Catalina Cruiser Wins San Diego Handicap

Catalina Cruiser © Benoit Photo

Sent to the gate as the prohibitive 1-9 favorite, Hronis Bros.’ classy Catalina Cruiser came through as expected with a workmanlike triumph in the Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap Saturday.

With Joel Rosario in from the East Coast to ride, Catalina Cruiser bounced to the lead leaving the gate, was pressed by Draft Pick until the top of the stretch where he opened a clear lead and was not seriously threated in the late stages by a rallying Mongolian Groom.

Recording his second straight success in the San Diego ‘Cap, Catalina Cruiser scored by a length in 1:44.20 for the mile and one-sixteenth on the main dirt track. The John Sadler-trained five-year-old son of Union Rags packed highweight of 123 pounds, conceding eight pounds to runner-up Mongolian Groom. Draft Pick was a length and one-quarter farther back in third and four and one-half ahead of Core Beliefs, fourth and last.

Withdrawn from the race were Higher Power and Dr. Dorr.

Catalina Cruiser notched his sixth victory in seven career starts, his only defeat coming in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile when he finished sixth to City of Light last November at Churchill Downs. First money of $120,000 increased his earnings to $571,100. Among his successes a year ago was the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien Stakes after which he was voted Del Mar’s champion sprinter of the meeting.

With only four horses competing, there was no show wagering. Catalina Cruiser paid $2.20 and $2.10, with Mongolian Groom returning $4.40 to place. There was a minus place pool of $26,649, with $187,446 out of a total place pool of $224,579 bet on the victor.

The San Diego Handicap is the major steppingstone to the Grade I $1 million TVG Pacific Classic at a mile and one-quarter Saturday, August 17.


JOEL ROSARIO (Catalina Cruiser, winner) – “I’m sure glad to be here today (his normal racing venue – Saratoga – was closed today due to excessive heat), and especially to ride a nice horse like this. He was comfortable out there. He didn’t mind that horse next to him. When it came time to go, he just went ahead and did his job. He’s a pro.”

ABEL CEDILLO (Mongolian Groom, second) – “We gave it a try late, but that horse (Catalina Cruiser) is just too tough.”

MARTIN GARCIA (Draft Pick, third) – “My horse is a really good horse and he tried hard today. But the winner is a monster.”

FLAVIEN PRAT (Core Beliefs, fourth) – “My horse didn’t try today.”

JOHN SADLER (Catalina Cruiser, winner) – “The objective of the other jockeys was obviously to press the pace. But he was running smooth all the way. When you’re 1-to-9 there’s a lot of conversation about style points and things like that, but he was comfortable all the way. The fractions were slow, but this is not a fast track. We’ll check the speed figures and things and we’ll see how he comes out of it and decide whether to run in the Pacific Classic or not. We’ve got options.”


FRACTIONS:  :24.52  :48.94  1:13.04  1:37.71  1:44.20

There was a minus place pool (no show betting) of $26,649. The total place pool was $224,579, of which $187,446 was wagered on the winner to place.

The stakes win by rider Rosario was his first of the meet, but his second (Dakota Phone, 2010) in the San Diego. He now has 27 stakes wins at Del Mar.

The stakes win by trainer Sadler was his second of the meet and his fifth (including the last three) in the San Diego. He now has 69 stakes wins at Del Mar, fifth most among all trainers.

The winner is owned by Hronis Racing, the nom du course of brother Kosta and Pete Hronis of Delano, CA.

Mucho Unusual, Rosario Win San Clemente Stakes

Mucho Unusual © Benoit Photo

After winning the Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap earlier in the afternoon aboard 1-9 favored Catalina Cruiser, jockey Joel Rosario made his trip West even more worthwhile as he rallied 5-2 betting choice Mucho Unusual from last place to capture the Grade II $200,000 San Clemente Stakes for three-year-old fillies Saturday.

Outrun in the early stages of the one-mile grass event, Rosario cut loose Mucho Unusual on the far turn, swung wide to rally entering the stretch and collared another late-runner, 17-1 Apache Princess, in the final yards to win by a neck in 1:34.66.

