Del Mar Summer Meet Schedule Announced

The 2017 summer schedule at Del Mar has been released by the San Diego County racetrack and the 36-day season will feature 41 stakes races worth $7.3 million. The summer meet at Del Mar is scheduled to kick off on July 19 and will run through to September 4.

The most prestigious (and richest) day of the meet will take place on August 19. On that day at Del Mar will see the 27th running of the TVG Pacific Classic (G1). Last year’s TVG Pacific Classic saw two-time Horse of the Year winner, and now retired, California Chrome dominate in a five-length victory. The Pacific Classic card will also feature the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (G2T) and the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (G1T).

The summer meet at Del Mar will be a precursor for its fall session and holds extra significance this year with the 34th annual Breeders Cup World Championships being held at Del Mar. Five stake races have been designated as Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races: the TVG Pacific Classic, $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, Del Mark Handicap, and the $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes.

Many of the top horseman around the world will want to enter as many summer races at Del Mar in order to gain extra preparation for their runners pointed towards the Breeders’ Cup, which will take place on November 3rd and 4th.

Del Mar will offer 33 advertised takes with purses ranging from $100,000 to $1 million, and eight overnight stakes each with a purse of $75,000. A total of 21 of the 33 advertised stakes will be graded: six grade one races, 11 grade two races, four grade three races.

“For the most part, this is the traditional Del Mar stakes schedule that’s been a popular presentation for us for the last decade,” said Del Mar Racing Secretary David Jerkens. “Our horsemen know it and like it. Our fans do, too. It’s a case of a perfect racetrack axiom: you stick with a winner.”

The summer meet will kick off on a Wednesday and will feature racing five days each week (Wednesday through Sunday). With the final week being a six-day race week that will run through Labor Day weekend.

Louisiana Derby Eludes Desormeaux Brothers

Hometown Brothers Kent and Keith Desormeaux Look for First Louisiana Derby Win

Last year was ‘magical’ according to jockey Kent Desormeaux. Along with brother Keith, the two became the first brother trainer/jockey tandem to win the Preakness Stakes, following their second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, April 1, the Louisiana natives who grew up in Maurice 2 ½ hours from the Fair Grounds Race Course, will try to win their first Louisiana Derby.

“We are coming home to try to win the signature race of our home state,” Kent said. “This is something that is on our bucket list. I’ve won the Kentucky Derby, the Illinois Derby, the Mississippi Derby and all kinds of derbies. But I’ve never won the Louisiana Derby. This is huge for us. It’s a meaningful race family-wise.”

Desormeaux rode Exaggerator in last year’s Triple Crown races, but did not ride in last year’s Louisiana Derby won by Gun Runner. Desormeaux will ride Sorry Erik in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. Keith Desormeaux claimed Sorry Erik for just $20,000 in early January from a race in Santa Anita.

“To have a claiming horse for that little that potentially can run a big race in a million dollar pre Derby prep (race) is borderline incredible,” Keith said. “It’s been a nice windfall for us.”

Sorry Erik has since won an allowance event. He finished seventh in February in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

“We feel like we’re ahead of the game,” Keith said. “Most people can’t say that with their 3-year old. There’s no pressure on us. We’re a long shot and we understand that. This is fun and we are hoping for the best.”

Keith says about Kent. “There’s not a nervous bone in his body.”

Kent has shown that throughout his career. He’s won three Kentucky Derby’s, one Belmont Stakes and three Preakness Stakes including last year’s win aboard Exaggerator. Kent holds the U.S. record for most races won in a single year with 598 wins in 1989 and doesn’t plan to stop riding until he surpasses New Iberia native Eddie Delahouussaye as the state’s all-time winningest jockey. He has about 400 more victories to reach that goal, which would take him another four years.

“My mission every day is to win a race,” Kent ssaid. “I wake up every day wanting to win because people like winning. If you’re not winning in this game, you’re not too useful. By the time I leave the starting gate (on Saturday), I will have figured out a way to try to win and hopefully that plan comes to fruition.”

The Desormeaux brothers now live in California. But they still look forward to returning to Louisiana even if it’s with a long shot.

“We are just going to do our best,” Keith said. “We get to come home and we get to swing for a million dollars.”

 

Arrogate 2017 Dubai World Cup

Arrogate Wins 2017 Dubai World Cup

The 2017 Dubai World Cup was supposed to be easy going for the gambler. At 2/5, with nobody coming even close on the board, Arrogate was the runaway top choice off the morning line. Gun Runner and Mubtaahj were each 8/1 as second choices, with Hoppertunity valued at nearly double with 15/1 odds of his own. Everyone else was shelled with longshot marks. Essentially, this was a layup.

