Published Sunday, December 3rd, 2023   ( 7 months ago )

Stable Notes
December 3, 2023

By Jim Charvat

Geovanni Franco | Benoit Photo

Geovanni Franco © Benoit Photo 

GEOVANNI FRANCO NOTCHES 1,000TH CAREER WIN AT DEL MAR VIA DQ

Jockey Geovanni Franco notched his 1,000th career win Saturday when the horse he was riding in the second race at Del Mar, Miss Commander, was moved up via a disqualification of the horse who finished first Unkept Secret. The stewards ruled that Unkept Secret came over on Franco and Miss Commander during a stretch-long duel. Unkept Secret ended up winning by a head and the stewards felt the bumping cost Miss Commander a placing.

For Franco, getting his 1,000th victory on a DQ didn’t tarnish the achievement.

“It doesn’t,” he said with a smile. “I’ve won plenty of races by DQ and I’ll take a winner any way they come.”

Franco has been riding at Del Mar since 2017, with a year off in 2022 when he moved his tack back to the Midwest and Kentucky. He returned to Del Mar this summer and rang-up 12 wins. This fall he has five. 

“It’s truly humbling to have this 1,000th win at Del Mar,” Franco says. “To have been riding here the last five years makes it even better. I’ll be happy to get many more.”

Franco rode his first winner at Mexico City’s Hipodromo de las Americas in 2009. He went to Canada later that year and rode at Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. In March of 2010 he came to Santa Anita and rode the rest of the winter meet before heading up to Golden Gate. He would ride in Northern California through much of 2011 before finishing the year at Turf Paradise where he was the leading rider in 2012 and 2013. 

He began branching out to other tracks in 2014, riding at Sunland Park, Santa Anita again, even Finger Lakes in New York and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pennsylvania. He settled in the Midwest in 2015, riding at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Remington Park in Oklahoma and Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

The highlights of Franco’s career include a runner-up finish to Golden Pal onboard Lieutenant Dan in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar. His first Grade I victory came with Fault in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita in 2018 and in 2019 he got another Grade I with Secret Spice in the Beholder Mile. 

In all, Franco has won has 20 graded stakes races, the latest coming this past summer at Del Mar with Senor Buscador in the G2 San Diego Handicap and on Motorious in the G3 Green Flash.

“I’m proud of myself,” Franco says, “and thankful with God.”


TRAINERS TITLE ALL BUT SEALED, BUT RIDERS CROWN UP FOR GRABS

As we enter the final day of the Bing Crosby Season at Del Mar, one title appears to have been decided while another one, based on recent history, is still there for the taking.

Phil D’Amato’s quest for a fourth straight trainers title at Del Mar was all but assured following Saturday’s stakes wins in the $100,000 Stormy Liberal with Unconquerable Keen and in the G3 Jimmy Durante with longshot Zona Verde. D’Amato now has 13 victories this fall, five more than Bob Baffert who has zero mounts Sunday and five more than Peter Miller, who still has a mathematical shot when he sends out seven horses on closing day, two in one race.

This will be D’Amato’s third straight Bing Crosby Season title which he attributes to his decision to bring a sizable part of his operation from Santa Anita and stay at Del Mar the entire four weeks of the meet.

“I’m very happy with our results,” D’Amato says. “Coming down to Del Mar and training the horses down here and letting them get used to the environment down here I think helps a lot. I’ll continue to do it as long as we can, every year. It’s a great spot to train and overall I think it works out well for my operation.”

D’Amato’s string of 60 horses is by far the largest at Del Mar in the fall, occupying nearly two full barns on the backside. They’ll pack up the horses and the gear and begin the move back to Santa Anita on Tuesday. It takes about two days to complete the move. 

Before he goes, D’Amato has eight runners on Sunday, including one in the G3 Cecil B. DeMille and three in the G1 Matriarch.

Meanwhile the jockeys title got a whole lot more interesting when Flavien Prat won four races Saturday, cutting front runner Juan Hernandez’ lead to three. Hernandez has 20 victories this fall. 

