Istanford, a game front-running winner of the San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) when shipped to Del Mar one month ago from Arlington International Racecourse, heads the field for the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) Aug. 16.
Ten 3-year-old fillies, each carrying 122 pounds, were entered in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile grass test, including three who faced Istanford in the San Clemente. It's no sure bet, though, that the daughter of Istan will start. Trainer Mike Stidham, concerned about the Oaks' distance, has also entered Istanford in Del Mar's Sandy Blue Handicap at one mile Friday.
In her only prior try at nine furlongs on turf, Istanford faded to seventh after setting the pace in the Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) June 14 at Churchill Downs. Prior to the Regret, the dark bay filly captured the Arlington Classic (gr. IIIT) over males May 24.
Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash and Janet and Sam Alley, Istanford has put in two solid half-mile Polytrack drills since capturing the San Clemente July 19 by 2 1/2 lengths at odds of 10-1. In her most recent work, she was clocked in :47 3/5.
If she does run in the Oaks, she will have a new jockey in Martin Garcia. Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard her last time, has jumped to New York shipper Sea Queen. Istanford drew post 3.
Stidham entered a second filly in Stellaris, second in the Arlington Oaks (gr. III) on Polytrack July 19. The Harlan's Holiday lass is to make her first start on turf.
Stonetower Stables' Sea Queen drew the far outside post, a big disadvantage with the portable rail set at its farthest outer point at 30 feet. She arrives in Southern California off a runner-up finish in the $1 million Belmont Oaks (gr. IT) at nine furlongs July 5 and has been breezing since at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Sea Queen posted an 18-1 upset in winning Belmont's Wonder Again Stakes prior to the Belmont Oaks. She set a soft pace in the Belmont Oaks but was unable to hold off Minorette in the closing stages, beaten by two lenghts.
Clement could have stayed home to run the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid in Saratoga's Knob Creek Lake Placid (gr. IIT) Saturday, but chose to avoid Minorette.
Set to take on Istanford again out of the San Clemente are Tepin (second), My Conquestadory (third), and Diversy Harbor (fourth as the 5-2 favorite).
Tepin, a grade III winner trained by Mark Casse for Robert E, Masterson, was making her first start at Del Mar after shipping in from Churchill Downs, where she was a tiring eighth in the Regret. She closed willingly in the San Clemente after coming out in the stretch but was no threat to the winner. Tyler Baze picks up the mount from an injured Stewart Elliott.
Conquest Stables' My Conquestadory, another Casse trainee, is slowly rounding back into the form she displayed at 2 in winning the Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland and defeating males in the Summer Stakes (Can-IIT) in her debut at Woodbine. She seeks her first win in three tries in 2104.
Diversy Harbor, on the rail in the Del Mar Oaks, has been knocking on the door for a graded stakes win for trainer Tom Proctor and Glen Hill Farm. She was second in the Providencia (gr. IIIT), third in the Honeymoon (gr. IIT), and second in the American Oaks (gr. IT)—all at Santa Anita Park—before the San Clemente, in which she railed along the inside to catch a minor piece.
Proctor also entered Famous Alice, most recently second in Santa Anita's one-mile Senorita (gr. IIIT) as the favorite June 28 for owner George Krikorian
Two European-based fillies make their United States debuts here. Michael House's two-time Irish winner Odisseia makes her first appearance for trainer Phil D'Amato after finishing ninth of 24 in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot June 18. David Heerensperger's Maibaby, a daughter of Hurricane Run, comes off an allowance win June 20 at Chantilly as she makes her debut for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.
Personal Diary, second in the Regret in her most recent grass race, completes the field.
Del Mar, Saturday, August 16, 2014, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Diversy Harbor (KY) Mike E. Smith 122 Thomas F. Proctor - 2 2Famous Alice (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 122 Thomas F. Proctor - 3 3Istanford (FL) Martin Garcia 122 Michael Stidham - 4 4Personal Diary (KY) Corey S. Nakatani 122 Victoria H. Oliver - 5 5Stellaris (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 122 Michael Stidham - 6 6My Conquestadory (KY) Victor Espinoza 122 Mark E. Casse - 7 7Tepin (KY) Tyler Baze 122 Mark E. Casse - 8 8Odisseia (IRE) Joseph Talamo 122 Philip D'Amato - 9 9Maibaby (IRE) Elvis Trujillo 122 Neil D. Drysdale - 10 10Sea Queen (KY) Rafael Bejarano 122 Christophe Clement -
Del Mar, Saturday, August 16, 2014, Race 8