By Hank Wesch
CALIFORNIA CHROME NOMINATIONS THE MOST PLEASANT OF SURPRISES
Trainer Art Sherman made his way to the racing secretary’s office in the Del Mar stable area Wednesday morning with a purpose in mind.
Nominations for the final nine stakes of the Bing Crosby season were closing on Thursday and Sherman, 77, had a horse of such import to nominate that he didn’t want to risk missing the deadline.
That would be California Chrome, whom he would nominate for the Hollywood Derby and Native Diver Handicap on Saturday, November 29 in what figures to be the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner’s final race of 2014.
The Hollywood Derby is a $300,000 Grade I event for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course. The Native Diver is a $200,000 Grade III event, also at 1 1/8 miles, on the Polytrack main course.
Del Mar Executive Vice President of Racing Tom Robbins and Racing Secretary David Jerkens, whose office Sherman stepped into, confessed to being as surprised as most of the racing world at the development.
“Did not see it coming,” Robbins said Thursday morning. Their reaction: “Glee,” said Jerkens.
“To have a Kentucky Derby (and Preakness) winner come to the Del Mar fall meeting is huge,” Robbins said. “Now we keep our fingers crossed for the next two weeks and hope it all works out.”
“Definitely a pleasant surprise,” Jerkens said.
The Hollywood Derby is one of two Grade I stakes on the closing weekend of the 15-day Bing Crosby Season currently in progress. The other is the Matriarch on closing day of the meeting, November 30.
The Hollywood Derby would be the first race on grass for California Chrome. The race’s Grade I status, the purse and California Chrome’s current state of readiness following a third-place finish to Bayern in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1, beaten only a neck, were all factors in Sherman’s decision to bring the colt to Del Mar.
Sherman said the plan is to van California Chrome down from Los Alamitos for a workout on the Del Mar turf course on November 23. That exercise will determine which race California Chrome will enter. The Derby is the No. 1 option.
“Just the way he moves (running motion) makes me think he could be a good grass horse,” Sherman said Thursday morning. “I’ve wanted to try him on turf, this is an opportune time. If he can run on grass it will give me a lot of options with him next year as a 4-year-old.”
More than a grass test, Derby success could have an influence on the 2014 Horse of the Year award. California Chrome is one of a few major candidates.
“If he wins it, maybe he could be Horse of the Year,” Sherman said Wednesday. “It could help. I don’t know.”
The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit has eight wins in 15 career starts and earnings of more than $4 million. California Chrome raced twice at Del Mar as a 2-year-old in the summer of 2013, winning the Graduation Stakes and finishing sixth in the Del Mar Futurity.
Sherman has indicated plans for 2015 are for California Chrome to run once at Santa Anita in preparation for the Dubai World Cup on March 28.
CASSE CALMLY CONSIDERS ‘CHROME VS. LEXIE LOU CALL
At the meeting’s outset trainer Mark Casse said that he would look at two Grade I races for Lexie Lou, the 3-year-old filly who, last summer, provided the six-time Canadian trainer of the year with his first victory in the Queen’s Plate, first leg in the country’s Triple Crown.
The one-mile, $300,000 Matriarch Stakes on turf for older fillies and mares on November 30 was an obvious choice. “Or we might run her against the boys in the Hollywood Derby,” Casse said.
As of Wednesday, one of the “boys” could be Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome. And if Casse opted for that race for Lexie Lou it would make for not only a filly vs. colts matchup, but an international one of Triple Crown race winners.
Thursday morning, Casse said the California Chrome development hadn’t prompted a change of position.
“I don’t think it will stop me, it won’t change my mind,” said Casse, who will nominate Lexie Lou for both races. “I got to tell you I think our filly is pretty tough. She hasn’t beaten California Chrome, but she has beaten the boys before (Queen’s Plate). Actually, I think it’s kind of intriguing.”
In anticipation of his first start on turf, California Chrome is scheduled to work over the Del Mar course on November 23.
