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2022 Desi Arnaz Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Can Justique Rebound While Cutting Back?
Justique (Benoit Photo)

2022 Desi Arnaz Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Can Justique Rebound While Cutting Back?

Aaron previews the 2022 Desi Arnaz Stakes from Del Mar, then gives his top picks & long shots. Justique was an ultra-impressive debut winner going 1 turn at Del Mar but flopped as a heavy favorite when routing in the Chandelier Stakes (G2) – so can she rebound cutting back to 1 turn while returning to the seaside oval? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Fittingly for its Bing Crosby Season makeup, Del Mar will run a pair of sprint stakes Saturday named for a couple of show business icons who were regulars at the seaside oval back in the day. The races are the Cary Grant Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds and up and the Desi Arnaz Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Both are at seven furlongs.

Cary Grant, he of the debonair demeanor and dozens upon dozens of movie starring roles in both dramas and comedies, and Desi Arnaz, the Cuban bandleader who became one of the great stars of that new medium called television when he teamed with his wife and partner Lucille Ball to create the smash hit “I Love Lucy.” Arnaz even retired to Del Mar with a house on the beach and got into the owning and breeding of racehorses.

The Desi Arnaz has attracted seven young lassies and the one who’ll draw the most eyes is likely to be C R K Stable’s Justique, a daughter of Triple Crown winner Justify who was a most-impressive winner at Del Mar in her racing debut on July 31, then came back to run third in the Grade II Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita on October 8. She’s trained by old pro John Shirreffs and will be ridden again by Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza.

Del Mar’s morning line maker Jon White has hung Justique the 8/5 favorite in the dash.

The Cary Grant has a trio of runners who’ll draw attention at the wickets and on the racetrack. They are Sondereker Racing, Felkin or Thorn’s The Chosen Vron, Downstream Racing’s None Above the Law and William Peeples’ Big City Lights.

The Chosen Vron may get an edge over his two key rivals because he’s beaten them both in his last two starts – the September 17 E.B. Johnston Stakes at Los Alamitos (where he bested Big City Lights) and the California Flag Handicap October 16 at Santa Anita (None Above the Law chased him home in that one).

The Chosen Vron, a 4-year-old gelding by the late California stallion Vronsky, is trained by Eric Kruljac and will be handled by Hector Berrios. None Above the Law comes out of the barn of Peter Miller and gets Flavien Prat in the boot. And Big City Lights is conditioned by Richard Mandella and will be ridden by Del Mar’s leading rider, Juan Hernandez.

Linemaker White sorts that trio out like this:  The Chosen Vron even money; Big City Lights 9/5, and None Above the Law 5/2.

The Desi Arnaz will go as Race 6 on the nine-race Saturday program. The Cary Grant will be Race 8.

Here are the full fields for the two races in post position order with riders and morning line odds:

Desi Arnaz – Justique; Windstar Farm or Siena Farm’s Parody (Hernandez, 4-1); Mike Powers’ Naughty Lottie (Kent Desormeaux, 12-1); Villa Rosa Farm or Harlo Stable’s Huntingcoco (Prat, 7/2); Edwin Alvarez’s Smokem for You (Francisco Orduna-Rojas, 30-1); Amestoy Jr., Amestoy and Beasley’s Blessed Touch (Drayden Van Dyke, 9/5), and Edwin Alvarez’s Daddy Classy Dill (Diego Herrera, 30-1).

Cary Grant – Lovingier, Fasihuddin or Navarro’s Finneus (Ramon Vazquez, 15-1); Hararis Farms’ Coalinga Road (John Velazquez, 12-1); Big City Lights; The Chosen Vron, and None Above the Law.

A pair of recent straight maiden winners bring an extra dimension to the Desi Arnaz. They are Parody, who registered a handy tally in her debut at Churchill Downs on October 30 on a sloppy track, and Blessed Touch, a smart wire-to-wire victress in a Santa Anita heat on October 8. Both are well bred and full of promise.

In the Cary Grant, Big City Lights might have a bit of a pace edge as he appears to be the lone speed in the dash. He’s also turned in several sharp works coming up to this start.

First post for the Saturday program is 12:30 p.m.


Justique has only won a maiden race, but she did it in such a fashion that the 2-year-old daughter of Justify caught the eye of much of the racing world. Saturday she’ll be on display again at Del Mar when she runs in the $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes, a seven furlong test for juvenile fillies on the main track.

Justique wowed them in her debut performance at Del Mar in July, going from last to first to break her maiden. She won by 2 ½ lengths but it was the way she accelerated around the turn and continued to eat up ground in the stretch that made her standout from the other 2-year-olds at Del Mar last summer.

That early interest was dulled a bit when she ran third in the G2 Chandelier at Santa Anita last out, finishing 5 ½ lengths behind the winner, And Tell Me No Lies, this year’s Del Mar Debutante champion. Trainer John Shirreffs believes he knows the reason why she ran the way she did.

“She got really tired,” he says, “and she wasn’t fit enough.”

The mile and sixteenth Chandelier was Justique’s first time around two turns. She was in the back of the pack again that day and made a menacing move in the turn, similar to the one in her debut. But she appeared to flatten out in the lane and was no match for the top two finishers. She did muster up enough run to salvage third place in the final strides.

Justique worked a blistering :58.00 in a five furlong drill at Del Mar on Sunday.

“She worked really well over the racetrack,” Shirreffs says. “She looks good going into the race.”

Two horses she beat in the Chandelier are back for the Desi Arnaz. Huntingcoco faded to last in the race. Like Justique, it was the daughter of Practical Joke’s second career start following an impressive 6 ¾ length victory in her career debut, a 5 ½ furlong maiden special weight at Del Mar in September.

The other is Naughty Lottie, who set the early pace in the Chandelier and then faded to sixth. It was the daughter of Midnight Lute’s third career start after running third in a sprint at Prairie Meadows in August and notching a overpowering 15-length win in her debut, a maiden special weight at Louisiana Downs in July. She’s trained by Keith Desormeaux and will be ridden by his brother, Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux, on the comeback trail this fall at Del Mar.

Another horse of note is Blessed Touch from the Tim Yakteen barn. The daughter of Girvin broke her maiden by eight lengths in a sprint at Santa Anita last out.

Seven fillies are entered in the Desi Arnaz, named after the famous bandleader, television producer/actor and husband of actress Lucille Ball. It’s the sixth of nine races on the Saturday card. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

Here’s the field from the rail with the jockeys and morning line: Justique (Victor Espinoza, 8/5); Parody (Juan Hernandez, 4-1); Naughty Lottie (12-1); Huntingcoco (Flavien Prat, 7/2); Smokem for You (Francisco Rojas-Orduna, 30-1); Blessed Touch (Drayden Van Dyke, 9/5) and Daddy Classy Dill (Diego Herrera, 30-1).