Stakes Recaps at Del Mar

Linda’s Gift wires the field in Grade 3 Red Carpet at Del Mar (Benoit Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

The third week of Del Mar’s 2023 Bing Crosby Season included four graded events. In this post I will cover stakes recaps at Del Mar for Nov. 23-26 and preview the upcoming closing week of the fall meet. 

Stakes Recaps at Del Mar (Nov. 23-26)

Grade 3 Red Carpet – Nov. 23 – 1 3/8 miles turf

My original top choice Loved Reiko scratched so I switched my allegiance to controlling speed Linda’s Gift. The latter make all the running through crawling fractions (26 flat, 51.62, 1:17.30, 1:41.97, and 2:17.80). Musical Rhapsody (IRE) chased from second and came after the longtime leader, but Linda’s Gift refused to bend and scored by 3/4ths of a length under Tiago Pereira. Musical Rhapsody gamely held the place at 18-1 and beaten favorite Sister Otoole rallied from last to complete the trifecta. Neige Blanche (FR), Symphony Perfect (IRE), Oakhurst, and With Love (GB) also ran. The final time was 2:17.80 and Richard Mandella’s winner paid $7.80. 

Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup – Nov. 24 – 1 1/2 miles turf 

Balladeer scooted away early through splits of 24.76, 49 flat, and 1:14.07, 1:39.33, and 2:03.96. He started to run out of steam when the real running began. This one came down to stalker Lukka (CHI) and closers Planetario (BRZ) and Francesco Clemente (IRE). The latter was the favorite for Chad Brown and he was content to sit back in last under Umberto Rispoli, and he was probably left with a bit too much to do. Planetario got the best ride and trip under Hector Berrios. Richard Mandella’s San Juan Capistrano (G3) hero split rivals, got the lead, and held off the aforementioned favorite by a neck, and Lukka was another nose back in third. Those three were clear of a weakening Balladeer and my top choice Speaking Scout. Juan Hernandez rode Speaking Scout and was just never able to find any cover while racing outside throughout, and he lacked the necessary quickness to threaten the top finishers. It may have been a combination of the trip and marathon distance, and he might be worth a play next time if the price and circumstances are right. Eastern Ocean and Astronaut also ran. Planetario paid $12.40 and stopped the clock in 2:28.02. 

Grade 2 Seabiscuit – Nov. 25 – 1 1/16 miles turf 

This stakes race played out almost exactly as it looked on paper. Sumter made the lead from the inside post as expected. Cabo Spirit took up the chase from 2nd and Astronomer stalked outside and Hong Kong Harry (IRE) stalked inside. The latter was the favorite and he figured to get the jump on the closers. Juan Hernandez made his move in the lane aboard the chalk, and he struck the front, got first run, and looked like he was on his way to the winner’s circle, but this race was not close to being over. Easter (FR) was patiently handled under Antonio Fresu and was never too far behind Hong Kong Harry. He was a bit hard to handle but that is just him, and he found clear sailing in the lane and closed fast to win by a half-length over Hong Kong Harry. Balnikov (IRE) was last for much of the running and found his best stride late to miss the whole ball of wax by a length. Phil D’Amato saddled the top three finishers. Sumter weakened to 4th and was followed by Astronomer, Cabo Spirit, Yes This Time, and Front Run the Fed. The 1.70-1 second betting choice paid $5.40 to win and the final time was 1:39.96.  

Grade 3 Native Diver – Nov. 26 – 1/18 miles dirt 

It was very surprising to see Skinner go off at such low odds considering his 1-for-9 record and lack of speed. Arrowthegreat had plenty of early foot and he showed the way as expected. Newgrange took up the chase and the controlled fractions were 23.76, 48.60, and 1:13.41. My best bet top choice Mr Fisk was working out a nice stalking trip and Skinner’s pilot Mike Smith was forced to make an early move from last due to the tepid splits. The tempo quickened around the far turn and that is when Juan Hernandez got busy and made his move aboard Mr Fisk. The latter struck the front and got clear in the lane, and Skinner was moving best of the others but it was too late. Mr Fisk scored by a length and a quarter and paid a generous $8.40. Skinner was clearly second best and Newgrange was well clear of the others in third. Arrowthegreat held 4th over Kiss Today Goodbye, and Celestial Moon and Visitant brought up the rear. The final time was 1:49.69 and Mr Fisk continues to develop for Bob Baffert. I can see him winning a race like the Big ‘Cap in a few months.  That will do it for the stakes recaps at Del Mar for week 3, and it was nice to end the week on a high note.

Week 4 Stakes Preview (Dec. 2-3)

Closing weekend at Del Mar includes five stakes races. The Saturday, December 2 card will include three stakes races and the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby is the big event. The final day of the fall meet has the Cecil B. DeMille (G3) and the Grade 1 Matriarch. 

Hollywood Derby Preview

Chad Brown saddled the winner of the Hollywood Derby in three of the last six years. He nominated Program Trading (GB) and Redistricting (GB). The former won his first three starts including the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby, and was clearly second best in a productive renewal of the Virginia Derby (G3) on Sept. 9. Redistricting won his debut, was 7th of 11 in the Belmont Derby (G1), and bounced back with an entry level allowance win as the chalk at Aqueduct on Oct. 28.

Matriarch Preview

Chad Brown has owned this race recently with five wins in the last six years. He has nominated four horses for the 2023 edition. Beaute Cachee (FR) fired exacta shots in all four starts since arriving in this country this year. She finished a half-length in front of her stalemate Fluffy Socks in the Athenia on Oct. 27, and the latter fired in both turf stakes starts at Del Mar and does some of her best work at one mile.

Surge Capacity won her turf route bow at Monmouth and clicked right back in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga. She rallied for the place in the Lake Placid (G2) and exits a victory in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland. She is 2-for-2 at a flat mile. 

Whitebeam (GB) is Brown’s final Matriarch hopeful and she was 2nd in the Plenty of Grace, 1st in the Gallorette (G3), 1st in the Grade 1 Diana, and 4th in the First Lady (G1).