“One thing we know is, our horse will run on the grass,” Casse said. “This is my 34th year (training). I’ve breezed a lot of horses over the grass and I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve had horses that worked good on the grass that I thought would run lights out and they didn’t run a lick. I’ve had ones that didn’t look very good in works that ran great in the race.
“You never know until you try.”
NOMINATIONS DEADLINE LOOMS FOR MEET’S FINAL NINE STAKES
The final nine stakes of Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Season will close for nominations tonight at midnight.
Horsemen wishing to nominate to any of the races may do so through Del Mar’s racing office throughout the day, with stakes coordinator Zachary Soto (858 792-4231), by e-mail (email@example.com) or through phone message to the racing office (858 7924230).
The list of stakes closing:
RED CARPET HANDICAP Gr. III (formerly Beverly Hills H.) -- $100,000, F & M, 3 and up, 1 3/8M (turf) (Sat., Nov. 22)
CARY GRANT STAKES (formerly On Trust S.) -- $100,000, 3 and up, Cal-bred, 7F (Sun., Nov. 23)
HOLLYWOOD TURF CUP Gr. II – 3 and up, 1 1/2M (turf) (Thur., Nov. 27)
SEABISCUIT HANDICAP Gr. II (formerly Citation H.) – $250,000, 3 and up, 1 1/16M (turf) (Fri., Nov. 28)
JIMMY DURANTE STAKES Gr. III (formerly Miesque S.) -- $150,000, 2-y-o F, 1 M (turf) (Sat., Nov. 29)
NATIVE DIVER HANDICAP Gr. III -- $200,000, 3 and up, 1 1/8M (Sat., Nov. 29)
HOLLYWOOD DERBY Gr. I -- $300,000, 3-y-o, 1 1/8M (turf) (Sat., Nov. 29)
CECIL B. DeMILLE STAKES Gr. III (formerly Generous S.) -- $150,000, 2-y-o, 1M (turf) (Sun., Nov. 30)
MATRIARCH STAKES Gr. I -- $300,000, F & M, 3 and up, 1 M (turf) (Sun., Nov. 30)
TANGELO FAVORED IN THURSDAY FEATURE
Tangelo, a 3-year-old daughter of Square Eddie trained by Ben Cecil, is the 3-1 favorite in a field of 11 for Thursday's featured $58,000 allowance optional claiming race, which goes as the seventh of eight on a program that starts at 12:30 p.m.
The J. Paul Reddam homebred has one victory in five career starts, all on turf, and is one of four sophomore fillies in the 1 1/16-mile turf run for older fillies and mares. Tangelo's lone victory was achieved in her only Del Mar start, a 1 1/2-length score in a one-mile maiden special event on August 13. Mario Gutierrez, aboard for all five starts, has the call again.
The field, from the rail out: Boller Bomb (Victor Espinoza, 12-1), Frandontjudge (Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1), Casey’s Clem (Elvis Trujillo, 8-1), Market Quote (Corey Nakatani, 7-2), Tangelo (Mario Gutierrez, 3-1), Hanserella (Fernando Perez, 20-1), Demonica (Joe Talamo, 9-2), Winninginfashion (Edwin Maldonado, 6-1), Irene’s Cherub (William Antongeorgi III, 12-1), Van Dien Avenue (Kent Desormeaux, 15-1) and Kana Flavor (Martin Garcia, 12-1).
SWEET SWAP FIRST TO GO FROM BREEDERS' CUP RACE TO CROSBY SEASON
Thirteen days after a fifth-place result in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Sweet Swap will take on four rivals in the featured $65,000 allowance on Friday that will go as the second on an eight-race card.
Bred by the Craig Family Trust, trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing LLC of Kosta and Pete Hronis, Sweet Swap went into the Breeders' Cup race off a six-month layoff, but with a record of four wins and two seconds in his last six starts over Santa Anita's unique 6 1/2 furlong downhill turf course. Eighth of 14 for most of the race, Sweet Swap made up some ground in the stretch and finished only a length behind winner Bobby's Kitten.