Apache Princess, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, was three-quarters of a length ahead of Over Emphasize, with Keeper Ofthe Stars, the 5-2 second choice, fourth in the field of ten fillies.

Mucho Unusual, owned and bred in California by George Krikorian and trained by Tim Yakteen, returned $7, $4 and $3.40 while earning $120,000 with her fourth victory in only seven outings. Apache Princess paid $11.80 and $7.20, while Over Emphisize returned $4.60 to show.

In the $99,164 Daisycutter Handicap, a supporting feature on the Saturday card, Painting Corners and jockey Flavien Prat held off the challenge of 6-5 favored S Y Sky and then survived a stewards’ inquiry to win the five furlong sprint over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

Drayden Van Dyke, who rode S Y Sky, lodged a claim of foul, alleging stretch interference. However, the stewards disallowed the claim after reviewing videotape of the stretch run.

Painting Corners, owned by Altamira Stable and Slam Dunk Racing and trained by Peter Miller, won by three-quarters of a length in :56.21. S Y Sky was a half-length in front of Just Grazed Me in the field of nine grass sprinters. The winner, a daughter of Pleasant Strike, paid $12.40 while earning first money of $53,760 with her seventh win in 20 starts.


JOEL ROSARIO (Mucho Unusual, winner) – “She just didn’t show me a lot (of speed) early, so I let her do her thing away from there. On the backside, she wanted to go, so we went after them. Turning for home I thought about going down inside, but she was making up ground and I didn’t want to chance it. She had that nice acceleration through the stretch and we got it.  I love it here at Del Mar.“ (The rider forsook his usual riding post at Saratoga to ride today at Del Mar. In the process, he missed a dark day at The Spa because of excessive heat and won both graded stakes at Del Mar.)

KENT DESORMEAUX (Apache Princess, second) – “I was on a nice horse and I moved too soon. It’s on me.”

ALONSO QUINONEZ (Over Emphasize, third) – “She put in a good try.”

TIM YAKTEEN (Mucho Unusual, winner) – “I left it (race tactics) up to Joel, but I was just as surprised as everybody else that she was as far back as she was. She was doing really well and I conveyed that to Joel in the paddock. We’re really pleased with her effort. Things have been going according to plan and this is one industry where that doesn’t often happen. The prep race at Santa Anita set her up well for this and this should set her up well for the (Del Mar) Oaks.”


FRACTIONS:  :22.72  :46.50  1:10.84  1:22.80  1:34.66

The stakes win was the second of the meet for rider Rosario (he won the earlier San Diego Handicap on Catalina Cruiser), but his first in the San Clemente Stakes. He now has 28 stakes wins at Del Mar.

The stakes win was the first of the meet for trainer Yakteen and his first in the San Clemente. He now has five stakes wins at Del Mar.

The winning owner (and breeder) is George Krikorian of Torrance, Ca. He had previously won the Fleet Treat Stakes with Hollywood Hills Thursday.

Del Mar Daily Results and Activity

Results

Saturday, July 20
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Starter Allowance – $50,000 $36,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Claiming – $40,000 $42,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 San Diego H. $200,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Maiden Special Weight $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Daisycutter H. $85,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 8 San Clemente S. $200,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 9 Maiden Special Weight $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $64,000 Overnight Overnight



Early Entries

Thursday, July 25 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 2 Claiming – $32,000 $35,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $80,000 $36,000
Race 4 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 5 Claiming – $8,000 $21,000
Race 6 Allowance Optional Claiming – $20,000 $64,000
Race 7 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $32,000

Final Entries

Sunday, July 21
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $16,000 $21,000
Race 2 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $21,000
Race 4 Eddie Read S. $250,000
Race 5 Claiming – $16,000 $28,000
Race 6 Wickerr S. $85,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 8 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $64,000

DELMAR NEWS

SAN CLEMENTE CONDITIONS LOOK RIGHT FOR MUCHO UNUSUAL

George Krikorian’s 3-year-old filly Mucho Unusual is 2-for-2 since being switched to turf racing at the one-mile distance early this year at Santa Anita.

