Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Stable Notes


The brilliance of horses and horsemen on display during the Del Mar summer racing season carried over in a large measure to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships last weekend at Churchill Downs.

And over the course of the two-day event in Louisville, fans who attended the 36-day, 79th racing season here had moments to remember echoing in their minds.

First, the ones generated by the horses.

Accelerate, Del Mar’s Horse of the Meeting via a record 12 ½ length victory in the $1 million Pacific Classic, won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The margin (one length), wasn’t nearly as impressive, but it didn’t have to be considering the competition was the best handicap division horses in the world. And it put Accelerate solidly in the debate/conversation for Horse of the Year, an honor that Triple Crown champion Justify appeared to have sewed up.

Game Winner, the Del Mar Futurity champion and top 2-year-old of the summer meeting, overcame several obstacles to produce a 2 ¼-length victory in the $2 million Juvenile. It locked up an Eclipse Award as the year’s best 2-year-old male and secured early favoritism for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Five Del Mar Futurity winners have gone on to Derby success, most recently American Pharoah and Nyquist back-to-back in 2015 and 2016.

Stormy Liberal, who won twice at Del Mar in the summer, the second coming in the Green Flash on August 17, won the $1 million BC Turf Sprint. The wins here were both by a nose margin for the fast-closing gelding. In the Breeders’ Cup he stretched it out to a neck.

Roy H, second in the Bing Crosby last summer, took the lead after a half mile and maintained it through the final quarter for a comfortable 3 ¼-length win the $2 million BC Sprint.

City of Light, who broke his maiden at Del Mar in 2017 and trained here last summer, won the $1 million Dirt Mile wire-to-wire from the No. 1 post albeit at the expense of favored Catalina Cruiser. A victory in the Pat O’Brien was the “Win and You’re In” entre to the Dirt Mile for Catalina Cruiser and turned the vote for top sprinter of the summer meeting in his favor.

Now for the human stories.

John Sadler, who led all trainers with eight stakes wins during the summer, ended an oh-for-44 siege with the victory by Accelerate in the Classic. In addition, Sadler saddled Catapult to a second-place finish, edged out in the final strides by Expert Eye in the $2 million Mile.

Encinitas’ Peter Miller, who ran away with the summer racing title by notching 31 victories to 21 for runner-up Doug O’Neill, pulled off the astonishing feat of  winning the same two Breeders’ Cup races he had at Del Mar in 2017, with the same two horses. That would be Stormy Liberal in the Turf Sprint and Roy H in the Sprint.

Miller entered Roy H in the Pat O’Brien, but scratched on the day before when he decided the race spacing wasn’t right for optimum Breeders’ Cup preparation. Victories by Roy H in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in October and the BC Sprint proved the wisdom of that decision.

Drayden Van Dyke, who won his first major Southern California circuit meeting title here last summer, experienced his first Breeders’ Cup win – at age 24 – aboard Stormy Liberal. Trainer Mike McCarthy, a former Todd Pletcher assistant now based in Southern California, did likewise with City of Light.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Futurity 13 times, took the BC Juvenile for a fourth time with Game Winner following Vindication (2002), Midshipman (2008) and New Year’s Day (2013).

And Hronis Racing, of brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis, who won their fourth owners title in the past six years at the summer meeting, took the honors at the Breeders’ Cup with more than $3.3 million from the win by Accelerate and sixth by Catalina Cruiser.


The supplemental entries of Miss Southern Miss and Gliding By finalized a field of 12 with one also eligible for the $75,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes on opening day, Friday, November 9.

The one-mile run for older fillies and mares over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course is the first of 14 stakes during 16 days of fall racing at Del Mar that will be conducted on a four-day per week basis. The opening four days conclude with a special Veterans Day program on Monday. Thereafter racing will be staged Thursday to Sunday.