Friday's race is 5 furlongs on the turf course. Sweet Swap was made the 9-5 morning line favorite by oddsmaker Russ Hudak.
“He came out of the Breeders’ Cup race well,” Sadler said. “He’s a turf sprinter and there aren’t a lot of those races. This is maybe a little quicker than I might have liked, but he hadn’t run for awhile (before the Breeders’ Cup), so it looks like a good spot for him.”
The field, from the rail out is: Bahamian Squall (Rafael Bejarano, 3-1), Sweet Swap (Corey Nakatani, 9-5), Global Power (Kent Desormeaux, 6-1), Distinctive Passion (Edwin Maldonado, 5-2) and Ankeny Hill (Tyler Baze, 4-1).
TALAMO COMES OFF SUSPENSION FULL BORE; BEJARANO ON DECK
Jockey Joe Talamo, who missed the opening three days of the meeting while sitting out a suspension, is coming back strong with seven scheduled mounts on Thursday's program.
“It just happened that we had a good day (booking mounts) for that day,” said Scott McClellan, Talamo’s agent. “It’s funny how that goes.”
Talamo's next victory will be No. 1,500 in the career of the 24-year-old native of Louisiana.
Talamo's Thursday lineup: Omorfi Kopella, 1st, 2-1 morning line favorite; Designated, 2nd, 2-1 morning line favorite; Ill Tell You What 3rd, 10-1; Ol' Fashion Gal 4th, 5-1; Speckles 5th, 10-1; Demonica 7th 9-2; True Visionary 8th, 7-2.
Rafael Bejarano, the three-time defending champion of the summer meeting, rode the opening day card on Friday, November 7, going 0-for-4, before serving a three-day suspension that ends Thursday. He has three scheduled mounts on the Friday program.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BING
For the inaugural Bing Crosby Season at Del Mar, we offer a daily note, quote or anecdote about the track’s founding father for whom the fall meeting is named.
Bing on Frank Sinatra: “Frank is a singer who comes along once in a lifetime, but why did he have to come along in mine?” -- IMDb
NAHILL, BAIRD ON WEEKEND HANDICAPPING SEMINARS
U-T San Diego handicapper and blogger Jeff Nahill will be the selections-providing guest on Saturday and former Union-Tribune photographer and veteran handicapper Jim Baird will do the honors on Sunday for Del Mar’s free weekend handicapping seminars.
The sessions commence at 11:30 a.m. at the Seaside Terrace near the top of the stretch.
CLOSERS – Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President and CEO Joe Harper led a contingent of representatives from the track to the memorial service Thursday morning for revered San Diego TV personality Larry Himmel …Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis has 4,995 career wins entering the second week of the meeting … Elvis Trujillo tops the rider standings after the opening weekend with four wins from 17 mounts. Mike Smith, Martin Pedroza and Tyler Baze notched three wins in the first three days … The win by Awesome Return in Saturday's Let It Ride Stakes, the third in the first two days of the meeting for trainer Mike Puype, secured leading trainer status entering the second week of the season. Richard Baltas, Peter Miller, Barry Abrams, Bob Hess, Jr., and Jorge Periban all had two victories … Sign of the times department: Around 7:30 Wednesday morning, Daily Racing Form National Correspondent Jay Privman ran into trainer Art Sherman en route to the racing office and got the California Chrome scoop. At 8:03 he put out the word on his Twitter account (@DRFPrivman). “By the time I got from the racing office back to my barn, my phone just lit up,” Sherman said. The reaction, he said was “crazy” … Selected Del Mar workouts Thursday morning: Blue Tone (5f, 1:01.00), Talco (4f, turf, :49.60), Suggestive Boy (5f, turf, 1:02.40).
Thursday, November 13, 2014 Contact: Dan Smith 858-792-4226/Hank Wesch 858-755-1141 ext. 3793