Del Mar full of intrigue after Week 2

Del Mar full of intrigue after Week 2

August 01, 2017 3:00 AM
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Del Mar can be tough on horseplayers, owners, trainers, jockeys, and casual fans alike. Here are just a few interesting stories from Week 2 down at old Del Mar.

Kaleem Shah, the prominent owner of such standouts as Bayern and Dortmund, put his Graded Stakes winner Aristocratic in Wednesday evening’s Paddock sale hoping to get a nice return for his talented colt.He was disappointed the horse did not meet his reserve and the colt was bought back for $145,000. To compound his frustration, Shah found out when leaving the sale to go to the valet parking lot across from the clubhouse entrance that his car had been stolen.

Trainer Bob Baffert must be scratching his head. Last week, all-time leading money-earner Arrogate failed to fire at 10 cents on the dollar in the Grade II San Diego Handicap. Not to be outdone, 2016 Eclipse Award Champion Drefong returned from a layoff in last Saturday’s Grade I Bing Crosby Handicap as a starting point to a defense of his title. Drefong broke OK from the inside, but as the horses left the seven furlong chute on to the main track, Drefong decided to hang a left hand turn, dropping jockey Mike Smith.Give Drefong credit, as the riderless horse bulled his way up the rail to duel with the leaders throughout before being caught safely on the gallop out. Happy to report Mike Smith is just fine, too.

Horseplayers have been taking it on the chin when backing odds-on favorites. Thru Sunday, horses going off at even money or less are just 2-for-11 at the meet, with $1 million juvenile purchase Tatters to Riches snapping a 0-for-7 start with odds-on horses by winning the opener on Saturday at $3.20.

Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. had a falling out with trainer Peter Miller opening week and it was announced this week he will no longer ride for that leading barn. Obviously disappointed, he fired brother Nelson Arroyo as his agent and will book his own mounts. Misery loves company, I guess.

Jockey Santiago Gonzalez claimed foul when beaten a nose aboard Hard Aces in the Cougar II Handicap last Wednesday. When the stewards looked at the tape, they determined Gonzalez was at fault for drifting out with Hard Aces in the stretch and promptly gave him a three-day suspension. Look for Gonzalez to have a nice tan when he gets back in the saddle this Saturday after being forced to sit out Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The track maintenance crew got in on the act on Thursday. The tractors were on the track heading up the stretch from the clubhouse turn when the horses for race 4 came out of the tunnel and on the track.The tractors blocked the stretch from the wire to the first turn, so the horses changed their usual routine and headed around the far turn and up the backstretch to warm up as the tractors completed their maintenance. A dangerous situation was avoided, as any loose horse could have been a disaster with the tractors spread across the track. Let’s hope this situation does not happen again at the meet.

One guy who had karma on his side this week was Gary West. Owner of top 3-year-old prospect West Coast, Gary went to Las Vegas and won the Gold Coast Summer Classic handicapping tournament last weekend. Congratulations to Gary, and here’s hoping his car was in the parking lot when he left the Gold Coast Hotel. Maybe he can give Kaleem Shah a ride home.

Del Mar Week 2

Favorites continue to struggle at the meet, as they are hitting at just a 23.8% clip thus far.

Early speed fared better on the turf when the rails were moved out to the 30 foot setting last week.They are set in that same location on Wednesday and Thursday, so expect that trend to continue until the rails are adjusted once again.

Field size remained strong, but the next couple of weeks could point out any horse shortage problems as most of the horses that raced the first two weeks will likely need a bit more time before they can race again at the meet.

Forty-nine-year-old jockey David Flores called it a career after riding Red Livy to an 8th place finish in Sunday’s second race. Flores won 3,608 races and his mounts earned $153,950,747 in purses. Flores plans to take up breaking and training yearlings at a Florida farm.

Texas Wedge, an impressive 2-year-old debut winner in a $50,000 Maiden-Claimer for trainer Peter Miller opening week, is reported to be generating private purchase offers in the mid-six-figure range from an east coast outfit.

Thru Saturday, there had not been one winning favorite in the Stakes races at Del Mar. Stellar Wind ($3.00) ended that streak in Sunday’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes.

Keep a close eye on the late action on the tote. There have been serious odds changes as the horses load into the gate at Del Mar throughout the meet. Not all of the late action has been successful, but the amount of money it takes to moves those odds up or down a point or two is significant.

There is a single ticket Pick Six Jackpot carryover of $431,293 going into Wednesday’s card.

Top Play

Del Mar this Friday – Race 7: Eckersley (1 post). Turf specialist got stopped cold trying to rally in the stretch May 26, his first start in a year. He adds blinkers, should be dead fit now, and gets a jockey switch to solid turf rider Drayden Van Dyke.