Another major track opens today, as the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club kicks off its summer meet. The venue, located just outside sunny San Diego, has recently worked its way into the Breeders’ Cup rotation, and the “Saratoga or Del Mar?” debates are often inescapable.
Here’s my take: One of those two tracks has helped me build my career. The other actively tried to destroy it before it really got started.
If you want the story, find me sometime. We’re coming up on the time where I can tell it publicly, but we’re not quite there yet.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: I scratched out of the Grand Slam (after extolling the virtues of that wager, ironically enough), and my late doubles were washed out when the finale was moved off the turf. Remember: All plays in this section assume races carded for the grass stay there.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take another swing at the Grand Slam. My $4 ticket starting in the sixth reads as follows: 1,7 with 7 with 3,6 with 6. I’m hoping to extract some value out of #6 EMINENT VICTOR in the Lake George, and this may be a way to do that.
TOTAL WAGERED: $16.
Best Bet: Klaravich entry, Race 2
Longshot: Makart, Race 6
#2 WICO: Had an eventful journey in his debut, when he missed the break, rushed up, led briefly in midstretch, and ran out of energy. Everything about that effort says he’ll move forward with experience, and such improvement gives him a big chance despite this turning up pretty strong; #6 APPRAISE: Fetched $256,000 at the Tattersalls sale and has every right to be a runner. Chad Brown’s had plenty of success here with debuting runners that possess European pedigree; #4 ALEXIS ZORBA: Makes his U.S. debut for Joseph O’Brien, who’s maintaining a small string here this summer. The intrigue may attract money, but Europe isn’t known for flashy 2-year-olds. Perhaps he’s good enough, but I need more value than I’m likely to get.
Happy Bob (MTO)
KLARAVICH ENTRY: Both #1 INDEMNIFY and #1A GLOBAL CAPITAL have big chances here. The former is another European-bred runner that could be any kind, and the latter has run well when second on three straight occasions; #6 OGLETHORPE: Is one of several exiting an off-the-turf event downstate. He closed late to be beaten just a half-length in his unveiling, and this barn’s runners tend to need a race or two to get going; #2 CLUBBING: Was fourth in the race Oglethorpe exits and has plenty of reason to improve here. He’s bred up and down for turf, being a full sibling to a Grade 3-placed grass horse, and the switch to a two-turn configuration should only help him.
#5 AMOUNT: Threw in a clunker last time and takes a big drop in class for this event. He won three in a row earlier this year, including two at this one-mile distance, and the shallower waters figure to make this Todd Pletcher trainee a formidable foe; #3 CLAYTNTHELIONHEART: Has finished in the money in five of six local starts, and three of those efforts have been winning ones. This is his third start off a long layoff, and a return to his mid-2021 form would make him intriguing; #2 HAMMERIN AAMER: Comes back to what’s probably the right level in his second start off the claim for Linda Rice. He’s been around a while and has run some strong races at this distance, but the 0-for-8 local mark is a significant concern.
#8 BEACHFRONT BID: Has been competitive in six starts against maiden special weight foes and drops in for a tag for the first time. That’s a significant drop from an aggressive barn, and while the recent Monmouth works would normally be a concern, Brown’s horses coming from New Jersey have run well so far at this stand; #7 I’M GLAD: Probably bounced off of a solid debut when last of 10 as a 2-1 favorite at Belmont. This barn is another that doesn’t mess around and boasts very strong numbers going from maiden special weight races to maiden claiming events; #4 WHISKEY LULLABY: Improved at second asking when third at this level downstate. Top-tier turf rider Jose Lezcano climbs back aboard for this one, and she should be prominent early at a bit of a price.
DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1 CHESS’S DREAM, who won the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy in 2021 and hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since. However, he goes second off the bench, gets back to a two-turn route of ground, and attracts Jose Ortiz for this event; #6 OUR COUNTRY: Has been running against starter allowance company for most of this year, but his last start for a claiming tag was a win. Flavien Prat rides back after a one-paced fifth-place finish downstate, which hits me as a good sign; #9 SONIC SPEED: Has a record that looks far better if you only focus on two-turn turf races. Do that and you’re left with wins at Gulfstream and Aqueduct and an OK fourth at Laurel (remember, Belmont’s mile is a one-turn course). This is a high-percentage barn that wins lots of races, and he may be a bit of a price.
#1 RIA’S ANGEL: Showed improvement two back in his lone dirt route and comes back to the main track after a failed turf experiment. This race out of the Wilson chute is a perplexing one, but a repeat of that early-May effort would put him right there; #7 MAKART: Earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure last time out in his second start off the bench, which doubled as his second start for this barn. He didn’t miss by much that day, and while there were no world-beaters in that field, this field doesn’t appear to be any great shakes, either; #4 SLOW DECISION: Faded to fifth in his debut on turf and goes to dirt here. He’s supposed to take money, and he probably will, but other than the connections, what inspires confidence, especially at his likely price?
#7 EFFICIENCY: Romped by 11 lengths in an off-the-turf event to break his maiden last time out and makes his first start against winners here. Perhaps he’s just a mud freak, but offspring of Gun Runner have shown they can perform in any conditions, and the consistent work tab inspires some confidence; #1 KEEPMEINMIND: Danced a lot of dances a season ago, most notably running in two-thirds of the Triple Crown and finishing second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. If he’s ready and gets a perfect trip, he looms large, but he’s shown he finds trouble, and the rail is often a poor place to be for horses like that; #4 NAVAL AVIATOR: Stepped up in class last time out for trainer Joe Sharp and won with a 90 Beyer Speed Figure first off the claim. There’s plenty of early speed signed on, and it’s not illogical to think he’ll be going the right way late when others are tiring.
Makin My Move
#3 KOKOPELLI: Hasn’t been seen in more than a year but returns for patient connections that boast strong numbers with similar stock. This race seems very heavy on early speed, which could set up perfectly for Joel Rosario and this one-run closer; #6 SASSY MELISSA: Is another closer, and one that has a win and a second in two starts at this route. She was a fast-closing second last time out with a troubled trip, and smooth sailing would make her a major player here; #1 MAKIN MY MOVE: Interests me most of the early speed horses and could capitalize on the inside draw. She wired an OK field last time out, and that day’s runner-up came back to run second in a minor stakes race earlier this week.
#6 EMINENT VICTOR: Hits me as the more logical of the two Chad Brown trainees in the Grade 3 Lake George. She came back running off a long break to take a stakes race at Belmont and should get plenty of pace to chase in this spot. Prat knows her well, and horse and rider should be flying late; #8 SKIMS: Hasn’t gotten a legitimate pace in either of her two graded stakes tries to date but should get one here. That alone is enough for me to consider this daughter of Frankel a threat, and the recent local bullet drill is also noteworthy; #4 KOALA PRINCESS: Was the betting favorite in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where she was beaten less than three lengths. We haven’t seen her since, but this barn does very well with horses coming back from long breaks and her best effort would put her right there.
Let Her Inspire U
#8 LET HER INSPIRE U: Hinted at some potential last year and came back running off the bench with an easy score last month at Belmont. She should be able to sit just off the pace and have first run turning for home, which would give her every chance at a second straight victory; #7 LEELOO: Hasn’t run since March, but returns for a new conditioner and comes in off of a very fast four-furlong gate work at Keeneland. She was favored in a stakes race over the winter and has every right to be a more-developed horse in her comeback race; #6 FANCY FELINE: Gets a big rider switch to Luis Saez and could get a lot of pace in front of her. Perhaps her best isn’t good enough to win, but as one of only a few closers in a race with lots of speed, she’s one I’d use underneath in vertical exotics to end the Friday program.