That's how many surprises popped up as 11 2-year-old males were entered today for Wednesday's Grade I, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity at 7 furlongs on the main track.
Missing from the field will be Jeff Mullins' impressive August 9 maiden winner Arashi Cat, whom Mullins said this morning developed a quarter crack that sidelined him. "He'll be okay soon," the trainer said. "He has a long life ahead of him and there'll be plenty of races for him."
The rest of the field shaped up as had been expected, with two returnees from Del Mar's Grade II Best Pal Stakes -- Coronet of a Baron and Kelly Leak -- and the undefeated Canadian invader Southern Exchange vying for favoritism. Corey Nakatani will ride Coronet of a Baron for Eoin Harty, Victor Espinoza will handle Kelly Leak for Mike Machowski, and Garrett Gomez will be aboard Southern Exchange for trainer Gregory de Gannes.
Kelly Leak would have been undefeated, also, had he not been disqualified after crossing the line first in the Best Pal. That moved the undefeated Azul Leon to first, Coronet of a Baron to second and Charlie's Moment to third.
Trainer Doug O'Neill chose to skip the Futurity with Azul Leon, pointing him, instead, to the 1 1/16-mile Norfolk Stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Sunday, September 28, as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, also at Oak Tree Saturday, October 25. But O'Neill did enter two juveniles for the Futurity, Escalon with leading rider Rafael Bejarano and Wild Wild Posse with Michael Baze.
Blazing Spirit, with Clinton Potts aboard, will represent Mullins. Barry Abrams will saddle Mensa Heat and put Joel Rosario aboard; Believe in Hope will carry Jose Valdivia Jr. for trainer Ron Ellis; Midshipman, with Tyler Baze aboard will carry the hopes of Bob Baffert, who won seven straight Futurities from 1996 through 2002, and Street Hero, another maiden, rounds out the field, with Alex Solis riding for breeder-owner-trainer Myung Kwan Cho.
Mensa Heat and Midshipman blew out a half-mile this morning to put the lid on their preparations for the Futurity. They were clocked in 48.20.
Escalon and Street Hero will be supplemented to the race for $10,000 each.
NAKATANI'S 94TH STAKES WIN PUTS HIM IN AN ELITE LEAGUE
Jockey Corey Nakatani's victory aboard Vacare in Saturday's Grade II Palomar Stakes was only his second of the Del Mar meeting, but it provided a landmark for the 37-year-old rider.
It put him in the company of a couple of riding legends -- Bill Shoemaker and Eddie Delahoussaye. He now shares third place for career Del Mar stakes wins with those two at the lofty number of 94.
Just ahead is another legend, Laffit Pincay Jr., with 96 stakes wins at the seashore.
Nakatani acknowledges that reaching those numbers, including Pincay's 96, was on his mind as he opened the Del Mar meet.
So how does it feel to be mentioned in the same breath as Hall of Fame riders Shoemaker and Delahoussaye? "It makes you feel great," Nakatani said this morning. "Those two were at the pinnacle of the sport at the time. I still have at least 10 more years to go, so I'm hoping I can catch Chris McCarron."
The retired McCarron leads the stakes winners' list with 134.
"This has been a tough meeting, because when I was injured [at Santa Anita in the winter], I lost a lot of business and it takes a while to get that back. Also, there are a lot of young, hard-working riders now in the [jockeys'] room, making it even harder. But I feel like the business is coming back and I still have the fire to be competitive."
Nakatani won't be riding at Del Mar Monday, taking a mount instead in the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park. He'll ride Acai, who is a member of the field in the 14-horse race, for trainer Rick Dutrow. Also absent from Del Mar on Monday will be Martin Pedroza, just three victories away from 3,000 for his career, who will ride Two Step Salsa in the Pennsylvania Derby for trainer Julio Canani.
Also representing Del Mar in the race is trainer Eoin Harty, who will saddle Tiz Now Tiz Then, who is listed at odds of 4-1 on the morning line. Two Step Salsa is 9-2 on the line and Acai is listed at 20-1. Smooth Air is listed as the favorite at 7-2.
