Friday, July 17th, 2015 ( 6 years ago )
July 17 2015
By Hank Wesch
OCEANSIDE IN HAND, READ NEXT IN MULLINS’ SIGHTS
Trainer Jeff Mullins went 2-for-2 on Opening Day with the capper being Bloom Racing Stables’ Soul Driver’s nose victory under Mike Smith in the $116,000 Oceanside Stakes.
That win, Mullins’ first in the Oceanside and 17th stakes overall at Del Mar, went nicely with that of Always a Chance in the second race of the meeting, a 6-furlong run for fillies and mares on the newly-installed dirt track.
Two horses saddled. Two wins. One on dirt, the other on turf.
“How about that, and coming from behind in both,” Mullins said immediately after the Oceanside. “When was the last time we’ve seen that in Southern California.”
Friday morning Mullins could be found at his stable office desk, his young Rotweiler dog Axel, acquired last year here, stretched out and covering a good chunk of floor space between the desk and the door.
Soul Driver came out of the Oceanside in good shape. A decision will be made later on whether to take the next step in Del Mar’s turf series for 3-year-olds, the Grade III $150,000 La Jolla Handicap on August 9 with the chestnut son of Street Boss or wait for the series-concluding Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Derby on September 6.
Of more immediate concern to Mullins is Saturday’s $400,000 Eddie Read Stakes, the first Grade I event of seven during the summer meeting. Mullins will give Smith a leg up on Gabriel Charles.
Gabriel Charles, a 5-year-old son of Street Hero, returned to racing with two starts at Santa Anita this spring after being away 18 months recovering from an injury. The second of those starts was an encouraging third in the Grade III American Handicap on May 9.
“He’s been doing really well and Mike breezed him over the turf (5f, 1:03.20) on Tuesday and said he went fine,” Mullins said.
AN EARLY READ ON TOP TURFERS
The Grade I $400,000 Eddie Read Stakes will be run as the fourth race on Saturday’s 10-race card with an approximate post time of 3:30 p.m.
Midnight Storm, runner-up to Talco in the Shoemaker Mile on June 13 at Santa Anita, is the 8-5 favorite on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line. A 4-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile trained by Phil D’Amato, Midnight Storm has four wins from nine starts and $403,610 in career earnings and is 2-for-2 on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course here.
He won the 2014 Del Mar Derby by 3 ¼ lengths under Tyler Baze, who has the call for a fifth straight start. D’Amato came into the meeting with a 23 percent win rate on the season in grass races.
“I just happen to have a lot of good turf horses in my barn and they’ve been running well,” D’Amato said.
Major competition for Midnight Storm figures to come from Finnegans Wake. The Peter Miller-trained 6-year-old son of Powerscourt is returning to turf, where he has earnings of over $1.4 million, after running second to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 27.
The field for the Read, from the rail out: Twentytwentyvision (Flavien Prat, 6-1), Gabriel Charles (Mike Smith, 5-1), Midnight Storm (Tyler Baze, 8-5), Power Ped (Gary Stevens, 8-1), Big Cazanova (James Graham, 12-1), Maltes (Martin Garcia, 15-1), and Finnegans Wake (Peter Miller, 2-1).
ISTANFORD RETURNS TO SCENE OF GREAT SUCCESS
Istanford, who recorded two of her five career victories when shipped to Del Mar from trainer Mike Stidham’s Midwest base last summer, is back to face a sizeable test Saturday when she faces 11 rivals in the Osunitas Stakes. The event has a purse of $80,000 and is contested at 1 1/16 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Istanford won both the San Clemente Handicap and the Sandy Blue Stakes a summer ago under Rafael Bejarano, who will be in the irons again Saturday.
“She breezed on the turf course Tuesday and Bejarano was on her,” Stidham said. “She really loves this turf course and I really like the way she’s coming into the race.”
Istanford is winless in four starts since the Sandy Blue last August, three of them in 2015 at, in order, Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Gulfstream Park in Florida and Pimlico in Maryland.
“She didn’t run as well as we expected, so we freshened her back up pointing for this meet,” Stidham said. “Hopefully it’s going to work.”
The field for the Osunitas, from the rail out: She’s Flush (James Graham, 20-1), My Monet (Gonzalo Nicolas, 20-1), Elektrum (Victor Espinoza, 7-2), Theatre Star (Drayden Van Dyke, 10-1), Aguafria (Kent Desormeaux, 12-1), Royal Temptress (Mike Smith, 12-1), Istanford (Rafael Bejarano, 5-1), Famous Alice (Gary Stevens, 6-1), Chati’s On Top (Sal Gonzalez, 20-1), Personal Diary (Corey Nakatani, 8-1), Nashoba’s Gold (Joe Talamo, 8-1) and Gas Total (Flavien Prat, 9-2). The also eligibles are One More (Mario Gutierrez, 20-1) and Sweet as a Rose (Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1).
