For all those oldtimers who remember radio's "I Love a Mystery," the hunch bet for Saturday's Grade II, $150,000 San Clemente would be Storm Mesa, tabbed as the race's "mystery horse."
The mystery moniker comes from the fact the 3-year-old filly has run only in the Midwest and South since going to trainer W. Bret Calhoun from Southern California-based Tim Yakteen after two unsuccessful races, the first at Del Mar last summer. She's now on a four-race win streak which includes the Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows in her most recent start.
"She got good when she broke her maiden," Calhoun said this morning, "and she's stayed good."
The filly won her first race March 13 at New Orleans' Fair Grounds in her sixth lifetime start. She's moved right up the ladder since.
The San Clemente will be her first start on grass, but Calhoun worked her on the Prairie Meadows turf and said she covered the ground well. "She's settled in here real well," the trainer said. "She came in Monday and she has trained well since being here."
While she may be something of an unknown, she hasn't escaped the keen eye of trainer Barry Abrams, who will test her with the late running Bel Air Sizzle. He said earlier, "If she converts her form to turf, she could be the horse to beat."
The rest of the 10-horse field: Missit, Sensational Love, Tasha's Miracle, Seattle Smooth, Mini Do, Grace Anatomy, Hopehopehope and Misty Ocean.
PURE CLAN'S WORK KEEPS HER ON ROAD TO THE DEL MAR OAKS
Trainer Bob Holthus expressed enthusiasm this morning for Pure Clan's first work since winning Hollywood Park's Grade I American Oaks and said she remains on target for the Grade I, $400,000 Del Mar Oaks Saturday, August 16. The Oaks is at 1 1/8 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
The 3-year-old daughter of Pure Prize traveled 5 furlongs in a solid 1:01.40 over the Churchill Downs main track this morning. "It was a nice little breeze," the veteran trainer said by phone. "She came out of it in good shape and she's right on schedule for your race [Del Mar Oaks]."
Holthus said he expects the filly, who is four-for-four in turf efforts following the American Oaks, to have one or two turf works at Churchill Downs, his summer headquarters, before she is shipped to the seashore. Her lifetime record is 9-6-1-2 with purse earnings of $1,002,416.
Prior to the American Oaks, Pure Clan finished third to Proud Spell in the Kentucky Oaks over a sloppy Churchill Downs main track and first in Churchill's Grade III Regret Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on grass.
The Oaks appears to offer a reunion of the first two finishers in the American Oaks. In addition to Pure Clan, runner-up Satan's Circus is being groomed for the race in the Christophe Clement barn here.
CHEROOT SCRATCHES FROM WICKERR, BONJOUR COMES IN
Trainer Darrell Vienna scratched Cheroot from today's Wickerr Handicap at a mile on the turf and Bonjour joined the field from the also-eligible list, keeping the field at 10.
The rest of the field: two-time Wickerr winner Becrux, 2007 Pacific Classic runner-up Awesome Gem, Porto Santo, Dark Islander, Stoneside, All Man, Worldly, Lang Field and One Union.
ZENYATTA, BLACK MAMBA TOP HIRSCH, MABEE NOMINATIONS
Zenyatta, a multiple graded stakes winner and possibly the best older mare in America on the main track, and Grade II winner Black Mamba are the headliners for next weekend's Clement Hirsch Handicap and John C. Mabee Handicap, respectively. The Grade II Hirsch will be run on Saturday, August 2, and the Grade I Mabee is set for Sunday, August 3.
The undefeated Zenyatta, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, heads a list of 12 fillies and mares nominated to the 1 1/16-mile Hirsch. Among the other nominees are Foxysox, Romance is Diane, Silver Swallow and Tough Tiz's Sis.
Sixteen have been nominated to the Mabee at 1 1/8 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course, with John Sadler's Black Mamba figuring to be strongly tested by a group that includes Diamond Diva, Lady Digby, Mauralakana, Passified, Placid Lake, Solva and Vacare.
The Mabee is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge program of "Win and You're In" for the Filly & Mare Turf Division.
Another "Win and You're In" event, the Cougar Handicap at 1 ½ miles on the main track, got 10 nominations, including Big Booster, Perfect Drift, Racketeer, Tissy Fit and Trevor's Clever. A victory will guarantee the winner a spot in the new Breeders' Cup Marathon. The Cougar is set for next Wednesday.
Ten California-breds are nominated for the California Dreamin' Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf on Saturday, August 2. Heading the list are Bold Chieftain, Cheroot, Epic Power, Mr. Wolverine and Super Strut.
BEJARANO CONTINUES MARCH TOWARD THIRD STRAIGHT TITLE
The beat goes on for leading rider Rafael Bejarano, who is on track to win his third straight riding title in the Southland. He already has the Santa Anita and Hollywood Park titles to his credit.
The native of Peru collected two more victories on Thursday to lengthen his lead over runner-up Tyler Baze to 13-8. Baze scored once during the day.
All is not lost, however, for those trailing the leader, as Bejarano will be out of town Saturday while riding at Saratoga Race Course, giving the rest of the jockey colony a chance to make a little hay. Bejarano is named on four horses at the upstate New York track, including stakes calls on Wait A While in the Diana Handicap, Ginger Punch in the Go For Wand and Cowtown Cat in the Whitney.
Joining Bejarano at Saratoga will be Garrett Gomez, Corey Nakatani and Aaron Gryder. Gomez has five rides, including Rutherienne in the Diana, Nakatani is named aboard three, including Thor's Echo for Doug O'Neill in the Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap, and Gryder will be the rider on Brian Koriner's Black Seventeen in the Vanderbilt, as well as Koriner maiden Elusive Pleasure.