So it’s not surprising that the daughter of Mucho Macho Man out of the Unusual Heat mare Not Unusual, is being given a lot of respect going into Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 San Clemente Stakes. The San Clemente’s conditions – 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course – couldn’t be more ideal for Mucho Unusual considering her wins in the California Cup Oaks in February and an allowance event in June.

Joel Rosario, aboard for the three-length Cal Cup score on a course  rated “good,” returns to the irons Saturday. Flavien Prat piloted the win, by a head, in June.

She came out of the allowance race that we used as a prep for the San Clemente in excellent shape and she’s in good form since we brought her down here,” trainer Tim Yakteen said Friday morning. “The race comes up very competitive, so it’s in Joel’s hands.

“There’s a decent amount of pace in the race and Joel will figure it out. He’ll break and play it by ear. It depends on how the other speed horses break. He’ll make his call at that point.

“But we couldn’t be happier with the way she’s training and we’re hoping that she runs the same race, or a little bit better than her previous and she should be right there in the mix of things.”

A win by Mucho Unusual would be the second stakes of the meeting for Krikorian. His Hollywood Hills prevailed in Thursday’s Fleet Treat.

Mucho Unusual’s racing debut was a runner-up effort in the Generous Portion Stakes for California breds here during the final week of the 2018 summer season. She enters the San Clemente, often a stepping stone to the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in August, with three wins and two seconds in six career starts and earnings of $252,680.

The field from the rail: Keeper Ofthe Stars (Rafael Bejarano, 12-1), Seranitsa (Ruben Fuentes, 8-1), Mucho Unusual (Joel Rosario, 7-2), Devils Dance (Jorge Velez, 20-1), Apache Princess (Kent Desormeaux, 8-1), Over Emphasize (Alonso Quinonez, 8-1), Harmless (Abel Cedillo, 20-1), Stillwater Cove (Victor Espinoza, 5-2), Maxim Rate (Drayden Van Dyke, 3-1) and Kalliniki (Flavien Prat, 20-1).

The San Clemente goes as the eighth on a 10-race card starting at 2 p.m.


EURTON’S CORE BELIEFS: A STRONG SAN DIEGO CONTENDER

Justifiably, defending race champion Catalina Cruiser commands attention above all others, and designation as the 1-to-2 morning line favorite while drawing the No. 1 post, for Satuday’s Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap.

But standing just to the outside of  Catalina Cruiser waiting for the gates to open will be Gary S. Broad’s Core Beliefs, a two-time graded stakes winner and earner of $873,011 who ranks, with 2018 San Diego runner-up Dr. Dorr, as a potential upsetter.

A 4-year-old son of Quality Road acquired for $350,000 in March of 2017, Core Beliefs recouped nearly double his purchase price with a 2018 campaign highlighted by a spring/summer run in which he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby and second in the Peter Pan at Belmont Park before winning the Ohio Derby. A victory in the New Orleans Handicap in his 2019 debut in March and sixth of seven in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita served as prelude to the San Diego.

“His works have been pretty good and he’s doing very well,” trainer Peter Eurton said Friday morning while conceding that the task for Core Beliefs looks formidable.

“Catalina Cruiser is a tough horse,” Eurton said.  “If somebody decides to go with him and soften him up that might help, but if  he catches an easy lead he’ll be tough to beat. And I don’t see too much speed in there.”

The field from the rail: Catalina Cruiser (Joel Rosario, 1-2), Core Beliefs (Flavien Prat, 5-1), Higher Power (Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1), Draft Pick (Martin Garcia, 8-1), Mongolian Groom (Abel Cedillo, 15-1) and Dr. Dorr (Rafael Bejarano, 4-1).

The San Diego goes as the fourth on a 10-race card.


