The jockey-agent carousel is awhirl at Del Mar, with Michael Baze and David Flores switching rides at the end of the first week.
Baze has left Jim Pegram for Ron Ebanks, who also represents Baze’s cousin, Tyler, who is tied at the top of the jockey standings after two days of the meet. Ebanks, who has already begun booking mounts for Michael Baze, said the addition of the rider had Tyler’s blessing.
SCRATCHES REDUCE CTBA STAKES FIELD TO FIVE CAL-BRED FILLIES
Repo, one of two Doug O’Neill trainees in today’s $100,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, is expected to be the heavy – if not odds-on – favorite after two of the original seven in the field were scratched this morning.
High Five Gal, originally one of three O’Neill entrants, and Taro, trained by Clifford Sise, Jr., were scratched, leaving only Unbridled Meeting with Joel Rosario up, Cruzin Topless with Russell Baze, Puritan Baker with Tyler Baze, La Nez with Victor Espinoza and Repo.
Corey Nakatani has the mount on Repo, who comes into the race from a victory in Hollywood Park’s Landaluce Stakes. A win by Repo, bought for $15,000 at the March Barretts sale of 2-year-olds in training, would give Nakatani 95 Del Mar stakes victories for his career, tying him with Laffit Pincay, Jr., for second all-time.
Here’s the new morning line on the race: Unbridled Meeting, 2-1; Cruzin Topless, 5-1; Repo, 4-5; Puritan Baker, 8-1, and La Nez, 8-1.
FRONT-RUNNING MONTEREY JAZZ GETS NOD ON MORNING LINE
Monterey Jazz’s free-running style almost certainly will put the Craig Dollase-trained 5-year-old son of Thunderello ahead of the field as he and his seven rivals tackle the 1 1/8 miles of Saturday’s Grade I, $350,000 Eddie Read Handicap on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
An apparent aid to that running style is the fact that so far the turf course has been kind to horses on the pace or near the pace in the meet’s two races of a mile or more. Apparently, Del Mar morning-line maker Jeff Tufts sees things that way, making Monterey Jazz the 2-1 favorite.
Monterey Jazz, with talented front-end rider Tyler Baze in the saddle, captured the Grade II American Handicap at Hollywood Park gate-to-wire fashion.
Dollase, who has a second prospect in come-from-behinder Awesome Gem, cautions that Monterey Jazz could have some company up front in the form of Thorn Song, who won Hollywood’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile by leading every step of the way. Thorn Song, previously trained by Dale Romans, will be running for trainer Mike Mitchell for the first time and is set at 8-1 on the morning line. Mike Smith will be in the irons.
Neither Monterey Jazz nor Thorn Song has raced on the Del Mar turf, giving a potential edge to Whatsthescript, who finished a strong second in the Read last year and subsequently won the Del Mar Mile on the way to finishing third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile. In spite of losing to Thorn Song and Monterey Jazz in his two starts this year, Whatsthescript, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario, has been made the second favorite at odds of 3-1.
The rest of the field and jockeys and odds: Dakota Phone, Garrett Gomez, 10-1; Global Hunter, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Awesome Gem, Alex Solis, 6-1; Artiste Royal, with Joe Talamo taking over for the injured Rafael Bejarano, 4-1, and Richard’s Kid, Victor Espinoza, 20-1.
The Eddie Read will be televised live by ESPN2 from 5 to 6 p.m.
ABRAMS, HOLLENDORFER SET SIGHTS ON TWO SUNDAY STAKES
Trainers Barry Abrams and Jerry Hollendorfer are taking dead aim at scoring victories in Sunday’s duo of stakes races, the 54th running of the Osunitas Stakes, with a purse of $85,000, and the fourth edition of the $100,000 California Dreamin’ Handicap.
Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course. The Osunitas is the fifth race on the 10-race card and the California Dreamin’ is slated in the eighth spot. Ten are entered in each event.
Abrams will call on daughters of the prolific sire, Unusual Heat, to get him to the winner’s circle. Bel Air Sizzle, who was second in the 2008 Grade I Del Mar Oaks, will carry Abrams’ hopes in the Osunitas, while Unusual Suspect will be his choice in the California Dreamin’ for Cal-breds.
Abrams said this morning, “I hope they will run well. They’re fit, they’ve been training well and they both drew outside. With a clean trip and a fair pace, I think they have a good chance to win.”