AMERICAN PHAROAH TODAY
The Triple Crown winner was taken on his usual one-mile jog around the track Friday morning. And while he garnered the deserved attention once he got there, he was upstaged by an unnamed 2-year-old for the distance from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn to the track entry point.
A half-dozen or more people followed the 2-year-old because jockey Martin Garcia was aboard wearing a helmet with a GoPro camera attached that gave it the look of an antenna. American Pharoah, with exercise rider George Alvarez up, came quietly along a minute or two later.
Kevin Custer, GoPro Director of Advanced Media, who was in the group, said that it’s in the developmental stages of a camera that would provide 360-degree images adaptable for virtual reality viewers.
“Our goal is to try and practice with it today and then use it on American Pharoah tomorrow (Saturday).”
American Pharoah is scheduled for his first workout at Del Mar this summer on Sunday at approximately 7:45 a.m. Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, a candidate for the San Diego Handicap, will work Saturday according to Baffert assistant Jim Barnes.
A BURIED TREASURE
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke won two races on opening day but was uncharacteristically subdued when congratulated for the accomplishment Friday morning as he stood at trackside during the renovation break.
So the subject was switched to Del Mar’s new dirt track.
“It’s fair. It’s a little deep. And right now my cell phone, with all my contacts, is lost in it,” Van Dyke said.
The reigning Eclipse Award Apprentice rider, who has had continued success since losing the “bug” in January, had the phone fall out of his pocket, he knew not where, while exercising a horse.
ONLY THE FIRST AT DEL MAR? NOT TO ANDY MATHIS
It was a $12,500 claiming level race with a $26,000 purse that was the second-lowest of 10 on the Opening Day program. But it was the first race of the summer meeting.
And after Olympic Blue came charging down the stretch to win under Rafael Bejarano to trigger attention from the media and cheers from the crowd of 40,304, the numbers were secondary to trainer Andy Mathis.
“It’s real special,” Mathis said. “I think I’ve won almost 400 races and I’ve never had anything like this. The most special race I’ve ever won and we had to have three horses scratch to get into it, so I’m thinking it was meant to be.”
Mathis, 36, has been training for 14 years and had, according to Equibase statistics, 352 wins before Thursday’s success, most of them on the Northern California circuit. Mathis is part of an ‘M’ squad, along with John Martin, Tim McCanna and Bill McClain of NorCal-based trainers that have more horses at Del Mar than before and are looking to have a greater impact.
“I started about 20 horses here last year and won two,” Mathis said. “Now I’ve won half that many already.”
Mathis’ next victory here won’t come from Olympic Blue. The horse was claimed by Peter Miller, one of six claims out of the first race.
HESS, MILLER GUEST ON WEEKEND SEMINARS
Trainers Bob Hess, Jr. and Peter Miller will provide their insight and information as featured guests at the opening weekend handicapping seminars.
Hess, who won back-to-back training titles at Del Mar in 1991 and 1992 will do the honors on Saturday. Miller, the reigning summer meeting co-champion (with Jerry Hollendorfer) and solo winner of the 2014 Bing Crosby fall title, will be Millie Ball’s guest on Sunday.
Both seminars are from 12:45-1:30 p.m. and will be conducted at the Seaside Terrace area near the top of stretch.
DONUTS AT DEL MAR SET SATURDAY
Track announcer Trevor Denman will emcee the first of two Donuts At Del Mar programs during the meeting on Saturday.
Racing Secretary David Jerkens, trainer Eddie Truman and Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza are the scheduled guests.
There will be free donuts and coffee or juice as well as the opportunity for a question-and-answer session with the racing panel from 8-10 a.m. at the Seaside Terrace near the head of the stretch.
CLOSERS – Opening-day handle from all sources was $15,211,558, up 2.6 percent from the previous year. Major contributors to the totals were out-of-state wagering ($7,056,484, up 6.3 percent) and ITW ($4,218,542, up 6.9 percent)…Tonight is the first of eight 4 o’clock Friday programs and will feature a post-races concert by The Wallflowers. Unlike in the past, when first post was moved up a half-hour in the latter stages of the meeting, all eight 4 o’clock Friday programs this year will start, as the name indicates, at 4 o’clock.
Friday, July 17, 2015 Contact: Dan Smith 858-792-4226/Hank Wesch 858-755-1141 ext. 3793