The dark clouds looming on the horizon at the start of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club race meeting, welled up by a horse shortage in California, never produced a storm of trouble.
Much to the surprise of many racing insiders, including DMTC Executive Vice President/racing secretary Tom Robbins. Entries were taken Saturday morning for Wednesday’s final card of the meeting. Ten races were scheduled, among them the $250,000 Grade I, Del Mar Futurity.
“It went much better than I ever anticipated coming into the race meet,” Robbins said Saturday morning. “Looking back on the Santa Anita winter and Hollywood Park spring meets, where they went to four days of racing a week, I had prepared our folks here, internally, that we’d have to be running considerably fewer races in order to sustain a five-day-a-week schedule that everybody felt we had to run.
“As it ended up, we’ll run about two fewer races than we did last year. That’s because we had three Fridays where we (purposely) ran seven races, one fewer than last year, and one more Sunday with 10 races than we did last year.
“Our (average) field size is going to actually be higher than it was last year (8.3 per race compared to 8.2). If anybody would have made a wager with me at the beginning of the meet that this is where we would end up, I would have lost a lot of money.”
Beyond plain old good support from horsemen, Robbins points to two factors that he believes have helped deflect the projected problems.
“The ‘Ship And Win’ program definitely helped,” Robbins said. “There are going to be over 100 horses that took advantage of the program, not making just one start but multiple starts. Those are all incremental starts for us.
“And I think the track (surface) really behaved and that meant more horses were able to come back and run more than once. To me, at least, there was a lot less chatter about the condition of the track. To me, that’s good. It’s all good.”
JOCKEY AND TRAINER RACES AT A GLANCE
Jockeys – Joel Rosario (40 wins); Friday (2) Irish Art (1st, $3.00), Diamond Journey (3rd, $7.00); Saturday, eight mounts covering all races except the second and fifth. Joe Talamo (37 wins); Friday (0); Saturday, nine mounts covering all races except the sixth.
Trainers – Mike Mitchell (21 wins); Friday (2) Diamond Journey (3rd, $7.00), Celestic Night (6th, $36.20). Saturday, scheduled starters in races 2 (Bonita Star, 5-2), 3 (Egg Drop, 5-2), 6 (Warning Song, 7-2), 7 (Jairzihno, 9-2 and Quinton’s Destiny, 6-1) and 9 (Jeopardy Lady, 3-1). John Sadler (18 wins); Friday, (0); Saturday, scheduled starters in races 1 (Nihilist, 5-1), 3 (Twitch, 8-1), 7 (Kettle Corn, 5-1 and Java Man, 15-1), and 10 (Stardust Dancer, 6-1).
HOLLENDORFER WATCH: ONE AWAY
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer moved to the threshold of career win No. 6,000 when Going For A Spin won Friday’s first race at Golden Gate Fields. But the milestone victory remained to be achieved when Tio Vic finished third in the seventh race at Golden Gate and Sahara Sky was seventh of eight in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar..
Hollendorfer has seven scheduled starters today, three at Golden Gate Fields and four at Del Mar. In order of probable post times they are: 3rd at GGF, 1:45 p.m., Defend Liberty, 3-1; 2nd at DM, 2:32 p.m. Cactus Jane, 5-1; 6th at GGF, 3:23 p.m., Just Tappin It, 2-1; 4th at DM, 3:35 p.m., Photo Shopped, 6-1; 6th at DM, 4:35 p.m., Chocolate Candy, 4-1; 9th at GGF, 4:50 p.m., Kilkenny, 8-1; 8th at DM, 5:35 p.m., Killer Graces, 5-1.
EIGHT SET TO GO IN FUTURITY
A field of eight was entered this morning for the traditional closing-day featured $250,000, Grade I Del Mar Futurity Wednesday.
From the rail out the lineup is: Corsa di Cavalli (Alonso Quinonez), Gun Boat (Martin Pedroza), Sheer Talent (Victor Espinoza), Majestic City (David Flores), Basmati (Garrett Gomez), Drill (Martin Garcia), Mighty Monsoon (Joe Talamo) and Creative Cause (Rafael Bejarano).
EURTON, WEEMISSFRANKIE ON EDGE FOR DEBUTANTE
Peter Eurton-trained Weemissfrankie has worked four times since defeating a highly-regarded field of maiden fillies in her racing debut on July 20, opening day of the Del Mar meeting. Two of the workouts earned bullets as the fastest of the day at the distance, the other two were plenty swift.
So this morning, Eurton was keen to see what will happen this afternoon when Weemissfrankie faces nine rivals as the 9-2 morning line second choice, behind 7-2 Dreamcaster, in the $250,000, Grade I Del Mar Debutante.
Weemissfrankie, a 2-year-old daughter of Sun River, was purchased at an April sale for $175,000 by a partnership which includes members of the family of the late Frank Alesia, for whom the filly was named.
““I feel like we have a fit horse and we have a good horse,” Eurton said of the development of Weemissfrankie in the six weeks since her career-opening victory. Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard for the much tougher assignment today.
“The thing about Bejarano is that he doesn’t assume anything and lets the
race unfold,” Eurton said. “For me, I’d like to see her fourth or fifth (early on). She’s got such a great turn of foot, why does she have to be up there winging?
“ It’s up to him, because you look at the race and there’s talent with speed that will be up front and talented closers who’ll be coming from behind. If the pace is slow, I’d like to see her a little closer (than in her debut win). But it’s up to him.”
A Debutante win would be the highlight of the career of Eurton, a 54-year-old former jockey.
“There’s anxiety, nerves, excitement, all of that,” Eurton said.
O’NEILL HOPES ‘THIRTYFIRST’ IS LUCKY NUMBER
Encouraged by the effort of Thirtyfirststreet in a third-place finish in the La Jolla Handicap on August 13, trainer Doug O’Neill will send out the Good Journey colt on Monday in a full field of nine for the $250,000, Grade II Del Mar Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course usually determines the 3-year-old champion of the meeting and it has attracted Burns and Lil Bit O’Fun, the 1-2 La Jolla finishers.
A month after a forgettable 10th of 12 result in the Virginia Derby, Thirtyfirststreet led for the first mile of the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla and was only three-quarters of a length behind at the wire.
“We were so disappointed in his race in Virginia, but he bounced back great and ran a good race against the same kind of company in the La Jolla,” O’Neill said. “Obviously he’s got to move forward to win, but he’s eating good and feeling good and we think he’s got a really good chance.
“We’re pulling the blinkers off him and we’re trying to get him to settle a little more. Whether that will be on-the-lead settled or not, I’m not sure. But I think he can lay behind horses if it works out that way. Alonso Quinonez is a patient rider and got to know him a little bit ridng him last time, so if things work out we could shock the world at a good price.”
CLOSERS – Trainer Bob Baffert’s Del Mar Futurity entrants Drill and Gun Boat both worked 5 furlongs, Drill in a bullet :59.60 and Gun Boat in 1:00 Saturday morning … Jockey Tony McNeil and trainer Cash Asmussen combined for their first wins of the meeting with Quality Elusion ($15) in Friday’s fourth race. It was McNeil’s first win from 13 mounts and Asmussen’s first from 13 starters.