CONTENTION RUNS DEEP IN SUNDAY’S EDDIE READ

Defending race champion Catapult will break from the No. 3 post in a field of six for Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes. A 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy owned by Woodford Racing and trained by John Sadler, Catapult was installed as the  2-1 choice in oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line, issued  Friday, but will have three competitors with opening odds in the 5-2 or 7-2 range to the immediate outside.

The field from rail for the 1 1/8-mile turf event:  Ohio (Ruben Fuentes. 6-1), Ritzy A.P. (Martin Garcia, 15-1), Catapult (Drayden Van Dyke, 2-1), Sharp Samurai (Victor Espinoza, 5-2), Marckie’s Water (Tiago Pereira, 7-2) and Bowies Hero (Flavien Prat, 7-2).


ENTERING HIS 8TH DECADE AT DEL MAR, McANALLY EYES WICKERR

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally is set to inaugurate the start of his eighth decade at Del Mar when he sends out Le Ken in the $85,000 added Wickerr Stakes on Sunday.

McAnally, who celebrated his 87th birthday on July 11, was on site in 1948 as a teenager working for his uncle, trainer Reggie Cornell. McAnally started training on his own in 1958 and recorded his first Del Mar stakes win in 1961 with Donut King in the CTBA Sales Stakes. His stakes win total here has grown to 77, second all time behind Bob Baffert (128) and ahead of Charlie Whittingham (74).

Of Le Ken, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred, McAnally said: “He’ll be a long shot, but if he gets through (traffic) he could do well. But it’s not an easy race. He comes from behind, so you’ve got to wait with him and hope to  get lucky and get through. All we can do is try.”

Stakes win No. 75 here for McAnally, the one that moved him past Whittingham, came with Suggestive Boy in the 2012 Wickerr. He since added the 2013 Adoration (Charm the Maker) and 2014 Yellow Ribbon (Miss Serendipity).

The Wickerr field from the rail: Le Ken (Geovanni Franco, 10-1), Restrainedvengence (Evin Roman, 30-1), Law Abidin Citizen (Tiago Pereira, 5-1), Higher Power (Drayden Van Dyke, 5-1), Bombard (Flavien Prat, 3-1), Souter (Norberto Arroyo, Jr., 4-1), Blended Citizen (Rafael Bejarano, 8-1), Tizzarunner (Ruben Fuentes, 10-1) and Double Touch (Alonso Quinonez, 12-1).


RIDERS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR PDJF IN CONJUNCTION WITH “PHOTO DAY”

Del Mar’s jockeys will join together Saturday to take photos, sign autographs and collect donations for a cause near and dear to their hearts – the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund (PDJF).

The event unfolds in its usual spot – alongside the large fountain in the middle of Plaza de Mexico – from noon to 1:15 p.m. and will feature many of the riders currently tacking up at the shore oval. It is known as “Jockey Photo Day,” a Del Mar tradition that goes back 26 years. But in addition to the smiles and the friendly photos, the jocks are willing to sign an Opening Day photo of the whole colony for a donation to the PDJF.

Fans are encouraged to bring their phones and their smiles for a session with some of the best riders in the world. A chance to contribute to the PDJF – a most worthy cause – adds a nice extra to the annual event.


CLOSERS — The Red Cross will be conducting a blood drive Sunday, July 21, inside the Mission Tower Building from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Registration will be in the Plaza de Mexico and donations from up to 75 people can be taken …Selected works from 170 officially timed Friday morning: Amalfi Sunrise (5f, 1:01.20), Flor de La Mar (5f, 1:01.00), Just a Smidge (5f, 1:01.60), Schrodinger (5f, :59.80).

Ahimsa, Blanc Win Osunitas Stakes

Ahimsa © Benoit Photo

Cleverly rated on the lead by veteran jockey Brice Blanc, 2-1 favored Ahimsa won in wire-to-wire fashion Friday in the featured $90,904 Osunitas Stakes for older fillies and mares.

