Know More made Del Mar history by winning the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes in his
career debut, but the Reddam Racing colorbearer will be subjected to a stiffer
test in Wednesday's Grade 1, $300,000
Mar Futurity. The highlight of the closing-day program, the seven-furlong
contest has lured such sharp maiden winners as Capo Bastone, Rolling Fog and
Representing the same connections as Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero I'll Have Another, Know More skipped the usual introduction in a maiden special weight and plunged right into the August 5 Best Pal. The Lion Heart colt handled the assignment, rallying from off the pace to score by a half-length, and thereby becoming the first horse to win a graded stakes at Del Mar in his career debut.
Ironically, however, this perhaps substandard renewal of the Best Pal might have been a somewhat easier spot than a couple of Del Mar's deep maiden races, crammed with other highly-regarded juveniles. Such a view is bolstered by the fact that the respective second and third in the Best Pal were both fillies -- Heir Kitty and Miss Empire -- who were soundly beaten in last Saturday's Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.
Trainer Doug O'Neill mentioned immediately following the Best Pal that the barn has a few good maidens, and decided to aim high with the one believed to be the best of them, Know More. O'Neill has since begun serving his 40-day suspension, leaving longtime assistant Leandro Mora as the trainer of record who will handle the saddling duties Wednesday.
Garrett Gomez had spent time working Know More even before the Best Pal, and he continues their partnership from post 5 in the Del Mar Futurity.
The John Sadler-trained Capo Bastone created a big impression in his August 4 debut at Del Mar. A full 10 lengths behind turning for home, the son of hot freshman sire Street Boss closed rapidly, and artfully, when having to alter course around a wayward rival in deep stretch. Capo Bastone didn't flinch, but simply inhaled the leader to win well in hand by a neck.
Although he loses Gomez to Know More, Capo Bastone has picked up an eyecatching new rider -- New York-based Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who comes in to pilot the promising colt from post 2.
Sadler will also be represented by Scherer Magic, who hopes to rebound off a fifth as the even-money favorite in the Best Pal. Claimed for $50,000 out of his debut romp at Hollywood Park, the Doneraile Court gelding came back to take the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Corey Nakatani takes over the mount.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won this race no fewer than 10 times, and could notch number 11 with Rolling Fog. By the speedy Posse, Rolling Fog vied early before kicking 2 1/4 lengths clear in his August 4 unveiling. His time for 5 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack (1:04 3/5) was slower than Capo Bastone's on the same day (1:03 4/5), but so were the early fractions. Rafael Bejarano, who has been on a tear in stakes this meet, has the return call.
Should Rolling Fog succeed, he would join an illustrious list of Baffert trainees to win the Del Mar Futurity. The redoubtable Silver Charm gave Baffert the first of his seven straight victories (1996 to 2002), and more recently, champion Midshipman (2008), two-time champion Lookin at Lucky (2009) and Drill (2011) have added to his haul.
Gabriel Charles defeated one of Baffert's smart prospects, Den's Legacy, when starting his career here July 21. The son of Street Hero rallied and held on by a nose beneath Joe Talamo, who sticks with the Jeff Mullins pupil in post 1.
Rounding out the field are Heir of Storm, fourth in the Best Pal; the filly Switch to the Lead, most recently third to Executiveprivilege in the Grade 3 Sorrento; $80,000 maiden claiming winner Yankee Rebel; Caballo del Cielo, who was just run down by one of Know More's stablemates, He's Had Enough, in an August 12 maiden; and fellow maidens Pure Loyalty, The Whole Deal and Ive Struck a Nerve.
He's Had Enough won't take on his comrade Know More in the Del Mar Futurity, with connections opting instead for the inaugural $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Turf elsewhere on the card. The Tapit colt overcame a slow start to get up in time in his 6 1/2-furlong debut on Polytrack. His pedigree suggests that he will cope with the stretch-out to a mile, and he should relish the turf. Gomez will be back aboard He's Had Enough.
Jerry Hollendorfer's unbeaten Zeewat is likewise aiming to handle the surface switch. He has won both starts on dirt impressively, including the Cavonnier Juvenile, and has plenty of turf pedigree himself. Dry Summer, a last-out maiden winner for Jeff Mullins over Forest Boy, goes Polytrack to turf.
The respective top three from a course-and-distance maiden -- Shining Copper, Buckleberry Grey and Power Broker -- stand to benefit from having a race in these conditions. Shining Copper prevailed by a half-length that day in his second try for Neil Drysdale, while Buckleberry Grey turned in an encouraging debut for David Hofmans. The Baffert-trained Power Broker was the controlling speed before yielding late in his first turf and two-turn attempt.
The only others with prior turf experience are a pair of imports. Parisian Prince, who won at first asking at Ayr, is now with Simon Callaghan. Caught Napping, fifth in his debut on turf, went on to win his next two at synthetic tracks in England, and still has to prove himself on this surface and at at this level.
Del Mar will also host a pair of restricted six-furlong stakes, and trainer
Peter Miller holds a strong hand in each $85,000 race. Grade 1 veteran Comma to
the Top headlines the
Pirate's Bounty, while Grade 2 star Reneesgotzip returns to action in the
C.E.R.F. for distaffers.
Comma to the Top exits a fourth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby. His Pirate's Bounty foes include Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Mobilized, who wheels back 10 days after his fifth in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien; Mensa Heat, most recently runner-up to Coil in an allowance; track specialists Bench Points and Courtside; and the Baffert trio of Sinai, Sequoia Warrior and Bank the Eight.
Reneesgotzip, a dominating 7 3/4-length winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez in January, is undefeated in sprints. Her only two losses were runner-up efforts in a pair of Grade 1 routes, the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks, missing by a nose in the latter. Last seen wiring a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Hollywood on May 4, Reneesgotzip will clash with the Baffert duo of Pink Lollipops and Candrea; turf performer Byrama, who shortens up, tries Polytrack and adds blinkers here; another turfiste in Givine, who was third in last year's C.E.R.F. in her only prior synthetic appearance; and Jet Blue Girl, who makes her first start off the claim for Peter Eurton.