Putting away those Hawaiian shirts as we recap Del Mar's meet

Putting away those Hawaiian shirts as we recap Del Mar's meet

November 28, 2017 3:04 AM
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Reluctantly, the flip flops are in the garage. The Hawaiian shirts are neatly folded and back in the closet. And the new sun screen will have to wait until next summer. Del Mar has come to a successful end for 2017.

There should be many trickle-down positive effects from a very successful Del Mar fall meeting. Consider the following:

East Coast shippers dominated the Turf Festival during Thanksgiving weekend, winning the Hollywood Turf Cup (Manitoulin), the Hollywood Derby (Mo Town), the Jimmy Durante Stakes (Daddy is a Legend), the Matriarch (Off Limits), and the Cecil B. DeMille (Analyze It). Many horsemen were exposed to Del Mar for the first time and those wins proved their horses stack up well with the Southern California turf colony. Based on these results it could be possible to see more eastern Stakes horses come out to California.

Field size for the fall meet is expected to end up at approximately 8.5 horses per race, a very positive number for racing at this time of the year. With the Del Mar surfaces being kind overall to the horses, this should bode well for the horse population as they move on to Los Alamitos and Santa Anita.

Del Mar put on a great Breeders’ Cup, showing the facility can manage a large crowd in a way that enables horseplayers to get bets down, get something to eat, and enjoy the championship events. They proved they deserve a chance to host the Breeders’ Cup again soon.

The Breeders’ Cup experience and the fall meet overall has led to some east coast barns deciding to keep a string of horses at Santa Anita this winner. Expect trainers Brian Lynch, George Weaver, Robert Falcone, and David Jacobson among others to have horses competing at Santa Anita starting in December.

Del Mar’s Ship & Win program distributing purse bonuses and travel stipends to horses shipping into California saw a significant increase. The 2016 fall meet saw 31 horses qualify for the program. This year’s meet saw 58 horses qualify for the program.

The success of the Ship & Win program has led Santa Anita to announce they will institute a Ship & Stay program for their winter meet. The program includes purse bonuses for not just a horse’s first start in California, but for their first three starts at Santa Anita. The bonuses would go to the owners and trainer who brought the horse to California regardless of whether the horse gets claimed in their first couple of starts.

Trainer Chad Brown won the Grade-I Breeders Cup Juvenile (Good Magic), the Grade-I Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Rushing Fall), the Grade-I Matriarch, and the Grade-III Cecil B. DeMille during the fall meet. Logic suggests Brown has such a deep stable of turf stars he could end up being more active shipping horses for the Stakes programs in California. Why get beat by a barn mate when they can rack up wins on the road?

Good quality racing and good experiences for new participating horsemen can only have a positive long term effect on the SoCal circuit. I think we may see the benefits start sooner than later.

Solis retires

My former next-door neighbor, Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis, announced his retirement on the TVG broadcast from Del Mar on Sunday.Solis, 53, won 5,035 races during his career, including the 1986 Preakness Stakes aboard Snow Chief. He may be best known as the regular rider for champion sprinter Kona Gold, who won the 2000 Breeders Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs, and ending Cigar’s 16-race winning streak in 1996 Pacific Classic aboard Dare and Go. Solis was also the regular rider for Dubai World Cup and Breeders Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect.

What you won’t see in his byline is that Solis did many things for the benefit of the industry, like buying truckloads of hay to feed retired horses, allowing lesser known exercise riders or other race track employees to stay at his Encinitas home to help keep expenses down during Del Mar, and most recently serving on the California Horse Racing Board trying to improve conditions for all involved.

I wish Alex all the best and hope he stays involved with California horse racing. We need guys who care as much as he does.

Los Al opens Thursday

Quality racing in SoCal did not end with the completion of Del Mar. There will be five Stakes races at the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meet including two Grade-I races on Saturday, Dec. 9 – the $300K Los Alamitos Starlet and the $300K Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity.

Alluring Star, runner-up at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for trainer Bob Baffert, is likely to head up the field for the Starlet. Baffert also trains McKinzie, the very impressive debut winner at the Santa Anita Autumn meet, who is likely for the Cash Call Futurity. He is named after long-time Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, a close friend of Baffert who passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer. It would be a true holiday story should his namesake win the signature race at Los Al.

First post time is 1 p.m. on weekdays and 12:30 p.m. on weekends. For you Pick Six players, note that Los Alamitos uses the regular format with 70% of the pool being paid out to tickets with six winners and 30% to those tickets with five winners. There is no jackpot pool.

Play of the Week

Golden Gate, Thursday, Race 3 – Kochees (post 4): Veteran from the Blaine Wright stable was protected from being claimed in comebacker. He now moves to preferred surface (Tapeta main track) and drops into a restricted claimer.