Del Mar Notebook: Horses to Watch

by Brian P. Turner
(Editor's Note: Content for this weekly handicapping notebook is provided by Brisnet).

Sunday's $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch H. (G2) highlighted the stakes action at Del Mar this week as a field of eight fillies and mares, three-years-old and up, went to the gate for the 1 1/16-mile affair. STAR PARADE (Arg) (Parade Marshal) was sent off as the 9-5 favorite and with good reason. The five-year-old mare was coming off a dazzling performance in the Milady Breeders' Cup H. (G1) at Hollywood in July where she vied for the lead throughout before pulling clear in the stretch drive to cross the finish line 3 1/2 lengths in front.

Once the field broke from the gate, it looked as if Star Parade was set for a repeat performance as she stalked pacesetter ROYALLY CHOSEN (In Excess [Ire]) through the early stages before making her move on the second turn. In the end though, the favorite could not keep up and finished fourth, beaten by 5 1/4 lengths.

It was another Argentina-bred that picked up the victory as MISS LOREN (Numerous) rallied from midpack, closing with a determined effort and pulling clear in the stretch, to hit the wire 3 1/4 lengths in front, paying $70 as the longest shot on the board. In hindsight, the payoff may have been a little on the high side for even though she had not found the winner's circle in either of her first two North American starts, she had run respectably and was showing improvement, including a solid effort last out in the Beverly Hills H. (G2) on the grass at Hollywood where she finished fourth, beaten by only 3 1/2 lengths.

HOUSE OF FORTUNE (Free House) stalked the pace early and finished second, a length in front of Royally Chosen in third.

On Saturday, a field of eight two-year-old fillies contested the 6 1/2-furlong Sorrento S. (G3). The Bob Baffert-trained INSPIRING (Golden Missile) was sent to the post as the favorite off her career debut at Hollywood last month when she stalked the pace early before unleashing in the stretch drive to cross the finish line four lengths in front, posting an impressive 104 BRIS Speed rating for the effort.

The chestnut wasted no time stalking in the Sorrento as she vied for the lead throughout before inching away in the stretch to finish 2 1/2 lengths on top. Previously undefeated SOUVENIR GIFT (Souvenir Copy), who was coming off a game 1 1/4-length victory last out in the Landaluce S. (G3) at Hollywood, chased the pacesetter throughout and finished a clear second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Calder shipper HELLO LUCKY (Lucky Lionel) in third.

The week's other stakes action got underway last Wednesday as a field of six, including one coupled entry, contested the 1 3/8-mile Escondido H. over the Jimmy Durante turf course. SARAFAN (Lear Fan) was sent to the post the heavy favorite as half of the coupled entry and rewarded his backers by rallying from just off the pace under little more than a hand ride to cross the finish line 1 1/2 lengths in front. GENE DE CAMPEAO (Brz) (Khatango) was second, a length in front of OUTTA HERE (Dehere) in third.

Finally, on Friday, a mere field of five contested the Real Good Deal S. for Cal-bred three-year-olds going seven furlongs. AREYOUTALKINTOME (Smokester) rallied from last under a solid ride from Corey Nakatani to cross the wire three lengths on top. Early pacesetter NEVER SURRENDER (Game Plan) was clearly second best, finishing 3 1/2 lengths clear of JET WEST (Western Fame).

Doug O'Neill still holds the top spot in the trainer standings with 15 winners for the meet. Jeff Mullins is next with 11 followed by Bob Baffert, Mike Mitchell and Bill Spawr in a three-way tie for third with seven winners each.

As for the jockeys, Tyler Baze has clawed his way into the top spot having booted home 21 winners thus far. Corey Nakatani and Victor Espinoza are hot on his heels though with 20 and 19 winners, respectively.

On the main track this week, horses running on or near the pace held the advantage in sprints, but the route races tended to play pretty fair. As for the turf, all four sprints this week were won from off the pace, but no running style held a clear-cut advantage in the routes.


