Racing secretary David Jerkens looked upon the abundant quality and quality that appears to be assembling for close of the Bing Crosby Season starting on Thanksgiving Day with some satisfaction and pride.
Four days. Seven graded stakes totaling $1.45 million in purses. A score, in the Gettysburg Address sense, of out-of-state shippers for those stakes from the stables of nearly a dozen celebrated trainers headquartered far from Southern California.
But surprised, Jerkens is not.
“It’s Del Mar,” Jerkens said. “Who doesn’t want to come here? The races are well established, the purses are large, the turf course is great and so is the weather.”
Here’s a chronological, capsule look at what Jerkens, stakes coordinator Chris Merz and the racing office are projecting for the big finish to the second Crosby Season.
Thursday, the Grade II $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, 1 ½ miles on turf. Already set with a field of 14 and two on the also-eligible list. Key shippers are: Up With The Birds (H. Graham Motion, trainer) and Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man (Roger Brueggemann).
Friday, the Grade II $250,000 Seabiscuit Handicap, 1 1/16 miles on turf. With the close of entries and post position draw scheduled late Sunday morning, a field of at least eight and possibly up to 12 is expected. The key shippers are 5-year-old Seek Again (Bill Mott), winner of the 2013 Hollywood Derby, its last running at Hollywood Park, and Are You Kidding Me (Roger Attfield), recent winner of the Autumn Handicap at Woodbine. Early Sunday morning, Merz said that weather in the East had Motion also considering sending German-bred Messi, winner of the Knickerbocker at Belmont Park on October 10 in his last start.
Saturday, the Grade III $150,000 Native Diver Stakes, 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The only dirt test of the seven graded stakes in the final week could have the shortest field, with only six to eight expected. Attfield has Are You Kidding Me, cross-entered in Friday’s Seabiscuit, nominated as the only shipper. Yahilwa and Warren’s Veneda, 5-year-old mares who were second and third respectively to Beholder in last summer’s Clement L. Hirsch, are possibilities to face males in the event.
Saturday, the Grade III $100,000 Jimmy Durante Stakes, one mile on turf. A capacity field is expected and, if so, it would be the first 14-horse mile race at Del Mar and an early test of the course where the 2017 Breeders’ Cup will be contested. Enjoy Yourself (John Terranova II) is expected to ship in for her second U.S. race after making a strong closing run in last month’s Flower Bowl at Belmont Park.
Saturday, the Grade I $300,000 Hollywood Derby, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Another full field of 14 is expected with half of them having journeyed from the East for the event. Trainer Chad Brown has nominated four –Fundamental, March, Money Multiplier, and Offering Plan, with the last-named coming in off a victory in the English Channel last month at Belmont Park. Closing Bell (Mott), Mister Brightside (Jeremy Noseda) and One Go All Go (Pavel Matejka) are Derby targeted as well.
Sunday, the Grade III $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes, one mile on turf. Eleven or 12 could go with Manhattan Dan (Gary Contessa) pace setter in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, the key invader. Tusk (Motion) got a run over the course on November 8 and produced a gritty win by a neck.
Sunday, the Grade I $300,000 Matriarch, one mile on turf. Fourteen more are anticipated for the event that provides the climax to the meeting. Shippers expected are Filimbi (Mott), Hard Not To Like and Stellar Path (Clement), Olorda (Brown), Recepta (James Toner) and She’s Not Here (Vicki Oliver). She’s Not Here was here for the Summer Meeting and notched two wins, the capper coming in the Grade II $200,000 Yellow Ribbon.
The close of entries and post position draw for the Saturday and Sunday cards will be held on Wednesday.
HOLLENDORFER/O’NEILL MILESTONE WATCH: TODAY COULD BE THE DAY
Jeremy’s Legacy ($15.40) won Saturday’s sixth race at Del Mar to provide trainer Doug O’Neill with victory No. 1,999 and put him on the threshold of a milestone.
O’Neill has five representatives here today – two in the second race and one each in the fourth, fifth and seventh – and fully expects to be holding a “Congratulations on No. 2,000” sign in the winner’s circle sometime this afternoon.
“It’s a good day to get it done,” O’Neill said Sunday morning. “Even the horses that have longer odds, I think have a very good chance.”
O’Neill’s lineup: Formally Wild (2nd, 6-1), Ultimate Luck (2nd, 9-2), Ramona’s Wildcat (4th, 8-1), Classico (5th, 8-5) and Stormy Liberal (7th, 8-1).
