The La Jolla is the seaside track's major prep for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby Aug. 31, a rare Southern California stakes that Mandella has not won. The Hall of Fame conditioner also trains Dixie Chatter, winner of a division of the Oceanside Stakes on opening day at Del Mar July 16.
Because of the timing, Dixie Chatter was not entered in the La Jolla, and neither was the winner of the second division of the Oceanside, Kilderry.
The 1 1/16-mile La Jolla still attracted a full field of 10, including five from the Oceanside. Tiz West and Nownownow have been assigned top weight of 120 pounds in an evenly matched field.
Tiz West won a spirited stretch duel with Ez Dreamer by a nose in the nine-furlong Cinema on Hollywood Park's turf course June 21, but the luster on the win was dulled a bit by Ez Dreamer's subsequent fifth-place finish behind Kilderry in the one-mile Oceanside. The Diamond A Racing Corporation's homebred son of Gone West won Santa Anita's La Puente Stakes in April.
The bay colt, to be ridden again by Victor Espinoza while breaking from post 4, has won three of seven starts lifetime and earned $219,348.
Of those coming out of the Oceanside,Moral Compass a hard-luck second to Kilderry, figures to draw the most attention in the La Jolla. Moral Compass, a Grand Slam colt, bid between horses on the inside in deep stretch but was nipped at the wire by Kilderry, who tallied from the middle of the course. The Jack Carava trainee also ran third in both Gulfstream Park's Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Belmont Park's Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) this year.
Jungle Wave, third in Kilderry's heat when beaten by just a half-length, and fourth-place finisher Coronel Moldes also return here. Coming out of Dixie Chatter's race are Liberian Freighter and Tangled Tango, who dead-heated for third.
Nownownow, winner of last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, has not been out since a fifth-place finish in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) at The Curragh May 24. Nownownow, a son of Whywhywhy trained by Jason Orman for Fab Oak Stable, easily leads the La Jolla field in earnings with $655,359.
Sky Cape, a back-to-back stakes winner for trainer and breeder Kristin Mulhall, makes his first start since May 24 for owners Steve Taub and Visionary Racing. The son of Najran has raced seven times on turf with three wins and three seconds.
Madeo makes his turf debut following a last-place finish in the Swaps (gr. II) for trainer John Shirreffs and owner Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss.
$150,00 La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 9, 6 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Tangled Tango (KY), 116, Tyler Baze
2. Coronel Moldes (FL), 115, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
3. Jungle Wave (KY), 115, Joseph Talamo
4. Tiz West (KY), 120, Victor Espinoza
5. Nownownow (KY), 120, Aaron T. Gryder
6. Sky Cape (KY), 117, Joel Rosario
7. Moral Compass (KY), 118, Corey S. Nakatani
8. Zetterberg (KY), 112, Michael C. Baze
9. Madeo (KY), 115, Mike E. Smith
10. Liberian Freighter (CA), 116, David R. Flores