Richard’s Kid, Acclamation and Interaction, three primary candidates for the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Sunday, August 26, put in workouts this morning preparatory to the meeting’s signature event.
Bob Baffert-trained Richard’s Kid was the first to go. With jockey Rafael Bejarano up, Richard’s Kid, winner of the 2009 and 2010 runnings of the 1 ¼-mile main track event, went five furlongs in :59.80 and galloped out to three-quarters in 1:13.00.
“It was a nice work,” Baffert said of a work that impressed Del Mar Thoroughbred Club head clocker John Malone and his crew.
“He was in hand, skipping over the ground and it technically could have been called a breeze (unencouraged),” clocker Toby Turrell said.
When the turf course was opened for workouts at 9:45, trainer Don Warren sent out defending Pacific Classic champion Acclamation and stakes-winning stablemate Norvsky and Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally dispatched Interaction, runner-up to Acclamation in the Eddie Read.
Acclamation went six furlongs under exercise rider Fernando Valenzuela in 1:11.20 with interim splits of :12.80, :24.40; :36.00 and :48.20. Norvsky, working separately, was timed in 1:15.00 for six furlongs.
“(Acclamation) went a little faster than we thought he would, but he went so well within himself that it’s fine,” said Old English Rancho head E.W. “Bud” Johnston, owner in partnership of both Acclamation and Norvsky.
“Norvsky went a little slower than we would have liked, but he’s not the kind of horse that has to work fast anyway. So we were pleased with both works.”
Interaction worked five furlongs in 1:03.00 under Brice Blanc, the slowest of seven works at the distance over the turf.
“(Blanc) worked both Interaction and All Star Heart and said they both felt as good as ever,” McAnally said.
NEW STARTER JOHN LOPEZ OFF TO AN EXCELLENT START
John Lopez works under a Panama hat instead of a Stetson and from the starters’ stand rather than down on the track.
But beyond the cosmetically obvious, it would take an extremely trained eye to differentiate between the job being done this meeting by Lopez and the one done for the previous 14 years by Gary Brinson. Lopez is the replacement starter this season to allow Brinson to take care of family business.
Smooth and even breaks and virtually no complaints have been the rule. And the feedback Lopez has received from Brinson and Jay Slender, whom he previously served as an assistant starter, has been positive.
“I talked to Gary about two weeks ago and he’s doing OK,” Lopez said. “I talked to Jay not too long ago and he just said to keep it up and do what I’m doing and things will be OK.”
And Lopez is hoping to see and get comment from Jay’s father, Tucker Slender. That could happen today when, as they do annually, the Paddock Association, a group of racing veterans from all facets of the industry, holds its get-together in the Ancient Title room. Lopez’s understanding is that Tucker Slender might be in attendance.
“I’m really wanting to see and hear from Tucker,” Lopez said. “I started out with Tuck in about 1980, working with him with the quarter horses at Bay Meadows. Those eight years I worked with him were the most defining years.
“ He taught me to be a good tough hand. To always be alert when you’re inside that gate with the quarter horses and basically taught me everything I needed to be an assistant starter. I worked for him for 17 years.
“I was his head man also, so I’m kind of interested to get his reaction. He’s always been very supportive.
Turns out there’s a sort of brotherhood of starters that, in Lopez’s case at least, crosses international borders.
“I did see my friend Pancho Rodriguez,” Lopez said. “ Pancho was the old starter at the Caliente racetrack up until the early 1970s. I was just a kid hanging around there when I was 11-12-13 years old. I knew Pancho because he was always up there on the starter’s stand in a three-piece suit and hat, looking sharp.
“When I actually introduced myself to him, after working on the gate for a lot of years, I asked him how long he worked on the gate. He said 35 years, and I said, ‘Wow, OK, I’m going to set my goal for 35 years. This year is going to be 35 years for me.
“I saw him up in the grandstand a few days after opening day. He was genuinely proud that I made it.”
The 54-year-old Lopez’s sartorial signature is the wide-brimmed Panama hat he wears virtually all of the time. When he doesn’t, he hears about it.
“Just for the fun of it, last Friday (August 3), I didn’t wear it for the first race. And I must have had 10 people ask where it was,” he said. “I told them it was in the cleaners, but I’d get it out for the second race.
“All of sudden it’s become part of the uniform. I’ve had it for a couple of years. now,” he said. “I got it at a hat shop in Pasadena. I got passed over for jury duty and there was a hat shop I knew about near the courthouse. I went in and picked it out.
“The first day they were saying I looked like Al Capone in it. But I think it’s pretty cool.”
Lopez credits his crew -- sons Kyle and John, Gilbert Cardenas, Tim Craigmyle, Rene Henriquez, Tim Fulgham, his No. 1 assistant Keil Travis, plus Cliff Hinkle, Dink Woods, Kevin Steed, Kelly Steed, Art Ruis and Eddie Figueroa -- to a major degree for the way things have gone.
