William E. Morey, who knocked Jerry Hollendorfer from his perennial perch atop the Golden Gate Fields trainers' standings, has 12 horses stabled at Del Mar as he hopes to build on that title for a solid meet at the shore.
Hollendorfer had won 32 straight trainer titles at the Northern California oval going back to 1986.
"It feels really good," said Morey, son of longtime trainer William E. Morey Jr. "It was a long time coming. Jerry's done very well for himself, both north and south [at the three Southern California venues]. Eventually, somebody was going to do it and I'm glad it was me."
Morey, with a string of 12 horses here, is eager to see how his horses handle Del Mar's main track. So far, he says, he sees nothing but good things after watching his horses travel over it for a couple of days. "It reminds me a lot of the Tapeta track at Golden Gate," he said. "I'm sure it's slightly different, but it looks like the horses go over it really well."
His stable will get its first big test Sunday when Stormin War Dancer, on a three-race win streak, tackles a field of 3-year-old Cal-bred fillies in the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes. The filly worked a solid 6 furlongs this morning in 1:13 flat.
And, of course, the Hollendorfer barn here will be a major factor with 35 horses, mostly in the care of assistant Dan Ward. Hollendorfer, no doubt, got over his Golden Gate loss with the big win by Hystericalady in the $1-million Delaware Park Handicap Sunday. Her next start has not been determined yet, Ward said today.
SAN DIEGO A TEST FOR PACIFIC CLASSIC, BREEDERS' CUP PROSPECTS
A half-dozen older horses with Pacific Classic and Breeders' Cup aspirations are early prospects for Saturday's Grade II, $300,000 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The winner gets an automatic pass into the new Breeders' Cup Mile as part of the "Win and You're In" program.
Heading the list of possible starters is Surf Cat, a multiple graded stakes winner who comes to the race after a third-place finish in Hollywood Park's Grade II Californian following a win in the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, also at Hollywood. A win in the San Diego would push the 6-year-old son of Sir Cat, trained by Bruce Headley, over the million-dollar mark in career earnings.
Well Armed, winner of the Grade II San Antonio at Santa Anita and third-place finisher in the Grade I Dubai World Cup, is another who will be knocking on the million-dollar door. With Aaron Gryder in the irons for trainer Eoin Harty, a win would add just enough to the career earnings of $850,803 for the 5-year-old son of Tiznow to put him in the millionaire club. Well Armed worked a half-mile this morning in 46.80.
Mike Mitchell's trainee, You Got Me Rocking, with Joel Rosario in the saddle, will be making his first foray into stakes company and his first start at Del Mar. Another debuter at the seashore is Racketeer for trainer Barry Abrams, and Magnum makes his first start at Del Mar since a seventh-place finish in the 2006 Pacific Classic. He's winless in three starts this year after missing all of 2007.
The mystery horse in the possible field is the H. Graham Motion-trained Rebellion, due to arrive this afternoon from the trainer's Fair Hill, Md., headquarters.
Rebellion will be seeking his third straight graded stakes win in the San Diego. The British-bred 5-year-old son of Mozart tuned up for the San Diego with a 6-furlong breeze Saturday in 1:13.20 on the Fair Hill all-weather track.
Motion also shipped the 2-year-old Cal-bred filly Saucey Evening for Friday's $125,00 CTBA Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs. She broke her maiden at Colonial Downs in Virginia June 20 in her only career start. She worked a bullet 48 flat half-mile in her final prep for the CTBA. Betty Mabee and her son, Larry, bred the filly at their Golden Eagle Farm near Ramona.
LAVA MAN SETTLES IN FOR SUNDAY'S EDDIE READ HANDICAP
Seven-year-old Lava Man, winner of the 2006 Pacific Classic as well as that year's Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup, is set to run Sunday in the Grade I, $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
He'll run from Del Mar's Protection Barn, as all of trainer Doug O'Neill's horses will because of a drug positive in January with the filly Chicks Rule. Leandro Mora, O'Neill's assistant, said the son of Slew City Slew is already bedded down in that barn as a means of getting him accustomed to the place instead of just moving him over there 24 hours ahead of the race, which is the requirement.
Lava Man prepped for the Read with a 5-furlong work on Sunday at Hollywood Park in 1:01.80. Tyler Baze has the call.
Also expected for the Read: Whatsthescript, winner of Hollywood Park's Grade II American Handicap; American runner-up Storm Military, Spring House and Mr. Wolverine.
Another star in the O'Neill barn, Princess Rooney Handicap winner Mistical Plan probably will not be seen at Del Mar. Mora said the filly has been stabled at Delaware Park where she trains on a dirt track and more than likely will remain there. "She loves to train and run on dirt," Mora said.
The Princess Rooney is part of the "Win and You're In" program and the victory at Calder Race Course means Mistical Plan has a guaranteed spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Oak Tree in October.
ANNUAL HATS CONTEST IS QUITE A HEADY AFFAIR
Sharing the spotlight with the elegant equine athletes that hold sway on Del Mar's annual opening day is the fashionable, oft-times flamboyant and funky millinery that makes up "The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest."
Cash prizes totaling more than $2,000 are given in these categories: Most Glamorous, Funniest/Most Outrageous, Best Racing Theme and Best Fresh Flowers.
SHORE LINES -- News from the camp of 2007 Pacific Classic champion Student Council says the dual Grade I winner is being aimed toward a defense of his title in Del Mar's $1-million signature event Sunday, August 24. Racing for Ro Parra's Millennium Farms, Student Council is being prepared by trainer Steve Asmussen for Saratoga's $750,000 Whitney Handicap on July 26, with the Pacific Classic next on his schedule ... Veteran jockey Martin Pedroza is hopeful of ringing up his 3,000th career victory sometime during the Del Mar meeting. When he mounts On Overdrive in Wednesday's first race, he will have posted 2,983 victories ... Del Mar's 2007 juvenile champions are back in serious training with the possibility of racing later in the meet. Debutante winner Set Play worked 5 furlongs Saturday in 1 minute flat and trainer Peter Miller says he'll be looking for an allowance race prior to the Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap on Sunday, August 24. Del Mar Futurity champ Georgie Boy, who was on the Triple Crown trail earlier in the year before suffering a muscle injury in his back, is in training again after some time off, trainer Kathy Walsh says. No particular target has been set yet ... Jamie Lloyd, a former assistant to trainers Jim Cassidy and Paddy Gallagher, is now working full time as a bloodstock agent and his latest purchase for trainer Mike Mitchell is Art Currency, a 3-year-old son of Street Cry ... Grant Hofmans, son of trainer David Hofmans and a trainer on his own with a string at Arlington Park, has been in the area to visit his dad who is recovering from surgery. The elder Hofmans' nephew, Brent Fabbri, who has been David's assistant for five years, is in charge of the Hofmans string at Del Mar until David returns, which could be as early as Thursday, Fabbri said ... Chris Vienna, who has been assisting his father, Darrell, now is training on his own, with a string of horses at Fairplex Park.