In fact, this challenge was anything but.

Arrogate broke dead last from the gate after a horrific start. Mike Smith later admitted that he totally missed the bell, and as everyone watched on, Arrogate was playing catch up behind the 14-horse field. The start was so poor that even Bob Baffert had to be holding his breath. “I was thinking, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have brought him. Maybe he’s getting tired,'” the trainer later recounted.

Then something truly remarkable began to unfold. Arrogate began to devour the track, but did it was such grace and confidence that it didn’t even seem real. As the race marched on, so did Arrogate. By the top of the stretch he still had work to do, as Gun Runner had battled all the way with Neolithic for the lead. That’s when Arrogate unleashed his trademark speed in the 2017 Dubai World Cup to take the win. And he made it look so easy.

It’s hard to put what Arrogate has done in the past year in to perspective. The win at the $10 million 2017 Dubai World Cup has now launched him to the top of the historical standings with $17,084,600 in winnings. He has won so many marquee races but the fact that the Triple Crown is not part of it detracts from his standing to mainstream fans. It’s much easier to sell American Pharoah as the “greatest in the modern era” but Arrogate is posting a tremendously difficult case. Should he win the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic as the defending champion, that debate will rage on for the rest of time.

As will Arrogate’s performance in the 2017 Dubai World Cup. Click below to witness it for yourself.

Value Shopping at the Sunland Derby

Sunland Derby Winner Will Qualify for Kentucky Derby

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday, March 26 with the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park, a 1 1/8-mile race in New Mexico that offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. This race is worth watching, as some of the horses may run in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20.

The race has an abundance of speed from the 12 horses entered, and Sunland Park has a tendency to favor front-runners and speed horses. Trainer Bob Baffert, winner of three of the last four editions of this race, saddles one of the favorites in #3 Bronze Age, who has showed tremendous early speed in his first two races before tiring. He stretched out well when going a mile in modest fractions, and now has to carry his speed an additional eighth of a mile against more front-running pressing challengers. .

Shopping for value and betting #10 Balandeen (10-1) should be worth a wager. Balandeen showed significant potential as a 2-year-old, winning a couple of races at Del Mar and Churchill Downs before finishing second behind Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes. He appeared a bit off in form, but Balandeen, like many others, didn’t take to the Delta Downs surface in the Nov. 19 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).

Balandeen was freshened, and the second race was the March 4 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which marked Balandeen’s first race in 3 ½ months. While he could only finish third, the race was clearly a prep for bigger races down the road, and Balandeen even received special permission to continue running past the finish line, essentially turning the race into a “paid workout.”

Now, Balandeen is making his second start off the layoff, and his pedigree suggests that he’ll have no trouble with the distance of the Sunland Derby — his sire (father) is Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and his dam (mother) is Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo. Balandeen is likely sitting on a big effort, and at 10-1 on the morning line, I think he’s worth playing on top and underneath in exotic wagers as well. .

Here’s a thought on how to bet the Sunland Derby for a decent score:

Wagering Strategy on a $32 Budget

$8 to win-place on #10 Balandeen ($16)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 2,3,10 ($8)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 4 ($4)

$1 exacta: 3,10 with 11 ($2)

$1 exacta 10 with 3, 12 ($2)

For a larger bankroll, wager a bit more on #10 Balandeen across the board and tie in with these horses in exacta on top and bottom with #10 Balandeen, and in trifeca’s and superfecta (1,2,3,4,5,12)

 

Mor Spirit Returns to Winner’s Circle

Mor Spirit earned his first win in over 13 months when he took home first place in the $250,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park on March 18. His previous win came in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) Stakes last year, which kickstarted his run to qualifying for the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1). While Mor Spirit’s absence from the winner’s circle was lengthy, he showed indications of a return to his previous winning ways when he finished in second to stablemate Hoppertunity in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) on February 4.

“Heading for home, a horse came up to his outside. He dug in and I just stayed a little busy on him,” said jockey Mike Smith. “Just because it’s his first time here. You’re so close to the crowd here, which is pretty cool, but sometimes it will get a horse looking around a little bit. So I just stayed more or less just after him to keep his attention, and he won very nice today.”

While Shotgun Kowboy set the early pace with fractions of :23.48, :46.63, and 1:10.81 through the first six furlongs, Mor Spirit took over late and crossed the finish line in a time of 1:41.62.

“We were hoping he’d jump well and sit off whoever, and if not, I’d be the aggressor and take the lead,” said Smith. “I was thinking about it for a minute, but I was happy with where I was at and we just went from there. He ran really good—really well today.”

In 11 career starts, Mor Spirit has won four times and came in second in five other races. He has earned $886,400 during his career.