Wednesday (8/4) 1ST -- BALLISTIC ANGEL (Unusual Heat) has pretty much made a career of always being close but very seldom getting the job done. The switch to Mullins' barn may have changed her fortune though for after laying last through the early portions of this turf starter allowance event, the four-year-old filly rallied and took the lead in the stretch before crossing the wire five lengths in front under nothing more than a hand ride.

Thursday (8/5)
5TH -- SPEND SPEND SPEND (Exemplary Leader) reeled off his third victory in a row when closing from off the pace to take this Cal-bred claiming event by a length. The dark bay is in good form right now and even though he was claimed out of the race, he should loom a threat in his next start as well provided his new connections don't become too ambitious with his placement.

6TH -- SELANGOR (Aus) (Snaadee) got to see the majority of the Del Mar turf course as he was wide for most of his trip around the oval. The five-year-old gelding concluded his journey by making a five-wide move on the second turn and closing with an impressive turn of foot to finish fourth, beaten by only three parts of a length. A less scenic trip next out could yield better results.

Friday (8/6)
3RD -- SPRING FESTIVAL (Bertrando) made her first attempt on the grass an impressive one by overcoming a troubled trip to take this five-furlong optional claiming event by 1 1/4 lengths. The three-year-old filly was bumped soundly and forced out when breaking from the gate, leaving her some eight lengths off the early leaders. Jockey David Flores never panicked and dropped her down to the rail where she began to gain ground with every stride. Once the field came off the turn, Spring Festival quickly moved into second and was continuing her move up the rail when pacesetter IRON FLIGHT (Iron Cat) came in on her, bumping her soundly again. The bay would still not be deterred though, and fought her way through to hit the wire in front.

7TH - Areyoutalkintome was impressive in taking the Real Good Deal S. as he rallied from some eight lengths off thelead.

Saturday (8/7)
2ND -- WATER CZAR (Moscow Ballet) leapt into the air at the start of this 5 1/2-furlong claiming event and was awkward into stride. The six-year-old gelding was last on the backstretch by some eight lengths but began to move up on the outside of the pack, closing ground with a four to five wide move on the turn before unleashing in the stretch drive to cross the wire 2 1/4 lengths on top under nothing but a hand ride.

4TH -- THAUMATURGE (Smokester) was bumped upon leaving the gate then was very rank through the early stages of this 1 1/16 mile starter allowance on the grass. The gray finally settled in through the middle stages of the race and was poised to make his run at the top of the stretch when he encountered a wall of horses. Once a hole finally opened for him, the four-year-old colt began eating up ground with every stride but it was too little too late as he was forced
to settle for second, beaten by only 1 1/4 lengths.

6TH -- FUSAICHI ROCK STAR (Wild Wonder) moved up early in this maiden special event to take the lead and never looked back, crossing the finish line three parts of a length clear under nothing but a mild hand ride.

MEGABYTE (Chief Seattle) was obviously no match for the winner but finished a solid second, five lengths clear of the field.

Sunday (8/8)
1ST -- ROYAL SWEETPEA (Favorite Trick) vied for the lead throughout in this maiden special turf event and was hanging
on gamely when she was forced out in the stretch drive then bumped at the wire. The three-year-old filly finished third but was moved up to second on the disqualification.

2ND -- EXCESSIVELY NICE (In Excess [Ire]) put in a performance that lived up to her name as she stalked the pace early in this two-year-old maiden special event before pulling away late to claim victory by 1 1/4 lengths in her first career start.

Monday (8/9)
7TH -- SPENCER'S MAGIC (Unusual Heat) broke very slowly in this five-furlong optional claiming grass event but began to move into contention until he was forced to check sharply. Once the field hit the stretch, the gray was left with no place to go, forcing him to check once more. When he finally found a way through on the rail, Spencer's Magic closed with nice strides to finish third, beaten by only a neck.