The $150,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 24 presents a golden opportunity for one of seven older colts and geldings to earn an automatic slot in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) this fall.
Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) winner Jeranimo is headed to the Pacific Classic (gr. I) and several others in the Southern California intermediate turf division are missing, leaving an open affair. Contested at 1 3/8 miles, it is race 8 on the Saturday card at Del Mar with a 5:40 p.m. PDT scheduled post. The race carries an all expense-paid berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park to the winner, and should be an interesting wagering event.
Vagabond Shoes, runner-up in the nine-furlong Eddie Read July 20 at odds of 23-1, is the 119-pound highweight. The 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding races for Hronis Racing and is trained by John Sadler, who won the 2011 Del Mar Handicap with Celtic New Year.
Winless in five starts this season since transferring from Europe, the son of Beat Hollow posted a pair of group III victories in France. In the Eddie Read, Vagabond Shoes broke a step slowly and raced wide for much of the trip before rallying in the final furlong from between horses to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Jeranimo. Victor Espinoza has the return call from the far outside post.
Another whose brightest accomplishment came in France is Lucayan, who captured the 2012 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I, French Two Thousand Guineas) in an upset but hasn't won since. Second in his United States debut in the American Handicap (gr. IIT) at one mile, the 11 furlongs will be a new experience for French-bred 4-year-old son of Turtle Bowl.
Owned by Pandora Stud, Lucayan is coming off a third-place finish as the favorite in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race Aug. 1 at Del Mar. The bay colt is trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Neil Drysdale, who has never won the Del Mar Handicap. Garrett Gomez rides Lucayan, who carries 118 pounds, for the first time from the rail.
Drysdale also entered David Heerensperger's Fire With Fire, who bounces back three weeks after capturing the Joseph T. Grace Stakes at Santa Rosa in a front-running effort Aug. 4. Joe Talamo rides the 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, who was third in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IIT) in March at Santa Anita.
Glen Hill Farm's home bred Old Time Hockey has the most success over the local course, capturing the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) last summer as a 3-year-old. Fifth in the subsequent Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), the 4-year-old son of Smarty Jones has lost six races in a row since. The gelding, trained by Tom Proctor, was fifth behind Lucayan in the Aug. 1 optional claimer, his most recent start.
Holding Glory, a group I winner in his native Brazil, posted a good closing second in his North American debut, a one-mile allowance/optional claiming event Aug. 3. The 4-year-old Public Purse colt, trained by A. C. Avila for Coudelaria Jessica, won four of six races in Brazil. Chantal Sutherland-Kruse takes the mount.
Huntsville finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Holding Glory when third last time for trainer Barry Abrams. Completing the field is Mr T Bird, returning to turf for Mike Puype following a fifth-place showing in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) in his stakes debut July 26 over Del Mar's Polytrack.
$200,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 5:40 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Lucayan (FR), G K Gomez, 118, N D Drysdale
2. Holding Glory (BRZ), C Sutherland-Kruse, 116, A C Avila
3. Mr T Bird (KY), R Bejarano, 115, M Puype
4. Old Time Hockey (FL), G L Stevens, 118, T F Proctor
5. Huntsville (CA), C S Nakatani, 114, B Abrams
6. Fire With Fire (KY), J Talamo, 117, N D Drysdale
7. Vagabond Shoes (IRE), V Espinoza, 119, J W Sadler