Thursday, July 23, 2009

Del Mar Stable Notes 7/23/09

Wednesday’s opening-day crowd of 44,907 at Del Mar, the racing jewel beside the Pacific, broke all records for on-track attendance. Not only was it a record for an opening day, it eclipsed the all-time mark of 44,181 set August 16, 1996 when Cigar ran in the $1-million Pacific Classic in an effort to set a North American record of 17 straight victories.

He didn’t succeed, losing to long shot Dare And Go.

The previous record for opening day was 43,459, set in 2008.


It’s not very often that a trainer is adamant at this time of the year about wanting to run in a race against older horses.

That’s Mike Machowsky’s predicament as he searches for a spot to run his nice 3-year-old Kelly Leak. “I really want to run Kelly Leak in the San Diego [Handicap Sunday, August 2], but I’m scared that the racing office might put low weight on him because he’s a 3-year-old running against older horses. If they drop the weight too low I won’t be able to get my rider, Mike Smith.

“But the folks in the racing office need to know that I really want to run.”

If Kelly Leak isn’t able to run in the San Diego, he likely will go to either the West Virginia Derby or the Haskell Invitational. If he goes to West Virginia, one of his foes would be Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who was fourth to Kelly Leak in the Sunland Derby earlier in the year. A start in the Haskell would put him against Preakness winner and super filly Rachel Alexandra.

“I really would rather not travel,” Machowsky said.

A good showing in the San Diego could mean a start in the $1-million Pacific Classic. “That race has been won by 3-year-olds before,” Machowsky said. Best Pal, General Challenge and Came Home came home first as 3-year-olds.

Another prospect for the Pacific Classic, Rail Trip, is now on the grounds and will be pointed to Del Mar’s signature race. The winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, trainer Ron Ellis said, “will run in the Pacific Classic if he shows he likes the racetrack. A lot of folks gave up on him in the Gold Cup, thinking his pedigree wouldn’t let him go a mile and a quarter.”

Rail Trip is a son of the speedy runner Jump Start out of a Carson City mare, also indicating sprinter speed.

The old veteran, Magnum, also is under consideration for the Pacific Classic. Trainer Darrell Vienna said he is hopeful that the Argentine-bred, who finished seventh in 2006, will respond better than he did in the Hollywood Gold Cup. “I thought he was ready to do some damage in the Gold Cup,” Vienna said. “He made a big move, but flattened out. Maybe he’s getting a little tired of this [racing].”


Oceanside Stakes winner Afleet Eagle was reported in good shape this morning by trainer Vladimir Cerin following a dominating performance in the one mile turf race as Del Mar opened its 70th season of summer racing.

Cerin, not one to over-race his charges, will consider the Grade II, $350,000 Del Mar Derby, at 1 1/8 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course Sunday, September 6, as Afleet Eagle’s next start. “He runs well fresh,” the trainer said. The Grade II La Jolla Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf is another option in the track’s series leading to the championship for 3-year-olds.

Another prospect for the Derby, multiple stakes winner Battle of Hastings, is bedded down in trainer Jeff Mullins’ barn after a slightly delayed return trip following his big win in Saturday’s Grade II, $750,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. Mullins said because of a travel snafu the 3-year-old gelded son of Royal Applause spent a couple of days at owner Michael House’s Chestnut Farm in Versailles, Ky.

The win Saturday gave Battle of Hastings the first two legs of a four-race series known as the Grand Slam of Grass, but Mullins said he would not send him to the third leg, which is Arlington Park’s Secretariat August 8. The fourth is the Breeders’ Cup Turf November 7 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. Battle of Hastings won the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup on June 20 in Virginia for the first of two wins.

“We’ll look at the Derby here,” Mullins said.


A mural devoted to tracing Del Mar’s history through the celebrities and horsemen who have populated the seaside horse racing Mecca will get its official recognition Saturday.

The 6-foot-by-30-foot mural is the art of Pierre Bellocq, for years the caricaturist for Daily Racing Form, and is the product of approximately 18 months of work that included a vast amount of research as well as the fine painting of the master caricaturist.

The mural, which graces the east wall of the Clubhouse entrance, is rife with such popular “regular” celebrities from the track’s early days as co-founders Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien, Harry James and Betty Grable, Ava Gardner, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Joining in, also, are revered horsemen Charlie Whittingham, Lazaro Barrera, Farrell Jones, Clement Hirsch, Johnny Longden, Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, Jenny Craig and her late husband, Sid, Rex Ellsworth and Bob Baffert.

A ceremonial nod to the mural will be given between races 4 and 5 Saturday, at which time many of those characterized in the mural will be in the winner’s circle to be recognized by DMTC officials.

In addition, Bellocq will be available at a spot near the mural from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. to sign posters, which can be bought at a cost of $19 at the Del Mar gift shop, and from 2 to 3 in the Plaza de Mexico near the gift shop.


Aside from Del Mar’s stakes program, the races that generally create the most interest in the seaside track’s fan base are maiden special weight events. The fans won’t have to wait much longer to indulge that enthusiasm and, at the same time, will be able to whet their appetites for Del Mar Futurity prospects.