Asked to call his shot (a la Babe Ruth), O’Neill said: “Ramona’s Wildcat in the fourth, she’s training really well.”
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer didn’t get a win from five starters at Golden Gate Fields and two here on Saturday to remain at 6.998 for his career. He has four at Golden Gate Fields and two at Del Mar today.
At Golden Gate Fields: Mon Petite (6th, 6-1), Taste of Candy (6th, 4-1), Cape Flattery (7th, 7-2) and Lucy In Diamonds (8th, 4-1). At Del Mar: Minks Aprise (4th, 3-1) and Handfull (6th, 3-1).
SCRATCHES REDUCE CARY GRANT FIELD TO SEVEN
Trainer Peter Miller scratched Red Outlaw and Richard’s Boy, halving his representation in Sunday’s featured $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes. Additional defections of Avanti Bello and Old Man Lake reduced the field to seven with Big Macher (8-5) and Forest Chatter (5-1) the top choices.
Miller said he was looking at a race next Friday for Red Outlaw. Richard’s Boy won an optional claiming race at Del Mar on November 12 and would have been returning after only a 10-day break.
WHAT’S IN A NAME – CARY GRANT STAKES
The On Trust Stakes when it was a feature at Hollywood Park, today’s featured race now honors the memory of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars and most popular leading men, Cary Grant, recipient of an honorary Academy Award in 1970. Grant starred in numerous classic films during a lengthy career.
OVERFLOW FIELD FOR THE HOLLYWOOD TURF CUP
A field of 14, with two also eligibles, was entered Saturday for Thursday’s Grade II $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, the highlight of an eight-race Thanksgiving Day program with a special 11 a.m. first post.
The field from the rail: Class Leader (Santiago Gonzalez), Up With the Birds (Drayden Van Dyke), Danas Best (Victor Espinoza), Quick Casablanca (Tyler Baze), Procurement (Corey Nakatani), The Pizza Man (Mike Smith), Ganesh (Alex Solis), Power Ped (Mario Gutierrez), Texas Ryno (James Graham), Generoso (Martin Pedroza), Southern Freedom (Martin Garcia), Power Foot (Tiago Pereira), Wanstead Gardens (Gary Stevens) and Big John B (Rafael Bejarano). Also eligible are Flamboyant (Brice Blanc) and Bird E House (Gonzalo Nicolas).
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD FOR BLACK
A few weeks ago, trainer Kenny Black said he was considering running 3-year-old colt Acceptance against older horses in today’s seven-furlong Cary Grant Stakes and then back again six days later in the Hollywood Derby.
Which would have been akin to training legend Woody Stephens sending out Conquistador Cielo in the Metropolitan Mile and Belmont Stakes six days apart in 1982 – and winning both.
But, after further consideration, Black changed his mind. The decider: “When I saw Big Macher and Forest Chatter on the Cary Grant list,” Black said emphatically.
Acceptance, a son of Vronsky bred at Old English Rancho, won all three of his starts as a 2-year-old. He has a fourth in the Cal Cup Derby in January at Santa Anita and a second by a neck in the Let It Ride Stakes here on October 31 for 2015.
Acceptance is nominated for next Sunday’s Hollywood Derby but is on the also eligible list in an oversubscribed event with preferred conditions.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BING
For the second Bing Crosby Season at Del Mar, we offer a daily note, quote or anecdote about the track’s founding father for whom the fall meeting is named.
Cary Grant, for whom today’s stakes is named, when asked about playing Bing Crosby: “I can’t portray Bing Crosby, I’m Cary Grant. I’m myself in that role. The most difficult thing is to be yourself – especially when you know it’s going to be seen immediately by 300 million people.” – IMDb
CLOSERS – Eight-year-old gelding Newfound Gold notched his 16th career win in 49 starts in Saturday’s ninth race and was claimed for $22,500 by trainer Wesley Ward for nationally-prominent owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey … Selected works from 50 on the main track and 20 on the turf course Sunday morning: Dirt — Silentio (5f, 1:00.80), Sharla Rae (4f, :48.20), Patriotic Diamond (3f, :35.40); Turf – Acceptance (7f, 1:29.60), Queen of The Sand (6f, 1:17.20), Mister Brightside (6f, 1:16.80), Red Outlaw (5f, 1:02.00), Quick Casablanca (5f, 1:02.20), Power Foot (5f, 1:03.80), Flamboyant (1:02.20) and Crowley’s Law (4f, :49.40).