by Brian P. Turner -- (Editor's Note: Content for this weekly handicapping notebook is provided by Brisnet)
A pair of graded stakes events highlighted this week's racing action at Del Mar. Saturday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante S. (G1) for two-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on the main track kicked off the action. A field of nine went to the post headed by the coupled entry of PROPOSED (Benchmark) and SWEET CATOMINE (Storm Cat
), who were sent off as the 8-5 favorites. Though Proposed finished a well-beaten seventh, Sweet Catomine rallied from last to mow down the field and hit the wire three parts of a length in front.
As far as the betting public was concerned, the majority of them were probably putting their money on Proposed, who was coming off of an outstanding third-place effort in the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association S. earlier in the meet. Sweet Catomine was exiting a second-place effort against maiden special company where she overcame a wide trip to finish five lengths behind fellow Debutante contender SHE'S SALTY (Gentlemen
[Arg]) in her first start.
Multiple stakes winner SOUVENIR GIFT (Souvenir Copy
) put in a nice effort to pick up the place, 1 1/2 lengths in front of early pacesetter HELLO LUCKY (Lucky Lionel
) in third.
On Sunday, a field of nine went to the post for the $250,000 Del Mar H. (G2) for three-year-olds and up going 11 furlongs over the Jimmy Durante turf course. STAR OVER THE BAY (Cozzene
), who was half of a coupled entry with MURANO (Royal Academy), put in an outstanding effort while leading throughout and held on gamely at the end to cross the finish line a neck in front. The six-year-old gelding, who turned in a gate-to-wire performance to win July's Sunset H. (G2) at Hollywood in his previous outing, has really blossomed since being claimed by Mike Mitchell at the $80,000 level in May.
SARAFAN (Lear Fan
) rallied well from off the pace, but could not run down the pacesetter in picking up the place, two lengths clear of filly MOSCOW BURNING (Moscow Ballet) in third.
Horses on or near the pace held the advantage in sprints on the main track this week, but the routes tended to play pretty fair. As for the turf, runners coming from off the pace held a slight advantage.
Doug O'Neill has reclaimed the lead in the trainer standings and currently holds a narrow 24-23 advantage over Jeff Mullins in second. Bob Baffert is third with 16 winners for the meet.
As for the jockeys, Corey Nakatani has gained a ton of ground, partly due to a four-win day on Sunday, and only trails Tyler Baze by a score of 48-45. Victor Espinoza is a distant third having booted home 34 winners.
HORSES TO WATCH
6TH - RECKLESS HERO (Smokester) returned from his nearly three-month vacation in fine form as he sped to the lead early in this Cal-bred allowance/optional claiming event and never looked back, crossing the finish line two lengths in front under a hand ride.
7TH - WE ALL LOVE ALEYNA (Nines Wild) returns to the Watch List after rallying from off the pace to easily defeat this allowance/optional claiming field by 1 1/4 lengths. Though jockey Tyler Baze had to shake her up a little bit at the top of the stretch, We All Love Aleyna finished the race under little more than a hand ride while actually being geared down at the end.
4TH - FINALLY BLONDE (Unusual Heat) appeared to be finished in the stretch drive of this state-bred maiden special event but suddenly found another gear to finish third, three lengths clear of the rest of the field.
4TH - COZY GUY (Alphabet Soup
) had looked respectable in each of his first two tries on the grass but really seemed to put it together here, stalking the early pace before battling his way to the lead in the stretch drive and pulling clear late to cross the wire three lengths in front under little more than a vigorous hand ride.
6TH - PEPPER TRAIL (Trail City
) looked extremely impressive in this starter allowance event as he stalked the pace early, chasing early fractions of :21 4/5 and :44, before taking the lead in the stretch and pulling away to claim the victory by 5 1/2 lengths.
6TH - PLANNING SURPRISES (Event of the Year
) broke inward and collided hard with the horse to her inside at the start of this Cal-bred maiden special event. The two-year-old filly recovered and took the lead, fighting gamely to the wire, but coming up a neck short.
2ND - BEHAVING BADLY (Pioneering
) was extremely impressive in her career debut as she stalked the pace early before clearing the field in the stretch to finish eight lengths in front under nothing but a hand ride, posting an impressive 104 BRIS speed rating in the process.
3RD - KISSING GIRL (Arg) (Lode) was squeezed and forced to steady at the start of this turf claiming event, but rallied and finished with a nice turn of foot to miss finishing third by a nose.
4TH - TURKISH CAVALRY (Victory Gallop
) broke a step slow in his career debut and closed from last, some 14 lengths off the lead, to finish with tremendous energy and win by four lengths.
6TH - SHE'S A JEWEL (Successful Appeal
) found the addition of Lasix to be just what she needed to propel her to the winner's circle in her second career start. The two-year-old filly stalked the pace early and responded well when asked to claim the victory by five lengths.
8TH - DIMITROVA (Swain
[Ire]) has been in a bit of a slump since claiming the Flower Bowl Invitational S. (G1) at Belmont in September of last year, but the four-year-old filly put in a very solid effort, missing third by a head, while competing against the boys in the Del Mar H. (G2). She could be rounding back into form for a top effort.
5TH - PIN DROP (Real Quiet
) spent the majority of his time at the back of the pack in this maiden claiming event. Once the three-year-old colt got unwound though, he closed with an explosive turn of foot to miss by a nose.