Hollendorfer will counter with You Lift Me Up in the Osunitas and Crafty Power in the California Dreamin’. As for that pair, Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward expressed confidence by saying, “We got down here early with them and they worked well on the turf. They’re both training well and they both ran well last time out.”
You Lift Me Up was a solid third in Hollywood Park’s Grade II Beverly Hills Handicap June 28 and Crafty Power finished second in an allowance race at Hollywood. Both show a front-running style.
Trainer John Sadler could create a roadblock in the Osunitas with his pair of runners – Dawn Before Dawn, the winner of Del Mar’s Torrey Pines Stakes last year, and Royal Taat, beaten a nose in her last race, Hollywood’s Great Lady M Handicap.
Near-millionaire Bold Chieftain, a 6-year-old trained by William J. Morey Jr., could be the fly in the California Dreamin’ ointment. His pace-pressing style usually puts him in position to be a threat to win. He has 11 victories in 28 lifetime starts, and will carry high weight of 123 pounds, spotting his foes from three to 10 pounds.
Here’s the lineup for the California Dreamin’, from the rail with weights and riders: Nima’s Pad, 114, Brice Blanc; Unusual Smoke, 119, Martin Garcia; Suit Yourself, 113, Alex Solis; Crafty Power, 119, Joel Rosario; Nitro Active, 114, Victor Espinoza; Bert’s Law, 113, David Flores; Dewey’s Special, 117, Jose Valdivia, Jr.; Mr. Wolverine, 116, Tyler Baze; Bold Chieftain, 123, Garrett Gomez; Unusual Suspect, 120, Joe Talamo.
EARLY LOOK AT DEBUTANTE PROSPECTS COMES IN SUNDAY RACE
Two-year-old fillies with potential for the Grade I, $300,000 Darley Debutante will get their first Del Mar test Sunday in a maiden special weight race at 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track.
Seven of the 11 entered are nominated to the Debutante, slated for Saturday, September 5.
The nominees are: Softly Singing, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer; Seriously, Bob Baffert; Pulpit Magic, Cesar Dominguez; Modality, Craig Dollase; The Great Atlantic, Mark Glatt; Kaloula, Kristin Mulhall, and Misinjennuous, John Sadler.
DEL MAR’S CLOCKING CREW CLICKS ON 162 WORKERS
Del Mar’s clockers had their busiest morning yet today as they tracked 162 workers for trainers with eyes on races at the seashore during the 37-day meeting.
Prominent among the horses working were Red Arrow and Zappa, both for John Sadler. Red Arrow posted a 5-furlong move in 1:00.60 as he preps for the Grade I, $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at 6 furlongs Saturday, August 8, and Zappa, being prepared to defend his 2008 title in the Cougar II Handicap at 1 1/2 miles Wednesday, August 5, turned 7 furlongs in 1:26.40
GRAND PRIZE GIVES A TIP OF THE HAT TO PLECENTIA MAN
David Schaner of Placentia was the chap with the chapeau that earned the grand prize at Del Mar’s traditional “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest” on opening day, Wednesday.
Schaner’s hat was a colorful, out-sized hot-air balloon, with aviator goggles worn by Schaner serving as an accessory, and he wore the balloon basket around his knees. The hat took first place in the Funniest/Most Outrageous category before sent aloft for the grand prize, which netted Schaner $300 and a Toshiba 40-inch high-definition, LCD television set.
The other winners: Haven Schneider of Laguna Beach, Best Flowers/All Others category; Mikey Johnson of Poway, Best Racing Theme, and Kadi Karusaar of Spring Valley, Most Glamorous.
EQUIBASE PRESENTS “DEL MAR CHALLENGE” TOURNAMENT
On Saturday, Equibase will offer an on-line handicapping tournament labeled “Del Mar Challenge,” and will cover races 1-8 on the day.
The “challenge” calls for players to select one horse per race. The top prize is $500. There will be five prizes offered in all. The action can be found on the Equibase website.
TRAKUS FACTS – Thurs., July 23 – Peak Speed: Race 5 (Polytrack) – Dine at Nine – 42.5 mph (first 3/16ths); Race 1 (Turf) – Air Fair – 44.1 mph (first 1/4 mile); Fastest Late Stretch Run: Race 4 (Polytrack) – Pico Pico – 37.5 mph (final 1/16 th); Race 1 (Turf) – Air Fair – 41.2 mph (final 1/16th).