Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Nominations closed Thursday for eight of the 11 remaining stakes of the Bing Crosby meeting. And while a lot can transpire between the filing of nomination forms and the opening of the starting gate, on paper the prospects of both quantity and quality in most of the featured events are good.
A look at the stakes nominations in order of race appearance:
Bob Hope Stakes, $100,000 Grade III, Saturday, November 19, 2 year-olds, 7 furlongs  -- Supplemental entries are still possible, but only seven were nominated, four from the stable of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The Baffert foursome includes Big Gray Rocket, who broke his maiden by 6 ¾ lengths impressively at Del Mar on closing day of the summer meeting.
Cary Grant Stakes, $100,000, Sunday, November 20,  Cal-breds 3 and up,  7 furlongs – Eleven nominated, among them the defending race champion Solid Wager, trained by Peter Miller. An intriguing nominee is Old English Rancho homebred Acceptance, the pacesetter in the 2015 Hollywood Derby. The 4-year-old Vronsky colt, trained by Kenny Black and ridden by Stewart Elliott, comes in off a wire-to-wire victory in the California Flag Stakes at Santa Anita on October 22.
Red Carpet Stakes, $100,000 Grade III, Thursday, November 24, fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 3/8 miles on turf – Japanese standout Nuovo Record came to Del Mar directly after the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with the Thanksgiving Day race in mind. East Coast-based trainers H. Graham Motion, Christophe Clement and Nicholas Esler also have singles among the 26 nominees. The Motion/Team Valor International  representative, Arles, would be making her second U.S. start since being imported from Germany. The first was a commendable runner-up effort in the Grade III Glen Falls at Saratoga in September.
Hollywood Turf Cup, $200,000 Grade II, Friday, November 25, 3-year-olds and up, 1 ½ miles on turf – Connections for The Pizza Man, the defending race champion and one of the most popular horses of recent years, are fully committed to a West Coast ship for the Chicago-based star.
Trainer Michael Maker has three nominees. Greengrassofwyoming and Roman Approval are training in Kentucky, Taghleeb in New York.
Seabiscuit Handicap, $200,000 Grade II, Saturday, November 26, 3 year olds and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf – Trainer Phil D’Amato has named three of his recent Breeders’ Cup runners – Obviously (winner, Turf Sprint), Midnight Storm (3rd, Mile) and Vyjack (7th, Dirt Mile) among the 25 nominated. Trainer Dan Hendricks has nominated Om, a late-charging close second to Obviously in the Turf Sprint.
Clement has placed two in nomination, War Correspondent and Black Type. Motion’s Ring Weekend finished seventh, 1 ¾ lengths behind Midnight Storm, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Jimmy Durante Stakes, $100,000 Grade III, Saturday, November 26, 2-year-old fillies, one mile on turf – As is to be expected this time of year there’s a lot of potential and little experience among the 29 nominees. Del Mar summer meeting fans will remember With Honors, who won the closing-day Juvenile Fillies Turf under Flavien Prat for trainer J. Keith Desormeaux. The War Front filly went on to finish second in the Chandelier and a troubled ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, both Grade I events at Santa Anita.
Motion is expected to have a presence from one or more of three nominees – Happy Mesa, Journey Home and Ravissante.
Native Diver Handicap, $100,000 Grade III, Sunday, November 27, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles – Barring late nominations or supplements, there figure to be a lot of familiar faces to Southern California circuit followers. Dalmore, Hard Aces and Imperative are nominated and, if they run, won’t be up against California Chrome and Beholder like they were in the Pacific Classic.
D’Amato is taking a look at the race with Midnight Storm and Vyjack as well.
Cecil B. DeMille Stakes, Grade II $100,000, Sunday, November 27, 2-year-olds, one mile (turf) – John Shirreffs’ Conscripted and George Papaprodromou’s Kona Dreams were 1-2, only a nose apart, in a swift maiden-race mile on turf at Santa Anita on October 30. With both among the 16 nominations, a rematch seems a strong possibility.
Nominations for the final three stakes of the meeting, the Grade II Bayakoa Handicap  and Grade I Hollywood Derby on December 3 and Grade I Matriarch Stakes on December 4, close next Saturday, November 19.

Trainer John Shirreffs has 25 horses stabled at Del Mar for the  Bing Crosby III meeting. That’s 25 more than his combined total for the first two fall meetings.
What’s up with that?
“I thought it would be a good change for the horses,” said Shirreffs, who conditioned the great Zenyatta.
“There’s a lot of (training time) traffic at Santa Anita. It’s quiet and nice here.”
As he spoke, Shirreffs was standing in the seven-furlong chute as some of his horses, and those of other trainers were waiting for the signal that the track was to be reopened for the second training session of the morning. It was Friday, the opening day of the meeting.
“What are there, 20-30 horses, and half of them are ponies,” Shirreffs said. At a similar time during the summer meeting, or at Santa Anita, the numbers would be many times greater than that.
Shirreffs is among the latest to have been convinced to give major fall presence at Del Mar a try by racing secretary David Jerkens.
“I tell everybody I talk to about it,” Jerkens said. “It’s still Del Mar. The weather’s good, the track’s good. It’s a great place to be. I can understand a lot of trainers have families, kids in school and commitments in L.A. and it won’t work for them. But if the
situation makes it possible, you can’t beat being here.”    

Shirreffs saddled Dark Energy to victory in Saturday’s first race. He has that win, and a second, from two starters at the meeting.

CLOSERS --  With a second straight two-win day on Saturday, Flavien Prat  assumed the top spot in the jockey standings. Prat’s four victories have come on 14 mounts and he has an additional six in-the-money finishes. Norberto Arroyo, Jr., Mike Smith and Santiago Gonzalez all have two wins in the two-day old meeting … Richard Baltas tops the trainer standings with three wins from seven starters. The only other trainer with multiple victories is Jerry Hollendorfer who is 2-for-6 … Three jockeys – Prat, Martin Pedroza and Kent Desormeaux – will be in Louisiana next Saturday with assignments in the $1 million Louisiana Downs Jackpot for 2-year-olds. Prat will ride for Doug O’Neill, Pedroza for Bob Baffert and Desormeaux for Dale Romans … Trainer Art Sherman said that California Chrome will do “an easy half mile” next Saturday at Los Alamitos, his first workout since the runner-up finish to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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