Del Mar Racing Report: The Heat is On

Del Mar Racing Report: The Heat is On
Photo: AP/ Benoit
Timboroa leads Frankle assault on the Del Mar Handicap.
Published in the Sept. 1 issue of The Blood-Horse
When you're hot, you're definitely hot. And right now, trainers Bob Baffert and Bobby Frankel are simply en fuego.

On Aug. 26, Baffert used the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) to crown his newest diva, The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Habibti. When the daughter of Tabasco Cat made her debut as Habibaty four weeks earlier (blame Baffert, her trainer, for that poor Arabic spelling), Habibti all but blew the start. But she managed to avoid any further trouble, looping the field on the turn en route to a decisive win. It was quite impressive, thank you, but many figured an inside draw in the seven-furlong Debutante sealed her fate.

In a matter of strides, however, Habibti showed what she's made of. Leaving the one-hole smoothly, the chestnut raced alertly behind the pace for jockey Victor Espinoza, showing no aversion to the backspray of dirt.

"That gave me a lot of confidence," Espinoza later said, "because I knew I could stay inside and nothing was going to bother her."

Feeling he had every option, Espinoza kept Habibti on the fence. Up ahead, Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) winner Tempera was in command, easing past the three-eighths pole in :45.37. But when jockey David Flores asked her to split, there was little response.

"She was cruising. You could see on the turn she was still galloping," said Flores of his ride aboard the 1-2 favorite. "I had a great spot turning for home, and she was just flat."

Habibti, on the other hand, was bursting at the seams under Espinoza. When a pinch of space appeared inside, Espinoza finally let go. Habibti charged through the gap like she'd done it a thousand times before. In a snap, Godolphin Racing's Tempera was beaten. Who Loves Aleyna, a daughter of Out of Place from the high-flying Bruce Headley barn, tried hard but couldn't keep up, either. Racing past the finish, Habibti won by two expanding lengths in 1:22.22. Tempera was third, four lengths behind Habibti.

The Debutante climaxed an unforgettable weekend for Baffert and Prince Ahmed Salman, who arrived at Del Mar on the wings of Point Given's Travers (gr. I) triumph. It also gives them full control of the local juvenile divisions (Officer, anyone?). As of now, Baffert intends on letting Habibti take flight at Belmont this fall.

"I'm very excited about this filly," said Baffert, who seems to win every 2-year-old race carded these days. "We knew she was a great one. Once we get her going further, too, you can see that she's going to get better and better."

It should be exciting to see just how special Habibti is.


EASY AS 1-2-3

While Baffert has things covered with the 2-year-olds, Frankel pretty much has everything else locked up. And just when you thought you'd seen it all...The Frankel Express rolled right through the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 3/8 miles, as Timboroa, Northern Quest, and Super Quercus came through with a 1-2-3 stable sweep.

As the evening of Aug. 25 settled in, the king of the Frankel barn--at least till they all meet up again--was Edmund Gann's English-bred Timboroa. A 5-year-old son of the Topsider stallion Salse, Timboroa has known mostly hard times since he arrived on U.S. shores last summer. A heavy-duty campaign in the fall yielded a mere grade III win and a quarter-crack that knocked him out for over five months.

But Timboroa came out blazing this year, and the pieces may finally all be in place. Though Kudos sped to a clear lead early in the Del Mar Handicap, jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. kept Timboroa within striking distance. Kudos got through six furlongs in 1:13.38 before the 'Cap turned into a flat-out sprint. And this played right into Timboroa's hands.

In his return to action last May, Timboroa scorched the last three-eighths of Hollywood's Fastness Handicap (gr. IIIT), only to drop a tight decision to Irish Prize. This time, his sub-:35 kick was enough to hold off Northern Quest by a length. Super Quercus was just a half-length away in third. Timboroa's final time, 2:12.59, just edged Northern Quest's stakes record set last year.


TIZ TIME

Each time Chris McCarron breezes a horse in the morning, he jots it down in his mini pocket-pad. Occasionally, one will turn in a rather impressive move. McCarron marks that work with a "+." Tiznow's mile in 1:35 and change on Aug. 23 earned a different notation.

"A star is just an outstanding work," the rider explained, adding that by his watch, Tiznow galloped out nine furlongs in 1:48 2/5 before pulling up a furlong later in 2:02 2/5. "I didn't think he'd go that fast, but he did it very comfortably."

While McCarron and trainer Jay Robbins both admit Tiznow's morning exercises have gotten progressively stronger, they also acknowledge he's training over a much quicker surface than he'll see in the Sept. 8 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.

"Of course, going around two turns here, that's a little more trying than the one-turn mile-and-an-eighth back there," Robbins conceded, mentioning that the reigning Horse of the Year will work an additional mile before leaving for Long Island on Sept. 4. And when Robbins was asked if his colt seems like the Tiznow of old, his reply was simple.

"Maybe better."

(Chart, Equibase)

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