You only have to look back to last year to know this race is far from over. Hernandez went into closing day of 2022 with a two-race lead only to watch Prat notch a six-win day and snatch away the title.

Prat will have every chance to win back-to-back Fall Meet titles and his seventh riding title overall at Del Mar. He has a mount in every race but the fourth, including Deadpan, for trainer Mark Casse, in the Cecil B. DeMille and morning line favorite Whitebeam from the Chad Brown barn in the Matriarch.

Hernandez only has four mounts on Sunday, including Closing Remarks for trainer Carla Gaines in the Matriarch. 

It could come down to the very end. Both Hernandez and Prat have mounts in the ninth and final race of the meet. 


LOOKING AHEAD TO 2024

Today marks closing day of the Bing Crosby Season, the end of racing for 2023 and for the next seven and a half months at Del Mar. The Fairgrounds will remain open for many local events throughout the year and then the San Diego County Fair in June.

Racing will return to the seaside oval on July 20, a Saturday opening day for the summer of 2024. The late start is due to the Fair’s closing day on July 7, a few days later than it’s typical July 4 closing. Due to the later date and the time needed to prepare the racing surfaces after the Fair, Del Mar will open a bit later.

The Saturday start is not unprecedented in Del Mar history. The meet started on a Saturday back in 1953. Last year was the fourth year running that the summer meet started on a Friday. Between 1971 and 2013, the meet started on a Wednesday when they ran races five, even six days a week.

The other big change to the Del Mar schedule in 2024 is the added week in the fall. That’s because of the Breeders’ Cup slated to run here in November. Opening day next fall will be Thursday October 31st, followed by the Breeders’ Cup on Friday and Saturday. 


BRITNEY EURTON EXITS FANDUEL IN SEARCH OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Britney Eurton has left FanDuel Racing after nine years with the horse racing network. When she started it was TVG and she was trying to break into the business. The daughter of trainer Peter Eurton is now 36-years-old and venturing out into the vast unknown of the broadcast world, hoping to do new things and further her career.

“I thought a lot about the decision (to leave FanDuel),” Eurton says, “I felt it was the right time to take a leap of faith and explore other opportunities outside of the sport. I’m excited about the opportunity but at the same time I’m leaving the company that helped me get to where I am today.

“I am so grateful and I owe FanDuel so much,” Eurton continues. “But I also felt I owe it to myself to try to break into other sports, which is really what my dream was.”

Eurton still will have a hand in horse racing, both personally and professionally.

“I will continue doing my work with NBC doing horseracing,” Eurton says. “My father is still a trainer and I’m so excited to go back to the races as a fan. It always will be a part of my DNA and my story.”

Don’t try to get Britney to get particular about her job prospects. Turns out she’s a bit superstitious when it comes to talking about something until it’s set in stone.

“I’m definitely looking to grow my role within the NBC family, but also pushing within other networks as well,” Eurton explains. “I have an entertainment background. Acting was something I grew up with. It’s no longer a dream to become an actress but I still have a passion for film and TV so those are little areas I would love to put time and energy into.” 

Having a horse trainer for a father created a direct path to a career in horse racing, but Britney will tell you that’s not how it worked. In fact, it turns out as a kid she didn’t spend as much time at the track as you might think.

“My dad wanted me to explore all things and all different sports,” Eurton points out. “Yes, I would go to the racetrack and every summer I was down at Del Mar, my home away from home. But when I was in school I was also doing dance classes. I played soccer for a little bit. I was terrible. I played tennis. My parents wanted to expose me to other things. 

“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t know how to ride a horse,” Eurton continues. “It’s not something my parents pushed on me and when I told them I was auditioning for TVG, then went full time and now nine years later, my parents would probably say it’s a surprise. It was never my intent to work in horseracing. I’ve loved it my entire life and when you feel that way about something, it doesn’t leave you.”

