“Where the turf meets the surf,
Down at old Del Mar.
Take a train, take a plane, take a car.
There’s a smile on every face,
And a winner in each race,
Where the turf meets the surf at Del Mar.”
Legendary crooner Bing Crosby’s rendition of that familiar tune is played before the first race each day at Del Mar. While the song remains the same, Del Mar for 2020 is going to have a very different look.
Known as a prime social gathering spot each summer, Del Mar will race spectator-free to start the meet as directed under coronavirus protocols by the San Diego County Department of Health.
Del Mar raced six days each week from 1945-2008. In 2009, Del Mar eliminated Mondays and went to five days a week. This year, Del Mar will race just three days a week (Friday through Sunday).
The reduction in racing days corresponds to the lower population of race-ready horses in Southern California. Jockeys Tyler Baze, Joe Talamo, Martin Garcia and Rafael Bejarano have left for other circuits where there are more opportunities to ride.
On the plus side, Del Mar will host its first Kentucky Derby points qualifying race. The postponement of the Kentucky Derby from the first Saturday in May until Sept. 5 will give local horses a chance to earn key qualifying points in the Shared Belief Stakes on August 1. Trainer John Shirreffs is targeting the Shared Belief as the final prep for leading Derby contender Honor A.P.
Maximum Security, the champion three-year-old of 2019, is scheduled to make his first start for trainer Bob Baffert in the San Diego Handicap July 18. Maximum Security was transferred to Baffert after previous trainer Jason Servis was listed among 27 individuals indicted in federal court on doping related charges in March.
There will be no twilight cards this year with first post time scheduled for 2 p.m. daily. Del Mar plans to run 10 races on Fridays and Sundays and conduct 11 races each Saturday.
Keeneland summer meet
Keeneland’s popular spring meet was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. With help from other Kentucky racetracks, Keeneland was able to secure five days of racing for a special summer meet that starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
Many of the important Stakes races usually run in the spring will be run this week, including the Blue Grass Stakes for three-year-olds on Saturday. A full field of 12 is expected for the Blue Grass, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers.
There is a possibility that top three-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver could be in the Blue Grass field when entries are drawn on Wednesday. If she were to win the Blue Grass she would earn enough points to take on the boys in the Kentucky Derby if her connections choose to go in that direction.
Baffert’s second wave
How deep is the Bob Baffert stable?
Nadal, winner of one division of the Arkansas Derby, appeared to be Baffert’s top prospect for the Kentucky Derby until he suffered a condylar fracture in a workout in April and was immediately retired. Charlatan, who won the other division of the Arkansas Derby, was forced off the Kentucky Derby trail after undergoing minor ankle surgery the same month. Previously unbeaten Authentic tasted defeat for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby.
Those setbacks would send most trainers looking for the nearest bridge, but Baffert has found capable replacements in $3.65 million purchase Cezanne and Uncle Chuck.
The former was impressive beating Maidens in his career debut at Santa Anita and showed he can handle two turns in a workmanlike Allowance victory at Los Alamitos July 2. Cezanne will likely get one chance to join the Kentucky Derby party in a Derby prep race to be determined.
Uncle Chuck’s debut Maiden win drew raves. He came right back in last Saturday’s Grade III Los Alamitos Derby, where he tracked the pace before drawing clear from stablemate Thousand Words to win easily. Just as impressive was the way he galloped out far in front of the field.
Uncle Chuck will likely face Honor A.P. if his connections choose the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 1 as his Derby prep, or they can wait a week and take on Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 8.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Keeneland Wednesday, Race 7 – Father G (No. 7). Gelding had a solid sprint comeback at Churchill Downs June 18. He gets a subtle but important class drop, stretches out, and the Drury stable excels with horses second start off a layoff. This looks like a money run.