The field for the Kathryn Crosby from the rail out:  Gliding By (Evin Roman), Psycho Star (Edwin Maldonado), Miss Southern Miss (Assael Espinoza), Excellent Sunset (Mario Gutierrez), Shehastheritestuff (Geovanni Franco), Quebec (Rafael Bejarano), Way to Versailles (Flavien Prat), Tonahutu (Gary Stevens), Escape  Clause (Ruben Fuentes), Sweet Charity (Mike Smith), Last Promise Kept (Drayden Van Dyke) and Pantsonfire (Kent Desormeaux). Also eligible: Birdie Gold (Mike Smith, 1st call).


The installation of sprinkler systems in structures as San Luis Rey Downs continues to rebuild from the devastating fires 11 months ago will necessitate an influx of horses to the Del Mar stable area.

“Roughly 200 horses that were in that were (in temporary housing) at San Luis Rey will be coming here through the meeting,” Racing Secretary David Jerkens said Tuesday morning. “San Luis Rey is still going to be open, but it’s just the trainers that were in one structure who will be affected.”

Among that group are Peter Miller, Ed Freeman and Adam Kitchingman.

“We would typically take in about 70 horses from San Luis Rey anyway.  So Miller will have 80 here when he’d normally have 40,” Jerkens said. “When you net the whole thing out, it’s about 150 extra horses from San Luis Rey.”

A rough guess would be that about one-third might be sufficiently trained up to a start during the upcoming meeting. “From my standpoint, if they’re stabled here, they’re on the grounds and you just need to lead them over to run, so it could be a positive for us,” Jerkens said.

CLOSERS – Del Mar Executive Vice President of Racing Tom Robbins attended the Breeders’ Cup and, after  talking with Chad Brown, returned with the expectation that the mega-trainer will be sending several horses west for  the meeting and will be especially well represented in the Hollywood Derby and Matriarch Stakes on the closing weekend, December 1 and 2 …Hunt, voted top grass horse of the 2017 summer meeting off victories in the Eddie Read and Del Mar Handicap, was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Mile but didn’t make the plane to Kentucky after running a temperature. Owned by Michael House of Rancho Santa Fe and trained by Phil D’Amato, Hunt is being tentatively targeted for the Grade II $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap on November 24, a race in which the 6-year-old Irish-bred earner of more than $900,000 is the defending champion.

Fifth Del Mar Fall Session Is Off and Running this Friday

With a growing reputation that puts it at the forefront of the nation’s year-end race meets, Del Mar will present the fifth edition of its fall racing season starting this Friday for a four-week, 16-day run that will bring classy Thoroughbreds back to the seaside oval through Sunday, December 2.

Either eight- or nine-race programs will be offered four times weekly, starting at 12:30 p.m. each day, with one exception: That would be a special Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 22) slate that begins at 11 a.m.

Opening weekend will provide a distinctive Monday, November 12 card to salute Veterans Day, but then the balance of the stand will see a Thursday-through-Sunday pattern taking hold.

Right out of the box on Friday the shore oval will stage the Kathryn Crosby Stakes for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf.  It also will conduct a special promotion that provides a free admission, seat and program to all its Diamond Club members, or to any that do the quick and easy sign-up for the popular club that currently boasts more than 300,000 fans on its rolls. 

Foremost among the track’s stakes offerings are a pair of $300,000 grass tests on closing weekend – the Grade I Hollywood Derby at nine furlongs for 3-year-olds on Saturday, December 1 and the Grade I Matriarch Stakes at one mile for fillies and mares on Sunday, December 2.

All told, the track will present 14 stakes events with nine of them graded.

Other highlights on the racing program – ably prepared by executive vice president, racing Tom Robbins and racing secretary David Jerkens – are the $200,000, Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up on Friday, November 23; the $200,000, Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday, November 24, and the $100,000, Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes for 2-year-olds on Sunday, November 25.  Each of those black-type tests will be conducted on the track’s renovated Jimmy Durante Turf Course. 

The track’s two racing surfaces – the one-mile dirt oval and the seven-furlong grass course with its unique diagonal chute that allows for races of up to nine furlongs – are overseen by two veteran professionals considered among the best in the business. Leif Dickinson as turf and landscape superintendent tends to the deep, green grass layout and Dennis Moore handles the main track in his role as director of track maintenance.

