After Market, who was scratched from the Arlington Million (gr. IT) earlier this month by trainer John Shirreffs due to the soft condition of the Arlington Park turf course, should find the going much more to his liking when he takes on seven rivals in the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 26.
The explosive late-running son of Storm Cat -- who is out of the multiple grade I winning Rahy mare Tranquility Lake -- will not only get the firm turf he prefers at the seaside oval, but will have an extra furlong to work with in the 1 3/8-mile event. In fact, that could be the only chink in the armor for After Market, who has not been longer than 10 furlongs.
After Market captured the nine-furlong Eddie Read Handicap (gr. I) in his only previous start at Del Mar July 22, blowing past his rivals in deep stretch to post a 1 1/2-length victory over Out of Control.
A series of rainstorms in the days leading up to the Million on Aug. 11 had made the turf yielding at the Chicago-area track. Although it was drying out before the start of the day's program, Shirreffs decided to play it safe and withdrew the morning line favorite. The condition was upgraded to good later in the day when Jambalaya upset The Tin Man, who was seeking to become the first repeat winner of the Million.
After Market immediately returned to Del Mar to begin preparations for the Del Mar Handicap, where he will carry high weight of 124 and spot his foes from six to 14 pounds. Regular rider Alex Solis is aboard After Market, who figures to be one of America's best chances in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at this juncture.
Owned by his breeders, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod, After Market is on a three-race winning streak. Before taking the Eddie Read in his last start, the 4-year-old dark bay colt left Lava Man behind by 1 1/2 lengths in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) six weeks earlier at Hollywood Park. After Market also won the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Hollywood turf April 28.
The streaking colt triumphed in the first four races to begin his career -- including the Hall of Fame Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) at Saratoga as a 3-year-old when part of Bill Mott's stable -- and has victories in seven of 11 lifetime starts. He has earned $703,685.
His rivals appear to be up against it. Runaway Dancer, an 8-year-old gelding who won Hollywood Park’s Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/2 miles on that meet’s final day, has the best recent form. The Dan Hendricks-trained son of Runaway Groom has also won three of his five starts on the Del Mar grass, although he placed sixth in this race a year ago.
Like After Market, Runaway Dancer does his best running late. In the Sunset, Runaway Dancer was last, some 20 lengths off the pace, in the early going. Aaron Gryder replaces Solis for the mount Aug. 26.
With eight wins in 39 lifetime tries, Runaway Dancer leads the field in earnings at $788,284.
Also coming out of the Sunset is R.D. Hubbard's Spring House. He ran third, three lengths behind Runaway Dancer, after leading in the stretch for trainer Julio Canani. The 5-year-old Chester House gelding shows just one victory in 15 starts over the past two years.
The globe-trotting Obrigado has been off form since going to Dubai for the Sheema Classic (UAE-I) March 31, finishing 13th for trainer Neil Drysdale. In his last start, the bay Obrigado was a non-threatening fifth in the Northern Dancer (gr. IIT) at Woodbine over 12 furlongs. Between those two efforts, the 4-year-old French-bred gelding ran third to After Market in the Whittingham.
There's no question that Obrigado is capable on his best day. He won a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar last year before finishing second in three consecutive grade II events for 3-year-olds -- the Del Mar Derby, the Oak Tree Derby and the Hollywood Derby. He won the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIY) at Santa Anita Feb. 25.
Atlando, Toasted and Bravo Maestro, the first three finishers in Del Mar’s Aug. 1 Cougar II Handicap at Sunday's 1 3/8-mile distance, are back as well.
$250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 7, 5 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Obrigado (FR), 118, Victor Espinoza
2. After Market (KY), 124, Alex O. Solis
3. Runaway Dancer (KY), 118, Aaron T. Gryder
4. Atlando (IRE), 117, Martin A. Pedroza
5. Bravo Maestro (KY), 112, Brice Blanc
6. Toasted (KY), 115, Michael C. Baze
7. Global Genius (IRE), 110, Alonso Quinonez
8. Spring House (KY), 115, Joseph Talamo