An 11-horse field of special-weight maidens going 5 1/2 furlongs will command interest on Saturday. The race is scheduled as the seventh on the card, sandwiched between the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes and the Grade I, $350,000 Eddie Read Stakes.

Ten of the horses entered are nominees to the Grade I, $300,000 Futurity, slated for closing day, Wednesday, September 9. Bob Baffert, who has trained eight Futurity winners, and John Sadler, who has never won that race, will start two in the maiden event. One of Baffert’s runners, Tiny Woods, is from his Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, a creation linked to trainers Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito, who dominated Triple Crown races during the 1990s.

Lukas and Zito are ensconced in racing’s Hall of Fame and Baffert joins the duo this summer.

Overall, Baffert has 27 juveniles nominated to the Futurity, seven of whom are Thoroughbred Legends horses.


Apprentice rider Christian Santiago Reyes and journeyman Kyle Kaenel have added their names to the jockey roster at Del Mar, with Reyes coming to the West Coast from a successful spring meeting at Churchill Downs and Kaenel returning to this circuit after a lengthy turn in Northern California, and most recently at Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

They both got off to a good start on Del Mar’s opening day, with Reyes becoming the first leading jockey of the meet by winning the first race on the card aboard High Stakes Silver and Kaenel finishing second on Nene in the third race, his only mount of the day.

Both arrived in Southern California in time to ride several horses in the closing days of Hollywood Park’s spring-summer meeting. This marks the first Del Mar meet for each. Kaenel rode at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park during his apprentice days.

Reyes, a 19-old native of Puerto Rico who is a graduate of the jockey school there, posted 12 wins, eight seconds and 10 thirds from 110 mounts at Churchill Downs, which ended its spring meeting July 5. He picked up 12 more victories from 62 mounts during the final days of Hollywood Park’s spring-summer meet.

He gets a seven-pound weight break as an apprentice. Since he didn’t win his first race in the United States until mid-May, he’ll keep his “bug” until mid-May of next year, according to his agent, Tony Matos.

In 2008, Kaenel, the 21-year-old son of well-known rider and 1982 Preakness Stakes winner Jack “Cowboy” Kaenel, scored 171 victories and pulled down purse earnings of $3.1 million. He’s off to a slower start this year, winning just 21 races at Prairie Meadows before heading back to Southern California.

Former trainer Jeff Metz is Kaenel’s agent.


Breakfast with a backdrop that includes beautiful equine athletes and the blue Pacific is a feature each Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 to 9:30 at Del Mar’s Clubhouse Terrace Restaurant at trackside.

Fans can enjoy a breakfast buffet while watching horses exercise on those mornings. In addition, Jeff Bloom, a former rider and now an official with “daybreak” presenter West Point Thoroughbreds, keeps fans informed with special racing tips and information on many of the horses on the track.

Admission to the restaurant is free and Early Bird wagering is available.


Each Saturday and Sunday, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club offers free handicapping seminars for fans coming to the races. The seminars are conducted from 12:30 to 1:15 each day on the Seaside Terrace near the head of the stretch.

The seminar leaders give general handicapping hints as well as detailing their own selections for the day’s card.

On Saturday, longtime trainer R.B. Hess, Jr. will be in the saddle for the presentation.

Sunday’s expert will be Jeff Nahill, turf writer and handicapper for the North County Times.

Daily Racing Form offers a handicapping session each Friday from 2 to 2:30 p.m. at the Seaside Terrace. DRF handicapper Brad Free and writer Steve Andersen offer their insights into handicapping and make their choices on the day’s card.

SHORE LINES – Del Mar racing fans will have a chance to lengthen their entertainment day on Saturday and Sunday by taking in a professional bull-riding presentation in the Fairgrounds Horse Arena, a couple of furlongs from the racetrack. The action gets under way at 8 p.m. Gates open at 7 … The Pamplemousse, one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites before being injured, may be out until next Del Mar season, according to Alex Solis II, one of the owners and the bloodstock agent who picked the horse out. “We were thinking he might be able to make the Strub series [during Santa Anita’s winter-spring meeting], but I want to make sure he’s in perfect shape when we bring him back.” … On the comeback trail for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella is Crown of Thorns, who was prominent on the 2008 Triple Crown trail until injuring his left shin while winning the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita. Mandell! a said the colt is close to being ready to run following a bullet work at 6 furlongs in 1:12.60 on Tuesday … Visiting on the backstretch this morning was Jack “Cowboy” Kaenel, father of jockey Kyle Kaenel.

TRAKUS FACTS – Wed., July 22 – Peak Speed: Race 1 (Polytrack) – Kaffeinator – 44.3 mph (first 3/16ths); Race 8 (Turf) – Backbackbackgone – 40.8 mph (first 1/8th mile); Fastest Late Stretch Run: Race 9 (Polytrack) – Jen’s New Chapter – 38.3 mph (final 1/16 th); Race 8 (Turf) – Rendezvous – 39.3 mph (final 1/16th).

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