Besides its stellar racing program – now known as the cream of the racing crop nationally during its November run – the track will provide a series of on-site promotions and activities sure to please many of the fans who have come to look forward to the seaside racing headquarters’ “second season.”

Two major “after the races” concerts will be held during the meeting – the first featuring the reggae band Pepper this Saturday, then the other attracting country fans for a performance by the C&W hit maker Easton Corbin on Saturday, November 24.

Other “happenings” planned for the meet include a College Day at the Races on opening Saturday; an Uncorked Derby Days Wine Fest on Saturday, November 17; a Craft Beer Fest on Saturday, December 1; a Family Fun Run and a Thanksgiving Brunch on Thursday, November 22, and a Toys for Tots Toy Drive and Motorcycle Ride slated for Sunday, November 18.

Admission to the track is $6, but only $3 for Diamond Club members (sign-ups are easiest using the Del Mar Mobile App available on iTunes and Google Play). Children 17 and under are free, if accompanied by an adult.  Seniors (62 and up) are free on all Thursdays, while active duty military are free every day.  Reserved seats cost $4 on Thursdays and Fridays, $8 on Saturdays and $6 on Sundays and Opening Day (November 9).

Advanced seat sales and/or restaurant reservations can be obtained by calling (858) 792-4242, or by accessing Del Mar’s website – DelMarRacing.com

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Del Mar Fall Season

Fourteen stakes races during its 16-day run, as well as a 5% blended increase in its overnight purses, highlight Del Mar’s Fall Racing Festival beginning on Friday, November 9. Nine of the 14 stakes are graded, led by the Grade I pair of the Hollywood Derby and the Matriarch Stakes, both of which will carry $300,000 purses and help to ensure an exciting finish on closing weekend, December 1 and 2.

“California racing is trending in a positive direction and our Fall Festival will be part of that,” said Del Mar’s executive vice president of racing Tom Robbins. “Santa Anita and Del Mar have enjoyed very strong meets this year and both were recently named host sites for the Breeders’ Cup in 2019 and 2021. In addition to paying some of the highest purses in the country during this period, our fall season once again will offer the popular ‘Ship & Win’ program, which provides qualifying out-of-state horses with a $2,000 starter bonus and a 30% overnight purse supplement.”

Del Mar’s Fall Racing Festival showcases world-class turf racing with nine of its 14 stakes run on grass – seven of them graded events. “Del Mar’s fall meet has really come into its own with its increased purses and great turf racing,” said Thoroughbred Owners of California chairman Nick Alexander. “Fall racing at Del Mar offers a relaxed atmosphere for horsemen and very kind racing surfaces for our horses.”

The fall meet’s overnight purse increases will include $3,000 enhancements to claiming races at the $10,000, $12,500, $16,000 and $25,000 levels. For example, purses for a $10,000 claiming event will rise from $17,000 to $20,000 and purses at the $25,000 level will increase from $29,000 to $32,000.

The stakes schedule offers a robust holiday program around Thanksgiving weekend featuring six graded events between Thursday and Sunday, five of them on the lawn. Foremost among the holiday offerings are the Grade II, $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Friday, November 23 and the Grade II, $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap on Saturday, November 24.

There will be a trio of stakes for juveniles including the $100,000 Desi Arnaz for fillies on a special Veterans Day Monday, November 12 racing card. Also on the 2-year-old stakes agenda are a pair of Grade III grass miles, the $100,000 Jimmy Durante for fillies on November 24 and the $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille on Sunday, November 25.

The November 22 Thanksgiving Day festivities, featuring the Grade III, $100,000 Red Carpet Stakes, will have an early 11 a.m. first post with its final race going off at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Opening weekend will run from Friday, November 9 to Monday, November 12. Then the meet will fall into a steady Thursday-through-Sunday rhythm from there on out. With the exception of Thanksgiving Day, first post daily will be 12:30 p.m. Weekday cards will offer eight races, while weekend ones will present nine.

The White Lilly Starter Handicap

Twilight Derby (Grade II) -

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