FRANKEL BARN STRUGGLING TO WIN ONE AT THE DEL MAR MEET
If someone had said Bobby Frankel's stable would have zero victories at Del Mar after 40 days, chances are that person would have been laughed off the track.
Well, don't laugh. After today's races, where the Frankel barn has no starters, there'll be two days left for the Hall of Famer, who's been spending his past few summers at Saratoga, to avoid a seasonal shutout.
Certainly, someone who isn't laughing is Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's assistant in charge of the Del Mar string. He's been with Frankel since 1973, and he says he cannot remember a time when the stable was winless at a Del Mar meet. After all, Frankel is fourth in both all-time victories and stakes wins at the beach.
"It's been tough," a dejected Ascanio said, "a real struggle."
Ascanio will saddle three horses Monday and two Wednesday.
GIO PONTI HEADS MORNING LINE AS DEL MAR DERBY FAVORITE
Virginia Derby winner Gio Ponti draws favoritism on today's Grade II, $350,000 Del Mar Derby morning line. He has been made the 2-1 choice by Del Mar line maker Jeff Tufts.
Second in line is Tiz West at 5-1, with Sky Cape, the winner of Del Mar's La Jolla Handicap, and Nownownow next at 6-1. Kilderry, Madeo and Blue Chagall are rated at 8-1, Tangled Tango, the La Jolla runner-up, is at 10-1 and Captain Roy and Spinning Sound are 30-1.
DEBUTANTE FAVORITISM GOES TO MAIDEN STARDOM BOUND
Stardom Bound, who posted a scintillating second in the Grade III Sorrento Stakes, has been installed as the morning-line favorite for Monday's Grade I Del Mar Debutante at 7 furlongs on the main track.
The Christopher Paasch trainee goes into the race with two second-place finishes on her career resume, but both were sterling efforts at Del Mar. She rules as the 7-2 choice in the competitive field.
Here's the rest of the morning line: Empressive Lady, 9-2; Saucey Evening, 5-1; Emmy Darling, 6-1; Sorrento winner Evita Argentina and Turtle Creek Babe, 8-1; Montana Fields, 10-1; Glitter, 12-1, and Palacio de Amor, Will O Way, Candilejas and Trifecta King, all 20-1.
TRACK TO HONOR MEMORY OF BOB BENOIT IN CEREMONY TODAY
A memorial moment will be held after the third race today for the late racetrack publicist and executive Bob Benoit in the Del Mar winner's circle. All members of the media are invited to participate.
LAFFIT PINCAY JR. SPECIAL GUEST STAR AT JOCKEY PHOTO DAY
Retired jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., who won 1,011 races at Del Mar during his career and is far and away the leader in that category at the seashore, will be a special guest Monday at the track's annual Jockey Photo Day. During his career, Pincay rode 9,530 winners and was the all-time leader until passed by Russell Baze.
The jockeys will be available for photos in the Plaza de Mexico from noon to 1 p.m. Among the riders who will be available: Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Rafael Bejarano, Joel Rosario, Tyler Baze, Michael Baze, Joe Talamo and Garrett Gomez.
MAIN TRACK MAINTENANCE:
On Tuesday, the Polytrack surface was power-harrowed and rototilled to a depth of six (6") inches. The track was returned to training and racing depth of approximately two inches and consistency through Gallop Mastering and watering.
Sunday, there were three loads of water (by water truck) added to the racetrack between training and racing time. Additionally, there will be one load of water applied to the running lanes after the day's second race.
Barring notable weather changes, a similar watering pattern will be followed each racing day, with the exception of Fridays and its later start.
On Fridays, following training hours, the track will be power-harrowed to a depth of four (4") inches, then returned to training and racing depth and consistency through Gallop Mastering and watering. No additional water will be added to the track during the racing card Fridays.