Ahimsa, a daughter of Animal Kingdom owned by Three Great Sons and Hughes and trained by Peter Eurton, shook off nearby rivals in the upper stretch and then had enough left to stave off the late stretch challenge of 10-1 longshot Achira, winning by a convincing length and one-half at the wire. Time for the mile and one-sixteenth on the grass was 1:41.47.

Achira, piloted by Mario Gutierrez, held second by a half-length over Paved, with Zaffinah fourth in the field of nine distaff runners.

Earning $53,700 with her fourth victory in eight starts, Ahimsa returned $6.40, $3.80 and
$3.20. Runner-up Achira paid $8.20 and $5.40, while Paved returned $4 to show.

There were two perfect tickets in Friday’s Pick Six and each paid $62,775. The total pool was $207,195 with a carryover from Thursday of $31,906 and $175,289 in ”new” money bet into the pool Friday.

Del Mar Daily Results and Activity

Results

Friday, July 19
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $32,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Claiming – $16,000 $21,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Allowance Optional Claiming – $20,000 $64,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $80,000 $64,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $61,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Osunitas S. $85,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 8 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $21,000 Overnight Overnight



Early Entries

Sunday, July 21 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $16,000 $21,000
Race 2 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $21,000
Race 4 Eddie Read S. $250,000
Race 5 Claiming – $16,000 $28,000
Race 6 Wickerr S. $85,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 8 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $64,000
Wednesday, July 24 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Allowance Optional Claiming – $100,000 $70,000
Race 2 Claiming – $8,000 $21,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $32,000
Race 4 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 5 Starter Allowance – $50,000 $36,000
Race 6 Cougar II H. $100,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000

Final Entries

Saturday, July 20
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Starter Allowance – $50,000 $36,000
Race 2 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 3 Claiming – $40,000 $42,000
Race 4 San Diego H. $200,000
Race 5 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 6 Daisycutter H. $85,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 8 San Clemente S. $200,000
Race 9 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $64,000

Del Mar Daily Results and Activity

Results

Thursday, July 18
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $150,000 $43,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $62,500 $33,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Claiming – $16,000 $28,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $32,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Claiming – $40,000 $42,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Fleet Treat S. $150,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming – $80,000 $64,000 Overnight Overnight



Early Entries

Saturday, July 20 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Starter Allowance – $50,000 $36,000
Race 2 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 3 Claiming – $40,000 $42,000
Race 4 San Diego H. $200,000
Race 5 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 6 Daisycutter H. $85,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 8 San Clemente S. $200,000
Race 9 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $64,000
Sunday, July 21 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $16,000 $21,000
Race 2 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $21,000
Race 4 Eddie Read S. $250,000
Race 5 Claiming – $16,000 $28,000
Race 6 Wickerr S. $85,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 8 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $64,000

Final Entries

Friday, July 19
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $32,000
Race 2 Claiming – $16,000 $21,000
Race 3 Allowance Optional Claiming – $20,000 $64,000
Race 4 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $67,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $80,000 $64,000
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $61,000
Race 7 Osunitas S. $85,000
Race 8 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $21,000

DEL MAR NEWS

Catalina Cruiser © Benoit Photo

FIVE TO FACE CATALINA CRUISER IN SAN DIEGO HANDICAP

Hronis Racing’s Catalina Cruiser, primed for his title defense in Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap will face five challengers in the 1 1/16-mile event that is the main stepping stone to the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on August 17.

“We had him (Catalina Cruiser) out this morning, he’s looking good and we’re excited to have him running here again,” trainer John Sadler said early Wednesday morning.

Post positions were to be drawn in the afternoon, but the field beyond Catalina Cruiser will consist of, alphabetically, Core Beliefs, Dr. Dorr, Draft Pick, Higher Power and Mongolian Groom.