Eurton has many highlights from her time at TVG/FanDuel. Her first Kentucky Derby and the Cody’s Wish story to name a few. But her most cherished moment and the highlight of her career came at the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, when her father’s horse, Storm the Court, won the Juvenile at Santa Anita.

“The opportunity to interview my father in his biggest career moment,” Eurton says, getting a bit emotional just talking about it. “It was huge for me because I’ve been his biggest fan. So to be able to see his career culminate in that moment and then be able to tell my producers ‘I can get him, I can do the interview.’ And then to get through the interview and have my producer, Billy Matthews, tell me in my ear ‘Britney, you can be his daughter’ and then share with him how proud I was.” 

It made for great TV but it also showed the genuineness of Britney Eurton and her ability to convey that through the camera. It’s that quality that should pave the way to more success in her future ventures.

Eurton will be missed, not only by her colleagues at the network but also by her legion of fans, many of whom watched her start as a young, green reporter and develop into a major network star. It’s a career worth following.


COOLING OUT: All three winners in Saturday’s stakes races came out in good order. Unconquerable Keen, winner of the $100,000 Stormy Liberal, will be pointed to races 6-furlongs or less. “So certainly not down the hill (at Santa Anita),” trainer Philip D’Amato says. “We’ll try to point him to those five, five and a half, six furlong races on the flat.” As for Zona Verde, winner of the G3 Jimmy Durante, D’Amato is considering the Blue Norther opening weekend at Santa Anita. The G1 Hollywood Derby winner, Program Trading, was loaded up early this morning is heading down to trainer Chad Brown’s base in Florida for the winter…Seal Team, one of the early favorites in Saturday’s Hollywood Derby, was scratched the morning of the race. “He’s a little sore and we can’t figure out what’s wrong,” trainer Richard Mandella says. “We’re going to take him up to Santa Anita and do a body scan to see if it tells us what’s up.”


 

Del Mar Statistics

 Jockey Standings
(Current through December 2, 2023 Inclusive) 

Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Juan Hernandez 66 20 15 7 30% 64% $1,012,620
Flavien Prat 52 17 9 5 33% 60% $921,208
Antonio Fresu 75 10 16 16 13% 56% $815,420
Kyle Frey 63 6 11 7 10% 38% $316,916
Umberto Rispoli 47 6 8 6 13% 43% $397,700
Edwin Maldonado 46 6 6 6 13% 39% $339,340
Geovanni Franco 34 5 3 4 15% 35% $214,300
Hector Berrios 27 5 2 5 19% 44% $344,452
Ramon Vazquez 40 4 4 6 10% 35% $289,460
Tiago Pereira 33 4 3 7 12% 42% $229,132

 

Trainer Standings
(Current through December 2, 2023 Inclusive) 

Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Philip D'Amato 52 13 8 6 25% 52% $820,680
Peter Miller 42 8 6 2 19% 38% $374,460
Bob Baffert 26 8 4 2 31% 54% $455,508
Doug F. O'Neill 43 6 8 9 14% 53% $378,008
George Papaprodromou 32 5 5 6 16% 50% $200,004
Robert B. Hess, Jr. 19 5 1 3 26% 47% $199,040
Mark Glatt 20 4 6 6 20% 80% $229,500
Steve R. Knapp 31 4 6 2 13% 39% $179,200
Richard E. Mandella 18 4 2 4 22% 56% $344,386
John W. Sadler 20 3 3 5 15% 55% $184,300

 

Winning Favorites Report
(Current through December 2, 2023 Inclusive) 

  Winning favorites -- 44 out of 104 -- 42.31%
Winning favorites on dirt -- 22 out of 50 -- 44.00%
Winning favorites on turf -- 22 out of 54 -- 40.74%
Winning odds-on favorites -- 19 out of 26 -- 73.08%
In-the-Money favorites -- 81 out of 104 -- 77.88%
In-the-Money odds-on favorites -- 23 out of 26 -- 88.46%