2017 Rebel Stakes

Three Colts Lead 2017 Rebel Stakes Odds

The 2017 Rebel Stakes is boiling down to three of the top contenders in the field, and one of them is about to propel themselves in to Triple Crown contention. Who will it be?

American Anthem will step in as Bob Baffert’s next best horse after the seriously unfortunate leg fracture that Mastery suffered. While a bonafide threat, American Anthem is a step behind in terms of talent. He fell way back of Gormley in the Sham Stakes and I just don’t know if he has the closing effort to really put this one away with so many gunning for top honours.

My preference is Royal Mo, who was last out dusting the field at the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. I just like horses that have a proven desire to win races. There are too many in this field who were last out finishing as a runner-up. Royal Mo carries 9/2 odds.

Malagacy is the dark horse in the 2017 Rebel Stakes. He broke his maiden and won an allowance at Gulfstream, but hasn’t competed in a stakes race yet. To be frank, at this point in the derby trail, new shooting hopefuls like Malagacy don’t usually fare that well. His 3/1 odds are certainly worthy of a gander, but I’d leave this bet alone until he’s proven himself.

I don’t like anyone else in the field as a contender to steal the 2017 Rebel Stakes either. I had previously liked Petrov, but three straight showings as a 2nd place finisher have worn out his welcome at my doorstep. Same goes for Uncontested and Untrapped. I’m not touching any of the longshots. At best, they’re a bunch of lottery tickets.

For my money, I’d prefer to invest in what I know and I know that Royal Mo is a proven commodity.

2017 Rebel Stakes – Saturday, March 18th at Oaklawn Park
1 1/16th Miles – Three Year Olds – $900,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Silver Bullion (KY) Ramon A. Vazquez 115 D. Wayne Lukas 30/1
2 Uncontested (KY) Channing Hill 122 Wayne M. Catalano 10/1
3 Sonneteer (KY) Richard E. Eramia 115 J. Keith Desormeaux 30/1
4 Petrov (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 115 Ron Moquett 9/2
5 Untrapped (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 115 Steven M. Asmussen 8/1
6 Malagacy (KY) Javier Castellano 115 Todd A. Pletcher 4/1
7 American Anthem (KY) Mike E. Smith 115 Bob Baffert 2/1
8 Silver Dust (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 115 Randy L. Morse 15/1
9 Appalachian Gem (KY) Gary L. Stevens 115 Jack C. Van Berg 30/1
10 Royal Mo (KY) Victor Espinoza 122 John A. Shirreffs 9/2
11 Lookin At Lee (KY) Ricardo Santana, Jr. 117 Steven M. Asmussen 15/1

Gary Stevens is Back

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who has won over 5,000 races during his career that started back in 1979, made his return to the track earlier this month. Stevens had been missing from the racetrack since undergoing hip replacement surgery on December 21.

The 54-year-old Stevens’ comeback took place on March 9 at Santa Anita Park in a six-furlong $38,0000 claiming race on top of Oopper Wallah. The duo finished in second place. He later went on to ride Jabber Now to a sixth-place finish in a $54,000 maiden special weight race on the same card.

“It felt great, but I’m a little winded right now,” said Stevens, following the runner-up finish to A.P. Zona. “He put me right in the race and I had to ride him there and I thought he might get up.”

When asked how his hip held up following the race, Stevens said he felt “nothing” and had an inkling he’d only be out a few weeks following surgery.

“I’ve tested it pretty good (during morning workouts),” said Stevens. “It really is (rewarding). It was a lot of hard work. I didn’t know (if I would be able to come back).
“You never know, but about the third week after the surgery, there was no doubt. After the surgery it was just instant relief.”

This was the second time Stevens made a comeback following a replacement surgery. In 2014, the 1998 Eclipse Outstanding Jockey award winner underwent knee replacement surgery. In his return to the track, he won 31 graded stakes races in 2015-2016.

Stakes Records Fall

Tapwrit Part of Stakes-Record Races over Weekend

Racing continues coast to coast, and while many fans focus on the Kentucky Derby trail and Triple Crown races, there are plenty of exciting and meaningful races with more stakes records being set last weekend.

Tapwrit (6/5, pictured) wowed fans in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), showing his Triple Crown potential as he gathered up his competitors on the far turn and galloped home an easy 4 ½ length winner for jockey Jose Ortiz. The gray son of Tapit covered 1 1/16 miles in a record time of 1:42.36 to break the stakes race record set by Destin last year.

Also at Tampa Bay Downs, Stanford (2/5) led from the start to win Saturday’s $100,000 Challenger, covering 1 1/16 miles in a track-record time of 1:41.75 with John Velazquez riding home the winner by 3 ¼ lengths.