Catalina Cruiser won the 2018 San Diego as a stand-in for stablemate Accelerate then came back to take the Pat O’Brien Stakes to secure the Top Sprinter title of the meet and set his Del Mar record at 2-0. The chestnut 5-year-old son of Union Rags made his 2019 debut with a stretch-rallying win in the True North Handicap on June 7 and has had four workouts since then at Santa Anita.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, whose only San Diego Handicap win came with Fed Biz in 2014, nominated standouts American Anthem, McKinzie and Dr. Dorr to the race and opted to go with Dr. Dorr somewhat surprisingly after sending both McKinzie and Dr. Dorr through workouts Wednesday morning.

McKinzie, second in the Met Mile at Belmont on June 8, went five furlongs in a bullet :59 flat under Joe Talamo. Del Mar clockers had McKinzie galloping out to six furlongs in 1:12.0. Dr. Dorr went four furlongs in a bullet :47.20 under Drayden Van Dyke.

Dr. Dorr, owned by Baffert’s wife Jill, has five wins from 17 career starts and earnings of $512,320. The 6-year-old gelded son of Lookin At Lucky chased Catalina Cruiser home in last year’s San Diego, finishing 6 ¾ lengths behind.

In Saturday’s other major stakes, the Grade II $200,000 San Clemente Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, a field of nine was entered. In alphabetical order, with trainers in parentheses consists of: Apache Princess (J. Keith Desormeaux), Devil’s Dance (Craig Lewis), Harmless (R.B. Hess, Jr.,), Keeper Ofthe Stars (Jonathan Wong), Lady Prancealot (Richard Baltas), Maxim Rate (Simon Callaghan), Mucho Unusual (Tim Yakteen), Over Emphasize (Michael McCarthy), Seranitsa (Neil Drysdale) and Stillwater Cove (Wesley Ward).


MILLER AND VAN DYKE BACK TO DEFEND 2018 TRAINER, JOCKEY TITLES

Peter Miller, runaway winner of the 2018 summer training title, and Drayden Van Dyke, who won a hard-fought battle for the jockey crown from Flavien Prat, are back to face difficult challenges to repeat. Or, if you want to count fall meeting titles, fourpeat for Miller and threepeat for Van Dyke.

Miller, the 2017 fall champion before the 2018 sweep, said earlier this week that circumstances are quite different from the ones that enabled previous Del Mar successes.

“I’m really excited to be back,” Miller said earlier this week. “I only live 10 minutes from here and I’ve always had a lot of success, good memories and good times here since I was a kid. This is my Disneyland.

“But it does feel different this year. I’m not going to be as busy, not as active, and I’m not shooting for leading trainer or anything like that.”

Miller shipped one-third of his 75-horse stable to Kentucky during the trying times during the Santa Anita winter/spring meet and doesn’t have any plans for a mass return.

“That’s going to hurt our presence here, that’s reality,” Miller conceded. “So, I don’t think I can shoot to be leading trainer. Of course, I didn’t think I could last year either.”

Miller took the lead in the trainer standings early on and finished with 31 wins from 116 starters, 10 more wins than Doug O’Neill managed from 156 representatives.

Van Dyke, 24, notched his first Southern California riding title, 42-37 over Prat with a solid effort throughout the meeting and a strong finish after Prat incurred a suspension.

But 2019 has belonged to Prat. The 26-year-old native of France, thanks in large part to a victory by disqualification aboard Country House in the Kentucky Derby and an outright one aboard One Bad Boy for trainer Richard Baltas in the Queen’s Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, ranks seventh in the country with 90 wins from 389 starters and more than $9.4 million in purse earnings. Van Dyke ranks 23rd with  45 wins from 288 starts and more than $3.7 million in earnings.

“The Santa Anita meeting was a disaster for everyone, but because of the situation there we were able to travel more and score some big wins,” Derek Lawson, Prat’s agent said. “He became a father last November and it’s been gratifying to see how he’s matured as a result of that and handled everything that’s happened as professionally as he always has.”


WHERE ARE THEY NOW, UPDATING 2018 SUMMER CHAMPIONS

Accelerate, the Horse of the Meeting and Top Older Horse of the 2018 Del Mar summer, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and an Eclipse Award in the Older Male category. According to plan, the Pacific Classic champion made one final start in the Pegasus Cup in January before retiring to stud at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.