TRAKUS FACTS -- Fri., 8/30 -- Peak Speed: Race 3 (Polytrack) -- Nicole's Image -- 43.5 mph (first 3/16ths); Race 4 (Turf) -- Kbello -- 44.4 mph (first 3/16ths); Fastest Late Stretch Run: Race 5 (Polytrack) -- Alpha Kitten -- 38.5 mph (final 16th); Race 4 (Turf) -- Candy Pull -- 41.0 mph (final 16th).
SHORE LINES -- The Whammer, named for a character in "The Natural," who was fashioned after Babe Ruth, will run in the eighth race today, with odds of 5-1 on the morning line. Scratched out of the original field was Galayo, a half-brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and 2007 Derby runner Tiago ... The regular Del Mar closing-day feature, The Party in the Paddock, will feature a free concert by English Beat after the party gets started following the final race of the meet Wednesday, September 3 ... Eight-year-old McCann's Mojave, a stakes winner in five straight years, including this one, has been retired. A tendon injury in his left foreleg took him out of this year's $1-million Pacific Classic on the morning of the race, and the injury necessitated his retirement, owner Mike Willman said this morning. The son of Memo will be shipped to Rancho San Miguel, where he will stand at stud beginning in 2009.
DEL MAR COMBINED JOCKEY & TRAINER STATISTICS
(Current Through Saturday, August 30, 2008)
Jockey -- Mts -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- Win% -- Money Won
Rafael Bejarano -- 213 -- 41 -- 48 -- 42 -- 19% -- $2,467,014
Joel Rosario -- 231 -- 34 -- 31 -- 34 -- 15% -- $1,490,999
Tyler Baze -- 198 -- 32 -- 28 -- 25 -- 16% -- $1,550,570
Garrett Gomez -- 140 -- 30 -- 18 -- 23 -- 21% -- $2,435,263
Victor Espinoza -- 147 -- 14 -- 17 -- 14 -- 10% -- $847,542
Joseph Talamo -- 137 -- 14 -- 15 -- 11 -- 10% -- $696,635
Michael Baze -- 127 -- 14 -- 14 -- 8 -- 11% -- $713,023
Martin Pedroza -- 116 -- 14 -- 12 -- 12 -- 12% -- $530,273
Martin Garcia -- 122 -- 13 -- 17 -- 13 -- 11% -- $623,064
David Flores -- 118 -- 13 -- 15 -- 18 -- 11% -- $1,119,609
Trainer -- Sts -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- Win% -- Money Won
John W. Sadler -- 108 -- 28 -- 25 -- 10 -- 26% -- $1,954,771
Jeff Mullins -- 73 -- 17 -- 18 -- 8 -- 23% -- $606,735
Mike R. Mitchell -- 77 -- 17 -- 8 -- 14 -- 22% -- $962,030
Doug F. O'Neill -- 102 -- 16 -- 18 -- 16 -- 16% -- $849,338
Jerry Hollendorfer -- 50 -- 13 -- 5 -- 11 -- 26% -- $486,849
Bob Baffert -- 57 -- 7 -- 10 -- 10 -- 12% -- $473,507
Jack Carava -- 41 -- 7 -- 7 -- 6 -- 17% -- $285,844
Peter Miller -- 36 -- 7 -- 7 -- 2 -- 19% -- $255,936
J. Eric Kruljac -- 21 -- 7 -- 5 -- 1 -- 33% -- $237,480
Julio C. Canani -- 47 -- 7 -- 4 -- 7 -- 15% -- $568,917
Winning Favorites Report
(Current Through Saturday, August 30, 2008)
Winning favorites -- 111 out of 341 -- 32.55%
Winning favorites on main track -- 76 out of 260 -- 29.23%
Winning favorites on turf -- 35 out of 81 -- 43.21%
Winning odds-on favorites -- 21 out of 42 -- 50.00%
In-the-Money favorites -- 247 out of 341 -- 72.43%
In-the-Money odds-on favorites -- 36 out of 42 -- 85.71%