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2023 La Jolla Handicap Preview & FREE Picks | Maltese Falcon Faces 7 Rivals In Del Mar Derby Prep Race
Maltese Falcon (Benoit Photo)

2023 La Jolla Handicap Preview & FREE Picks | Maltese Falcon Faces 7 Rivals In Del Mar Derby Prep Race

Mike previews the 2023 La Jolla Handicap (G3) from Del Mar, then gives his top picks & long shots from the local prep race for the Del Mar Derby (G2), scheduled for September 3. The Leonard Powell-trained Maltese Falcon faces 7 rivals in this tough turf test while still looking to break his maiden.

Is the son of Caravaggio talented enough to finally earn his 1st career win? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

The La Jolla Handicap, a Grade III testing that is the second of three grass challenges that Del Mar puts forth each year for its 3-year-old set, will be up for grabs Sunday as the featured attraction on an 11-race card that starts at 2 p.m.

This 82nd edition of the La Jolla carries a purse of $150,000 and has drawn eight runners for its mile and one-sixteenth presentation. It will be Race 10 on the afternoon’s program with a likely post time of 6:30 p.m.

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There are no standouts in the lineup, leaving all sort of possibilities for the last major prep to the track’s showcase 3-year-old offering, the Grade II, $300,000 Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby, which goes on Sunday, September 3.

It doesn’t happen often, but there’s a legitimate chance that the maiden Maltese Falcon might be the apple of more than a few eyes in the La Jolla. The Irish-bred gelding by the Scat Daddy sire Caravaggio is owned by the father/son partnership of Red Baron’s Barn or Rancho Temescal and has been knocking on the door in his five U.S. starts, including a good second in the Cinema Stakes at Santa Anita on June 11.

His connections plead his case further: he’s handled by the rising conditioner Leonard Powell and gets the saddle services of the top rider Juan Hernandez. They break from Post 3 in the field.

Henry Q makes his Del Mar debut in the feature. The Blame colt was most recently in the east running third in Belmont Park’s Peter Pan in May, then fifth in Thistledown’s Ohio Derby in June. He was a minor stakes winner at Sunland Park in New Mexico earlier this year.

Panic Alarm will be making his U.S. bow on Sunday. The Irish-bred and raced gelding has been in the John Sadler barn since early July and shows a pair of victories from his 2-year-old season and four starts this year, the most recent coming on June 22.

Here’s the complete field for the La Jolla from the rail out with riders:

  1. C R K Stable’s Smart Mo (Joe Bravo in the tack)
  2. Muir Hut Stables’ Agency (Ramon Vazquez)
  3. Maltese Falcon
  4. Lamarock Stable’s Justin’s Legacy (Hector Berrios)
  5. Hronis Racing’s Panic Alarm (Umberto Rispoli)
  6. CYBT, Nentwig or Pell’s Kid Azteca (Asa Espinoza)
  7. The Del Mar Group’s Henry Q (Antonio Fresu)
  8. Madaket Stables and Convergence Stable’s Zalamo (Mike Smith)