A rundown of the other 2018 summer season champions:

Older Filly or Mare Unique Bella – Retired in October to the Lexington, Ky., farm of owner Don Alberto Stables to begin career as a broodmare.

Sprinter Catalina Cruiser – Active; Won the True North Stakes in June at Belmont Park in his 2019 racing debut and is scheduled to defend his title in Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap after winning that race and the Pat O’Brien in 2018.

Grass Horse Catapult – 0-for-3 in 2019, all in Grade I Stakes, among them a nose loss to Ohio in the Kilroe Mile; Targeted to defend his title in Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes.

3-Year-Old Filly Fatale Bere – Retired to Japan after being sold for $700,000 late in 2018.

3-Year-Old Ride a Comet – Unraced since shipping in from the East for trainer Mark Casse to win the Del Mar Derby.

2-Year-Old Filly Bellafina – In the midst of a standout 3-year-old season, winning the Santa Anita Oaks and finishing fifth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks.

2-Year-Old Game Winner – Finished 2018 with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to become the early Kentucky Derby favorite and finished fifth in the wet-and-wild Run for the Roses; returned with an easy victory in the Los Alamitos Derby last Saturday and will train at Del Mar for a potential next start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.


AHIMSA FAVORED IN FIELD OF NINE FOR FRIDAY’S OSUNITAS STAKES

Ahimsa drew the inside post and was established as the 7-2 morning line favorite for Friday’s featured $85,000 Osunitas Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

Ahimsa, trained by Peter Eurton, will be making her third start of 2019 and first since a front-running third-place finish, beaten only 1 ½ lengths by Vasilika, in the Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita on May 27.

The field from the rail: Ahimsa (Brice Blanc, 7-2), Achira (Mario Gutierrez, 15-1), Paved (Ruben Fuentes, 9-2), Supercommittee (Edwin Maldonado, 6-1), Zaffinah (Rafael Bejarano, 5-1), Streak Of Luck (Mike Smith, 4-1), Ippodamia’s Girl (Norberto Arroyo, Jr., 5-1) Trustini (Aaron Gryder, 20-1) and Don’t Blame Judy (Victor Espinoza, 8-1).

The Osunitas goes as the seventh on an eight-race card for the first Four O’Clock Friday program of the meeting.


CLOSERS – A crowd of 44,907 filled the stands on opening day of the 2009 meeting, 10 years ago, then an on-track Del Mar record. It was topped in 2010, 2011 and 2012, with the 47,339 of 2012 standing as the current high mark …Selected works from 115 officially timed Wednesday morning: Dr. Dorr (4f, :47.20), McKinzie (5f, :59.00), Paradise Woods (5f, 1:01.60), Immediate Impact  (6f, 1:13.00) … Immediate Impact is a half sister to champion Arrogate … Correction: Due to a mathematical error, Tuesday’s Stable Notes shorted today’s card by 20 entries. The correct figure is 101, not the 81 noted here.

Jasikan Rallies to Win Runhappy Oceanside Stakes

Jasikan © Benoit Photo

Irish-bred Jasikan, the 9-5 favorite in a field of 12 three-year-olds, rallied from last place to win the featured $117,357 Runhappy Oceanside Stakes on opening-day of the 2019 Del Mar summer racing season Wednesday.

Outrun in the early stages of the one-mile contest over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course, Jasikan responded to the urging of jockey Flavien Prat to nose out Nolde at the wire after a long, sustained run.  Rijeka was third, a length and one-half farther back, with Golden Birthday fourth.

Owned by Hronis Racing and trained by John Sadler, Jasikan, a son of Bated Breath, stepped the distance in 1:34.93 and returned $5.80, $3.60 and $2.80 while earning $68,940 with his third success in five outings. The colt’s bankroll now is $131,653.

Nolde, who took the lead entering the stretch under jockey Victor Espinoza only to be nosed out at the finish, paid $5 and $3.80, while Rijeka returned $6.60.