In Del Mar's trainer standings, Mike Mitchell continues to lead the field with five victories, with the trio of John Sadler, Jerry Hollendorfer and Peter Miller close behind with four wins each.
FAVORITES CONTINUE TO TAKE A BEATING AT THE SEASHORE
The assault on favorites at Del Mar continues unabated as the percentage hits 20.59 after eight racing days, well below the generally accepted figure of 30 to 33 percent.
Thursday seemed to be a typical day for favorites -- no winners in the eight races. Four favorites finished second, running the total in 68 races to 14 winning favorites.
The final race of the day produced the biggest payoff -- $34.80 for Gloria Goodbody -- and assured a Pick Six carryover of $115,402 into today's Pick Six pool. There were 47 tickets with 5 of 6 winners, netting each $1,053.60.
MAJOR EFFORT BEING MADE TO SAVE TWIX AFTER INJURY
Twix, who finished second in Thursday's third race and was vanned off with a fractured left knee, was being cared for this morning in the barn of trainer Jeff Metz, who claimed the 5-year-old Argentine-bred mare from A.C. Avila.
"All efforts are being made to save her," Jennifer Metz, the trainer's wife, said this morning. "Jeff slept on it and decided we needed to try and save her," she added. Jeff Metz was overseeing the rest of his string at Hollywood Park this morning.
The mare was standing in her stall this morning being cared for by a groom.
SHORE LINES -- Del Mar track announcer Trevor Denman will be honored in absentia August 15 with the Equus Award given by the South African Jockey Club. The award goes to a person who brings positive attention to racing in South Africa. South Africa native Denman, who called races in his hometown of Durban for 13 years before coming to the U.S., says he has been chosen for the award. The ceremony will take place in Johannesburg, the seat of the Jockey Club ... Trainer Eoin Harty saddled Darley Stable's Desert Party to win the Grade II Sanford Stakes for 2-year-olds Thursday at Saratoga Race Course ... Trainer Bob Baffert says Eclipse Award sprinter Midnight Lute, who fired a bullet 58.60 for 5 furlongs Thursday, is just about ready to run. He said it would either be here or at Saratoga. The options appear to be the Grade II, $300,000 Pat O'Brien at 7 furlongs on Sunday, August 24, or Saratoga's Grade I Forego Handicap, also at 7 furlongs, Saturday, August 30 ... Workouts of interest this morning: Colonel John, a half-mile in 49.20; Hello Sunday, 5 furlongs in 1:00.60; Set Play, 5 furlongs in 1:03.80, and Captive Melody, 6 furlongs in a best-of-21 1:10.80.
TRAKUS FACTS -- Thurs., 7/24 -- Peak Speed: Race 7 (Polytrack) -- Northern Soldier -- 45.8 mph (first 1/8th); Race 6 (turf) -- California Flag -- 43.9 mph (first 1/8th); Fastest Late Stretch Run: Race 7 (Polytrack) -- Doppio -- 38.4 mph (final 16th); Race 6 (turf) -- Swift Winds -- 38.9 mph (final 16th).
DEL MAR COMBINED JOCKEY & TRAINER STATISTICS
(Current Through Thursday, July 24, 2008)
Jockey -- Mts -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- Win% -- Money Won
Rafael Bejarano -- 41 -- 13 -- 11 -- 7 -- 32% -- $780,561
Tyler Baze -- 38 -- 8 -- 4 -- 5 -- 21% -- $327,790
Joel Rosario -- 40 -- 7 -- 2 -- 7 -- 18% -- $237,900
Victor Espinoza -- 36 -- 4 -- 5 -- 5 -- 11% -- $280,226
Alex Solis -- 25 -- 3 -- 8 -- 2 -- 12% -- $155,780
Garrett Gomez -- 28 -- 3 -- 6 -- 4 -- 11% -- $284,600
Martin Pedroza -- 25 -- 3 -- 4 -- 4 -- 12% -- $121,140
Michael Martinez -- 18 -- 3 -- 3 -- 1 -- 17% -- $63,680
Joseph Talamo -- 24 -- 3 -- 2 -- 1 -- 13% -- $129,896
Aaron Gryder -- 18 -- 3 -- 0 -- 1 -- 17% -- $266,303
Trainer -- Sts -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- Win% -- Money Won
Mike R. Mitchell -- 18 -- 5 -- 2 -- 2 -- 28% -- $452,916
John W. Sadler -- 22 -- 4 -- 8 -- 0 -- 18% -- $275,454
Jerry Hollendorfer -- 14 -- 4 -- 1 -- 6 -- 29% -- $173,436
Peter Miller -- 9 -- 4 -- 1 -- 1 -- 44% -- $100,560
Doug F. O'Neill -- 22 -- 3 -- 6 -- 4 -- 14% -- $175,809
Carla Gaines -- 7 -- 2 -- 2 -- 2 -- 29% -- $109,640
J. Eric Kruljac -- 5 -- 2 -- 2 -- 1 -- 40% -- $107,640
Gary Stute -- 6 -- 2 -- 2 -- 1 -- 33% -- $43,080
Dan L. Hendricks -- 7 -- 2 -- 1 -- 0 -- 29% -- $33,960
Ronald L. McAnally -- 9 -- 2 -- 1 -- 0 -- 22% -- $108,763
Winning Favorites Report
(Current Through Thursday, July 24, 2008)
Winning favorites -- 14 out of 68 -- 20.59%
Winning odds-on favorites -- 2 out of 6 -- 33.33%
In-the-Money favorites -- 46 out of 68 -- 67.65%
In-the-Money odds-on favorites -- 5 out of 6 -- 83.33%