’Amato and Baffert. D’Amato excels with turf runners and Baffert with dirt runners, and they are both the best of the lot on this circuit with their respective specialties.
OBITUARY: One of the music greats and the owner of the great Zenyatta, along with 60 other stakes winners, passed away this past week peacefully at the age of 88. Jerome Moss was born in the Bronx in New York City during the great depression in 1935, graduated from Brooklyn College as an English major, and began his career in the music industry in the early 50’s. When he moved to southern California in 1960 and he hooked up with a fella named Herb Alpert, is when his career really took off. They formed A@M Records and their client list was a Hall of Fame in the music industry with such artists as Joe Cocker, Carol King, the Carpenters, the Captain and Tenille, Janet Jackson, Sting, Peter Frampton, Styx, and many others. In 1989 they sold their company to Polygram for a reported $500 million. How many single owners can you name that won the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Breeders Cup Classic in their career? Sardulla won the Kentucky Oaks for Moss in 1994, Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby at odds of 50/1 with Mike Smith up, and Zenyatta won 19 consecutive races, most of them graded stakes, including the B/C Classic, only losing her final race of her career to Blame in the Classic, and that was by just a head. He dearly loved the game and his horses are still running today under the tutelage of trainer John Shirreffs, who he had tremendous success with in the industry. Jockey Mike Smith took off all of his mounts this past week to attend his funeral and they had a very warm partnership. This is one individual that our industry will really miss.