John Sadler’s 52 stakes wins at Del Mar rank No. 6 all-time on a list of legends – Bob Baffert (113), Ron McAnally (77), Charlie Whittingham (74), Bobby Frankel (70) and Richard Mandella (52).
Sadler’s first shot at further advancement, and it’s a good one, comes Saturday when he will saddle 3-1 morning line favorite Nancy From Nairobi in the Grade II $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap, the first of 19 graded stakes during Del Mar’s 77th summer season.
Highweighted at 121 pounds, at least two more than any of her eight rivals. Nancy From Nairobi, a 5-year-old, English-bred daughter of Sixties Icon, had a three-race winning streak ended in the Grade I Gamely Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on May 30 at Santa Anita. That set her record at three wins in six starts in the U.S. since being imported from England by Hronis Racing and her overall record at five wins from 23 lifetime starts with earnings of $271,801.
“She had a rough trip last time, but she’s a very talented mare and she’s been training great,” Sadler said recently.
Nancy From Nairobi will be ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, taking over from Abel Lezcano. Coincidentally, Smith rode She’s Not Here to victory in the 2015 Yellow Ribbon. She’s Not Here will make a title defense under Drayden Van Dyke.
“She’s Not Here liked this turf course better than any other she ran on last year, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “But Nancy From Nairobi is doing very well right now and even though it’s the first time I’ve been on her, I’m glad to have the opportunity.”
The Yellow Ribbon was run during the closing weekend of the 2015 summer meeting but was moved to the first this year.
“I don’t like the scheduling, but I’m lucky I’ve got two in the (female turf) division,” Sadler said. Sadler also has Elektrum, third in the Gamely, available for the Osunitas Stakes on August 7 and a title defense in the Grade II $200,000 John C. Mabee Stakes on Sunday, September 4.
After the Yellow Ribbon, Sadler will have the Mabee to think about among several other stakes options at other tracks.
The Yellow Ribbon field from the rail out: Fresh Feline (Victor Espinoza, 12-1), Nancy From Nairobi (Mike Smith, 3-1), Her Emmynency (Tyler Baze, 6-1), Prize Exhibit (Santiago Gonzalez, 12-1), Majestic Heat (Flavien Prat, 4-1), Finest City (Kent Desormeaux, 7-2), Queen of the Sand (Mario Gutierrez, 6-1), She’s Not Here (Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1) and Keri Belle (Gary Stevens, 8-1).
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? CHAMPIONS OF 2015 SUMMER SEASON
Checking in on the current status of the horses voted champions in eight divisions for the 2015 Del Mar Summer Season.
Horse of the Meet and Older Filly or Mare – Beholder. Now 6, the super mare is at either her indoor stall or outdoor pen at the Richard Mandella stable when not training for double title defenses in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and TVG Pacific Classic.
Older Horse — Catch A Flight. Retired to stallion duties in South America.
Grass Horse – Gabriel Charles. Retired to stallion duties in California.
Sprinter – Wild Dude. Won the Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita on May 21 and is a candidate for the Grade I Bing Crosby he won last year.
Three-year old – Gimme Da Lute. Deceased as result of a training injury in November. Posthumously honored as California bred Horse of the Year for 2015.
Three-year-old filly – Sharla Rae. Retired following a third place finish in the Possibly Perfect Stakes at Santa Anita on June 12.
Two-year-old filly – Songbird. Undefeated and unchallenged in eight starts, the Del Mar Debutante winner is training here for the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24 at Saratoga.
Two-year-old – Nyquist. The Del Mar Futurity was the third of eight straight wins capped by the Kentucky Derby. Returned to California after his third-place Preakness finish he’s here training for the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 31.
MIDNIGHT STORM FAVORITE OF NINE FOR SUNDAY’S EDDIE READ
Midnight Storm, coming in off a victory in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on June 4 at Santa Anita, drew the No. 5 position Thursday and was made the 5-2 favorite on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line for Sunday’s 42nd running of the Grade II, $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes.
The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile trained by Phil D’Amato will be seeking a seventh victory in 17 starts and would move to within $19,000 of millionaire earnings status with the winner’s $150,000 share of the purse.
The field, from the rail out: Ashleyluvssugar (Gary Stevens, 6-1), Flamboyant (Flavien Prat, 9-2), Texas Ryano (Joe Talamo, 15-1), Si Sage (Victor Espinoza, 12-1), Midnight Storm (Rafael Bejarano, 5-2), Finnegans Wake (Tyler Baze, 6-1), Ohio (Brice Blanc, 8-1), Patentar (Alonso Quinonez, 20-1), and Bolo (Mike Smith, 3-1).
FORTY YEARS AGO: NOT A BAD OPENING DAY FOR LAFFIT PINCAY
On Wednesday, July 28, 1976, Opening Day of the Del Mar meeting, Laffit Pincay Jr. won six races enroute to 86 for the meeting and the first of five riding titles here. Pincay accounted for 12 stakes races that season, a start to the 96 he would total, the last coming in 2002 to rank third on the track’s jockey stakes winning list behind Chris McCarron (134) and Corey Nakatani (104).
BEHOLDER GETS SAME DEAL AS CALIFORNIA CHROME FOR WORK SPACE
Executive Vice President Racing Tom Robbins announced that a window of exclusivity for workouts by Beholder and other Clement L. Hirsch Stakes candidates will be opened at 7:45 Sunday morning. Richard Mandella, trainer of Beholder, and John Sadler, trainer of Stellar Wind, have both indicated they intend to take advantage of the opportunity. Beholder, who worked seven furlongs in 1:26.20 on July 9 at Santa Anita, is expected to go a mile on Sunday.
California Chrome and other San Diego Handicap candidates will have the track to themselves starting at 7:45 on Saturday morning. California Chrome worked a mile in 1:39.60 on July 9 at Los Alamitos and is slated to edge back to five furlongs.
CLOSERS — Nyquist and Songbird both galloped Friday morning. Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will breeze Sunday around 7:45, trainer Doug O’Neill said. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Songbird will work Sunday or Monday … Alex Solis, 52, is back for another summer season at Del Mar. His first was 1985, not far removed from his U.S. start in Florida. Solis rode Snow Chief to a third place finish in the ’85 Del Mar Futurity and to victory in the Preakness the following year. His first two Del Mar stakes victories were recorded in 1986 and he now has 95, one behind Laffit Pincay, Jr. for third on the track’s all-time list. “I love it here and it never gets old,” Solis said Friday morning. “The good thing about this year is that we got here four days early and got to spend some fun times. We went to the beach and I got sunburned for the first time in my life.” … Donald E. Palmer, author and founder of Live Your Dream Racing Stable, will be signing copies of his new book “Driven By The Passion To Own Race Horses” Saturday in the Plaza de Mexico near the Silks gift shop.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club