Trainer Ron Ellis, who has had the one-time stable star back in his care for around seven months, will send out an older and adversity-experienced Rail Trip in a different race on Saturday – the Grade II, $200,000 San Diego Handicap – with an open mind.
“If he is his old self, he’ll win. I’m just concerned about him and not worried about anybody else in the race.”
The San Diego Handicap, 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack main course, is a Win And You’re In qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The victor from the field of seven will be guaranteed entry into the $1 million Dirt Mile on Saturday, November 3, at Santa Anita and a $10,000 travel stipend.
But, of course, you have to win, which is something Rail Trip hasn’t done in eight starts since June of 2010.
Rail Trip was at his best for a one-year period starting in July of 2009. In a 12-month span under Ellis’ care, the 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred, gelded son of Jump Start won the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup and was a close second to Awesome Gem in the 2010 edition. In between the Gold Cup efforts, Rail Trip finished third in the 2009 Pacific Classic, and notched Grade II wins in the Mervyn LeRoy and Californian at Hollywood Park.
Shipped East after the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup to the stable of trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr., Rail Trip went winless in five starts over a 13-month period. The venture ended when Rail Trip stumbled badly leaving the gate on a muddy day at Aqueduct and injured a foot.
Returned to Ellis in late December, Rail Trip came back to the races at Hollywood Park, finishing fourth of seven in the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap in late May and running second behind fellow San Diego Handicap entrant John Scott in an optional-claiming level event on June 28.
“He’s doing great, we’re very happy with his progress,” Ellis said. “It’s kind of hard to get a line on him to this point, and this race will be a big gauge for us. If he looks good and appears to be rounding back into form we’ll be thinking about the Pacific Classic.
“It has been an uplifting experience for the whole barn to have him back and strutting around (the stable area) every day.”
COMMA TO THE TOP GUNS FOR CROSBY
The decision for trainer Peter Miller to make on Thursday was this: Run his 2010 CashCall Futurity winner Comma to the Top in that day’s $78,000 allowance feature against a field that included 2011 Haskell Invitational winner Coil, or wait until Sunday for the Grade I, $300,000 Bing Crosby.
Miller chose the Crosby. For reasons he outlined Friday morning.
“The race (Thursday) came up like a stakes (for quality of competition) and the Bing Crosby has a short field (five) for a lot more money,” Miller explained. “I also want to assure an honest pace in the Crosby for Mr. (Gary) Barber’s other horse, Don Tito.”
TV magnate Gary Barber owns, in separate partnerships, a share of both the speed-packing Comma to the Top and mid-pack closer Don Tito, who is trained by John Sadler.
“Bob Baffert (trainer of favored The Factor) might not like it, but I have to do what’s best for my clients,” Miller said. “I’m sure the other trainers are happy (Comma to the Top) is in there.”
IT’S SHOWTIME AND FAST TIME FOR LAKERVILLE
After sending Lakerville out for allowance level turf victories on Opening Day and, one week later, last Wednesday, trainer Barry Abrams will give the 4-year-old Unusual Heat colt a rest.
But only until the Green Flash Handicap on August 15. And Lakerville will have a tough act to follow off his first two starts, like the Green Flash at 5 furlong distances on turf, when it’s showtime again.
“You look at the fractions for the race (on Wednesday) and he ran the fastest three furlongs any horse ever has,” Abrams said Friday morning. The official clocking for the first quarter of the five-furlong race was :22.82, with pacesetter Close to the Edge seven lengths in front of Lakerville, who was next-to-last in a field of eight.
Lakerville’s winning time was :56.57. Using the rule-of-thumb of one length equals a fifth of a second, Lakerville went the first quarter in around 24 flat and the final three-eighths in under 33 seconds.
“I’ve never seen a horse do the first three furlongs in :32, let alone the last three,” Abrams said.
Abrams is already thinking of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside course at Santa Anita on November 3.
“I think he’ll win it,” Abrams said.
