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2023 Graduation Stakes Preview | California-Bred 2-Year-Olds Headline Del Mar Friday
Refocus (Benoit Photo)

2023 Graduation Stakes Preview | California-Bred 2-Year-Olds Headline Del Mar Friday

Eight 2-year-old males will seek their first chunk of black type Friday afternoon at Del Mar when they match up in the 70th running of the $125,000 Graduation Stakes, a five and one-half panel spin for California-bred youngsters.

The race is part of the Golden State Series that offers 39 races worth $4.85 million over the course of the year at racetracks up and down the state. Eight of those races are run this summer at Del Mar.

The Graduation will be Race 6 on an eight-race program with a first post of 3:30 p.m. Friday.

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Each of the runners in the lineup can claim credit for one victory, which is always a good starting point for a young horse. None can claim a stakes victory, though four of them have already given it a try.

Three of the Graduation starters were last seen in the Everett Nevin Stakes at Pleasanton on July 9, a $75,000 event that was run at five and a half furlongs.

One of those runners, Mr.-Mrs. Larry Williams’ homebred Wild Jewels, finished second in the dash for trainer Steve Specht, three and a half lengths behind the winner, Dreamfrye.

Two of the others – Lovinger, London or Zondio’s Last Call London and Rusty Brown’s Shady Appeal – both had troubles with a difficult start and lost all chance in the heat. Both would appear eligible to improve notably Friday.

Reddam Racing’s Refocus will be making his third starts Friday after a first-out score at Santa Anita, then a third-place finish in the Fasig Tipton Futurity at the same track on June 17.

Then there are three of the juveniles who were first-out winners – Chaco, Flores or Lovingier’s Smokem Ez, Brown or Ganje’s Lord Prancealot and Dan Northrup’s Salsation.

Here’s the full field for the feature from the rail out with their riders:

  1. Refocus (Mario Gutierrez in the tack)
  2. Tom Halasz’s Mici’s Express (Tiago Pereira)
  3. Last Call London (Juan Hernandez)
  4. Shady Appeal (Mike Smith)
  5. Smokem Ez (Ramon Vazquez)
  6. Lord Prancealot (Kent Desormeaux)
  7. Salsation (Edwin Maldonado)
  8. Wild Jewels (Asa Espinoza)

The Graduation was a kicking off point for a California-bred colt named California Chrome in 2013. The flashy chestnut went on to racing’s Hall of Fame as a two-time Horse of the Year during his spectacular career.