CYPRESS, Calif. –Apprentice jockey Jorge I. Velez earned his second consecutive Los Alamitos riding title while Hall of Famer Bob Baffert led the trainer standings as the Los Angeles County Fair meet concluded Sunday.
The 10-day season was highlighted by an impressive victories by a pair of Baffert-trained fillies- the 3-year-old Flor de La Mar in the Beverly J. Lewis and the 2-year-old Quality Response in the inaugural Phone Chatter – a first local stakes win for trainer Mark Glatt with the streaking Zestful in the Los Alamitos Special and a pair of stakes successes for trainer Doug O’Neill.
The 21-year-old Velez, who won nine races during the Summer Thoroughbred Festival earlier in the year, finished the LACF meet with 14 victories, four more than Assael Espinoza. Martin Garcia finished third with eight wins. Baffert concluded the season with seven wins, one more than O’Neill while Mark Glatt was third with five. The title was the ninth Baffert has either shared or won outright at Los Alamitos since daytime thoroughbred racing returned in 2014.
A daughter of Tiznow owned by Godolphin LLC, Flor de La Mar rallied late under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to capture the Lewis in her first start since a pair of dull graded stakes tries in May in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita.
Eighteen days after clicking in her debut at Del Mar, Quality Response toyed with her opponents under jockey Joe Talamo in the Phone Chatter. The Quality Road filly looks to have a bright future for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. A 4-year-old gelded son of Ghostzapper, Zestful rolled to his sixth win in a row and his 7th of 2019, cruising by six lengths under Talamo in the Special. The victory was the second for Zestful since he was claimed for $40,000 by a partnership that includes Glatt, Denny Haramoto, Sheldon Kawahara and Steven Sobel.
O’Neill earned the first of his two stakes wins at the meet in the E.B. Johnston with Oliver, an improving 3-year-old son of Papa Clem owned by William R. Peeples, then took the inaugural Capote with Raging Whiskey, who rolled home by eight lengths for Pappas Horse Racing Corp. and Charles Bartlett after cutting back in distance and adding blinkers after a one-race absence.
In terms of business, all sources handle in Southern California for the LACF season showed a gain of 2.7%. In total, all sources handle decreased 6.5% – on comparative days – from the 2018 meet, which was 12 days. Daytime thoroughbred racing will return to Los Alamitos Thursday, Dec. 5 with the start of the eight-day Winter meet. Racing will be conducted on a Thursday-Sunday basis through Sunday, Dec. 15. The season will be highlighted by a pair of graded races for 2-year-olds – the Grade I, $300,000 Starlet for fillies and the Grade II, $200,000 Los Alamitos Futurity. Both are at 1 1/16 miles and will be run Saturday, Dec. 7.