Mitchell Holds Strong Pair in Del Mar Handicap

(from Del Mar track notes)
Trainer Mike Mitchell, who already has won twice as many stakes races this season as he has in any Del Mar meet of the past, believes he has a strong hand for Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT).

The 65th running of one of Del Mar's leading races will be contested at 1 3/8 miles on the Jimmy Durante turf course. Nine horses were entered, with Escondido Handicap winner Sarafan, the top weight at 121 pounds, expected to vie with Mitchell's Star Over the Bay for favoritism.

A pair of females, 5-year-old mare Dimitrova, winner of the 2002 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, and 4-year-old filly Moscow Burning, who captured the Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park in May, add to the race's attraction.

Mitchell has the entry of Star Over the Bay, the winner of Hollywood Park's 1 1/2-mile Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT), and Murano, who was claimed for $62,500 in a winning effort at 1 1/8 miles on the Del Mar turf Aug. 14.

"I'm delighted that The Tin Man isn't running, because it looks like he has the same style that my horse has," Mitchell said. "It looks like they both want the lead. That's the way my horse wants to run, so why change anything?

"Of course, coming out of the one hole, we can't do a whole lot anyway. You're not going to want to take back, so you have to let him go."

Mitchell, , who saddled Kela to win both the Bing Crosby (gr. I) and Pat O'Brien (gr. II) Breeders' Cup handicaps, claimed Star Over the Bay from trainer Vladimir Cerin for $80,000 out of a Hollywood Park race on May 16.

"He ran awesome that day," Mitchell said of the horse's winning effort. "I talked to Vladimir about a month later and he told me he hated to lose the horse and didn't think he would. Honestly, I thought he would, because he had run two really great grass races before that for $62,500.

"Then he came back in a $40,000 starter (allowance) race on the dirt, and even though he ran a bad fourth in that race it still showed me by running in the starter race the horse must be sound. Because of that, I had more confidence when he showed up for $80,000."

The trainer said he didn't think he could get one client to put up that much money, so he worked up a partnership of G Racing, Carl VanBurger and Landon Vaughn. He said he already had decided if he got the horse, he would run in the Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park, so he used that to sell the partners on the sale. I said, "Get your cowboy hats out, we're going to Texas for that race - even before he was claimed."

Star Over the Bay was beaten a neck in the $200,000 Lone Star race.

Mitchell acknowledges that on paper, Star Over the Bay didn't appear to be the kind that could get the 1 1/2 miles of the Sunset.

"But when you train them, you often feel they can," Mitchell said. "He's a great big, long-striding horse. He's a fun horse to train. He doesn't do a thing wrong. He's a lamb in the stall, but when he gets out there on the track, he's all business."

Mitchell's claim of Murano was mostly out of necessity because he had lost horses through the claim box during the meet and needed to restock the barn. "I liked two horses who were in for a (claiming) tag in that race, but when they walked over, it was a no-brainer. Julio's (trainer Julio Canani) horse just looked great."

Murano was a stunning winner in that 1 1/8-mile race and Mitchell decided the 5-year-old gelding deserved a chance in the Del Mar Handicap. "So now I have one horse that's going to be on the lead and one horse that will be coming from out of it."

$250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT), 3 & up, 1 3/8 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Star Over the Bay, 116, Tyler Baze
2. Outta Here, 112, Jon Court
3. Continuously, 117, Kent Desormeaux
4. Gene de Campeao, 113, Omar Berrio
5. Moscow Burning, 113, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
6. Sarafan, 121, Corey Nakatani
7. Mananan McLir, 113, David Flores
8. Murano, 112, Javier Santiago
9. Dimitrova, 114, Victor Espinoza