A third record nearly fell at Tampa Bay Saturday when new York-bred Fifty Five (4/1) came rallying from the back of the pack to roll past the leaders in the deep stretch and win the $200,000 Grade III Florida Oaks by a neck over the odds-on favorite, La Coronel.

In Saturday’s turf sprint at Gulfstream, Pay any Price (5/1) led from the start in the $75,000 Silks Run Stakes and got home by 3 1/4 lengths in front of odds-on favorite Power Alert. The 7-year-old Pay Any Price set a turf course-record time of 53.61 seconds over 5 furlongs.

And the sad news of the racing weekend happened in the other Road to the Roses qualifying race when one of the top Kentucky Derby favorites, Mastery, sustained a fracture of his left front leg following his victory in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes. Jockey Mike Smith unsaddled Mastery shortly after his 6 ½-length win, and the Candy Ride colt was loaded into an ambulance.

Trainer Bob Baffert said, “You see what he did today was just incredible and puts him as the best 3-year-old in the nation.”

Unfortunately, we won’t see Mastery on the Triple Crown trail following the injury and surgery.

Unique Bella Wins Again

Unique Bella is the current favorite to win this year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and she showed why in her $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) 2 1/2 lengths win. It was Unique Bella’s fourth straight open-lengths win.

Previously, Unique Bella won her maiden by 10 1/4 lengths and followed that up with a 7 1/2-length victory in the Santa Ynez (G2) and a 8 3/4-length win in the Las Virgenes (G2).

“We have a very talented filly and we’d like to look at the Kentucky Oaks,” said legendary trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “We like to take one step at a time. We’d like to go for the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), and if we win or do well, then we’ll try to go to Kentucky.”

Going into the race as the 1-9 favorite, Unique Bella started off sluggish, trailing early pacesetters Tap It All and Spooky Woods. She eventually took the lead after the first turn and set fractions of :23.35 and :46.23 after the first quarter and half-mile, respectively. Her lead was as big as five lengths after the first six furlongs and that’s when eventual runner-up Abel Tasman made a push from the back. It wasn’t enough though as Unique Bella went on to win in a time of 1:10.70.

“It was pretty eventful,” said jockey Mike Smith. “Sometimes you just stay out of the way of the good ones and they’ll run for you. That’s pretty much what I did today.”

Unique Bella paid $2.20, $2.10, and $2.10 for the win. In five career starts, Unique Bella has won four and has earned $342,400.

Can Girvin Get the Kentucky Derby Distance?

Girvin Not a Likely Derby Contender, but Preakness a Possibility

Girvin went to post in the Feb. 25 Risen Star Stakes at 8-1 odds. He had been training great and showed his improvement and speed with a strong closing kick to win the Grade II Risen Star race and secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with 50 qualifying points on the Road to the Roses. Girvin was able to save ground along the rail, and his final time of 1:43.08 seconds at the Fair Grounds Race Course was the third fastest in the 1 1/16 mile Risen Star in the past 15 runnings of the race.

As Girvin prepares for his final Derby prep in the Louisiana Derby April 1, he’ll be asked to carry his jockey Brian Hernandez a bit further to the finish – 1 1/8 miles. From there, the questions will be asked as to whether Girvin can get the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles faster than his 19 rivals in the Kentucky Derby.

A look at the past and pedigree can provide us of his potential and whether we can profit from Girvin’s experience. We always want to project improvement for a 3-year old as he makes a bid in the Derby and on the Triple Crown trail. The Preakness Stakes could follow for Girvin, and that’s a distance of 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico.

Girvin’s sire is Tale of Ekati, who won the Belmont Futurity as a 2-year-old and was a top miler at age 3 and 4. He did win the 2008 Wood Memorial going 1 1/8, and followed with a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby as a big longshot. The Wood Memorial was his only win beyond a mile and the Canadian-bred finished his career with 5 wins and 1 place in 15 starts.

Girvin’s dam is Catch a Moon, and his damsire Malibu Moon was the son of A.P. Indy, who won 8 of 11 starts including the 1992 Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in his final race. Malibu Moon’s career was cut short by a slab fracture of his right knee, but Malibu Moon is a top-10 ranked sire by earnings.

Girvin’s pedigree indicates that 1 1/8 miles could be at the top of his scope, making a Kentucky Derby victory unlikely. Girvin is an average sized colt but does possess a running style and stride fit to stretch out. In the last nine years, four colts won both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, but only one placed in the Kentucky Derby and that was last year when Gun Runner finished third. For Girvin to get on the top of our radar to win or place in the Derby, he’ll have to show continued improvement and run a huge race against a stronger field in the Louisiana Derby.