O’NEILL HAPPY HE’S TRAINING PITINO’S EQUINE BAMBINOS
Trainer Doug O’Neill couldn’t hide his delight as University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and his advisors stopped by Barn Y to check on thoroughbreds under O’Neill’s care.
Pitino, the only coach in NCAA history to take three different teams to a Final Four, was recruited this year by an O’Neill assistant who had attended Louisville on a soccer scholarship.
“He befriended coach Pitino and has been talking to him about how we’d love to get a horse for him.,” O’Neill said. “Now we’ve got three babies, three really good 2-year-olds for him, and it’s just a great addition.”
Pitino has had partnerships in Celtic Pride Stable and Ol Memorial Stable. The top horses of his association, both trained by Nick Zito, were 1998 Blue Grass Stakes winner and fourth-place Kentucky Derby finishers Halory Hunter, and 2008 Champagne Stakes winner A P Valentine.
“He’s such a positive person, and just handles everything so well,” O’Neill said of Pitino. “One of the babies got a little sick, typical stuff really, and watching him react to that adversity was very interesting. He’s such an amazing man and you can tell why he’s been such a successful coach.
“He’s constantly looking at the positive and showing patience. If they can run, ultimately things will pay off for us.”
One of Pitino’s horses, a Johannesberg colt named Avare (pronounced A-var) might start during the meeting.
Avare worked four furlongs Wednesday morning under jockey Garrett Gomez in :49.20.
CANANI HAS TWO TUNED FOR DAISYCUTTER, LA JOLLA
Trainer Julio Canani will send out Givine in Friday’s featured $85,000 Daisycutter Handicap and My Best Brother, winner of a division of the Oceanside Stakes, in Saturday’s Grade II $150,000 La Jolla Handicap.
Givine, a 5-year-old French-bred mare owned by Marsha Naify, was third in the Daisycutter to Unzip Me and third in the CERF Handicap behind Rumor in two starts at the 2011 Del Mar meeting. A winner of six of 18 career starts with earnings of $227,941, Givine will be making her first start since February at Santa Anita.
She was ready two months ago at Hollywood Park, but there wasn’t a race for her, so we waited for the Daisycutter,” Canani said. “She’s been training good.”
My Best Brother, a son of Stormy Atlantic owned in partnership by Bill Currin and San Diego businessman Al Eisman, won the second division of the opening-day Oceanside Stakes.
“He has worked twice since the Oceanside and he’s coming up to it good,” Canani said. My Best Brother went four furlongs in :46.80 on July 28 and five furlongs in 1:00.00 on Sunday.
CLOSERS – Trainer R.L. “Bob” Wheeler, who won 15 stakes races at Del Mar from 1955-1984 will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Friday morning. Wheeler, whose stakes wins here included three in the Del Mar Debutante, is part of a six-member Hall of Fame class of 2012. Roger Attfield is the only other trainer being inducted … Ship And Win bonus-eligible horses on today’s card include: Falling Knife (3rd, Cody Autrey, trainer); Contessa Del Norte (4th, Jeff Bonde); Cat On Base (7th, Vann Belvoir) … San Diego Handicap winner and TVG Pacific Classic candidate Rail Trip worked 4 furlongs Tuesday at Hollywood Park in :49.20 …Blood tests on TVG Pacific Classic candidate Where’s Sterling, who presented a slight temperature after shipping in from Florida, were postponed from Wednesday to today with results expected sometime this afternoon … Notable stakes-horse works from a busy morning. On Polytrack – Comma to the Top, 4 furlongs :49.20; Lakerville, 4 furlongs :49.80; Broken Dreams, 5 furlongs, 1:00.40; Capital Account, 5 furlongs, 1:00.00; Ellafitz, 5 furlongs :59.20. On the Jimmy Durante Turf Course – All Star Heart, 4 furlongs :48.80; John Scott, 4 furlongs, :51.20.
Trakus Facts of the Day for Wednesday, August 8
Favored Power Series covered 42 feet more than second-choice winner Apply in Wednesday’s second race, losing by only a half-length. Power Series ran a faster final quarter-mile, and final furlong, but the extra ground coverage took its toll. Third place finisher Sidepocket Kid had the fastest final quarter and eighth, coming home in 24.81 and 12.38 seconds, respectively, and also covered a much shorter trip than Power Series.
Brooklyn Rose soared home in the fifth race, recording a final quarter mile time (24.73s) that was more than a second faster than the next-fastest time, set by second-placer Queen Mercury, and a final furlong that was 0.69 seconds faster than that rival.
Wishing Gate took the finale at a mile on turf and covered substantial extra ground, going no less than four wide on the second turn. Under Mike Smith, Wishing Gate covered 5,366 feet while second Jerry’shoneycarol and third Dance Team each went 41 feet less, covering 5,325. Fourth-place finisher Shrilanka had the second-fastest final furlong in 11.42 seconds, but was still 0.20 seconds slower than the winner’s final eighth.