WILLA B AWESOME LOOKS FOR FLEET TREAT REBOUND
Trainer Walther Solis calls it one of the greatest days of his life. On March 31, he was in Guatemala for the happy occasion of his daughter’s wedding. Meanwhile, back at Santa Anita, his 3-year-old filly Willa B Awesome was a narrow winner of the Santa Anita Oaks, notching the first Grade I victory of the 50-year-old trainer’s career.
Willa B Awesome followed up the Santa Anita Oaks with a win in the Melair at Hollywood Park on April 28, then after some time off was sixth of eight in the Grade II Hollywood Oaks on June 23. The 3-year-old, California-bred daughter of Awesome Gambler is the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $200,000 Fleet Treat Stakes.
“She is one of those horses you are just glad to be around and have as part of your stable,” Solis said Friday morning from Hollywood Park. “Every time she has run she has tried her best.
“The last race (Hollywood Oaks) I have to throw out. She didn’t have the best trip, she had to check up rounding the turn and when it was clear she wasn’t going to win Martin (jockey Martin Pedroza) didn’t push her.
“Coming into this race, she’s a lot tighter. There’s a lot of speed in this race, and hopefully that will work to our benefit.”
WHO WAS THAT HORSE?
Observers of the morning workout sheets got a jolt Thursday when it showed trainer Jim Cassidy’s Evening Jewel going 5 furlongs in :59.00, fastest of 59 at the distance that morning.
Evening Jewel? The 2010 San Clemente Handicap and Del Mar Oaks winner, prepping for a comeback at age 5?
“Evening Jewel is in Kentucky, she’s been there a year and a half and she’s in foal to Medaglia d’Oro,” Cassidy reported Friday morning. “John Sadler has a half-sister to Evening Jewel and the only thing I can guess is that horse was the one they timed and somehow the name got mixed up in the communicating.”
When things got sorted out the work was attributed to Cupid’s Bling, a Sadler trainee, but not the sibling to Evening Jewel. Actually, Evening Jewel’s half-sister, Majestic Jewel, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 Thursday.
LONG FACE, THIS PLACE PUT SMILE ON BIANCONE’S FACE
Trainer Patrick Biancone saddled Long Face to a ($21.60) victory in Thursday’s sixth race. And the international horseman, an infrequent visitor to Del Mar over the years, said Friday morning that he intends to bring the 3-year-old daughter of Whywhywhy back in the Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks on Saturday, August 18.
“I was here one time, about 10 years ago and then about four years ago,” Biancone said. “Del Mar is really the place to be in the summer. Beautiful weather. Beautiful track. Beautiful beaches. Beautiful women. The four B’s.”
In addition to Long Face, Biancone has Quaintly for the CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap on Friday, August 24 and some 2-year-olds that it’s “too early to talk about right now.”
CLOSERS -- Ship And Win bonus-eligible horses on today’s card include: Disarm (1st, trainer Jack Bruner); Farrari Stone (2nd, Bruner); Speargun (4th, J. Keith Desormeaux); Pack Your Bags (5th, Molly Pearson); Kajiwara (5th, Dallas Keen); … Benjamin Warren’s stature as one of the largest owner/breeders in California is evidenced daily by horses with his surname as their first name. Del Mar clocker John Malone’s database shows, since 2004, 279 horses named Warren’s (Whatever). There are 27 currently at Del Mar. There were eight ‘Warren’s’ on the Thursday work tab, three more Friday morning … Notable Friday works: Dhaamer, 3 furlongs, :37.20; Amarish, 5 furlongs 1:04.40; Givine, 5 furlongs :58.60; Quindici Man, 5 furlongs 1:02.20.
Trakus Facts of the Day for Thursday, July 26
Debuting juvenile Maker Or Breaker dazzled in the fifth race, covering the second most ground in the field, while also recording a final furlong in 11.60 seconds. That is the fastest final furlong for all starters at six furlongs this meet, and compared to the 2011 stand at Del Mar, would equate to the fourth-fastest from 532 horses tracked last season.
All de Victors won the fourth race by 3 ¼ lengths at 17-1, but the extra ground he covered made the effort more impressive. In this claiming event, the Dan Blacker trainee covered 32 feet more than second-place finisher Aragorn Sword, which equates to roughly 3 ½ lengths of added ground.