Jasikan provided Prat with his second win of the afternoon, the rider also taking the second race aboard United at $5.60. He made it a triple in the day’s tenth race finale, winning with Give Me The Lute at $7.20. Doubling Wednesday was Rafael Bejarano, scoring on Julius in the first at $3.60 and Facts Matter, $7.80, in the fourth.


FLAVIEN PRAT (Jasikan, winner) – “I had the good trip. I knew my horse had great acceleration and I rode him like he was the best horse. We went wide late, but we had no choice. You’re not going to get down inside when you come from the back. But he kicked and it turned out right.”

VICTOR ESPINOZA (Nolde, second) – “Good race for him; he ran good. But I think we could have won it. He made the lead and he just waited a little bit. Then that other horse (Jasikan) came outside and beat us. If he came up next to my horse, I think he (Nolde) digs back in. I think that (incident) may have cost me the race.”

RUBEN FUENTES (Rijeka, third) – “I had to steady him a bit at the three-eighths (pole), but other than that it was a good trip. He ran really well.”

JOHN SADLER (Jasikan, winner) – “I didn’t sleep too well last night because I set the bar really high last year. A little nervous, Day One trepidation, but our other horses ran well today and this one got the job done as the favorite, so we’re delighted. He actually broke better today. His last race he broke really slow, today he broke regular slow. He’s just not a horse that’s very good from the gate, but he’s got a lovely turn of foot and as you saw he looped the field and came from way back. It feels great to be back here at Del Mar. I’ve been coming here for a lot of years (this is his 41st season at Del Mar) and it’s a very good feeling. The place is beautiful and the weather’s great.”


FRACTIONS:  :23.14  :47.18  1:11.13  1:23.23  1:34.93

The stakes win was the first of the meet for rider Prat and also his first in the Oceanside. He now has 34 stakes wins at Del Mar.

The stakes win was the first of the meet for trainer Sadler, but his fifth in the Oceanside. He now has 68 stakes wins at Del Mar, fifth most among all trainers.

The winner is owned by Hronis Racing, the nom du course of Kosta and Pete Hronis of Delano, CA.

Spectacular White Bloom Wins Grand Prize in 25th Annual Hats Contest

Allison Karlstrand © Benoit Photo

The 25th annual Opening Day Hats Contest at Del Mar drew more than 300 contestants. Categories included Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator, Best Flowers, Best Racing Theme and Most Outrageous. Contestants competed for more than $6,000 in cash and prizes.

The Grand Prize winner was Allison Karlstrand of Capistrano Beach who competed in the Best Flowers category. Karlstrand was awarded a Fairmont Grand Del Mar one-night stay and dinner for two at Addison Restaurant, featuring Chef William Bradley’s multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings, a $300 cash prize, two tickets to the official Opening Day After Pony Party at Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa and Studio Savvy Salon Gift Basket of $500, for a grand total of more than $2,000 in prizes.

Karlstrand wowed the crowd with modern sophistication wearing a single oversized white bloom designed by Arturo Rios.

Paige Fohl of San Juan Capistrano won the category of Best Fascinator tickled our fancy with a playful pink flamingo perched atop her head with a hot pink bedazzled dress to match. Belinda Barry of Walnut Creek won the category of Most Outrageous in her unique creation titled thinking outside the box with exquisite bobbles and plumes. Aubrey Fohl of San Juan Captistrano won the category of Most Glamorous in sheer modern elegance in her golden laurel leaf fascinator with impeccable style that was truly on point. Christina Stutz of San Diego won the category of Best Racing Theme and impressed seasoned track-goers in-the-know with this nod to the old Don Diego clock tower, and the mosaic clock works!

 

From left to right: Most Outrageous contestants Shivan Brean and Belinda Barry, Best Flowers Lauren Donahue and Allison Karlstrand, Most Glamorous Andrea Elam and Aubrey Fohl, Best Fascinator Paige Fohl and Lauren Jenkins, Best Racing Theme Leslie Monroey and Christina Stutz