Del Mar Summer: Closing Weekend Spotlight On Juveniles - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Del Mar Summer: Closing Weekend Spotlight On Juveniles

American Pharoah’s Del Mar Futurity triumph launched an eight-race winning streak that included the 2015 Triple Crown

Two-year-olds are in the spotlight on the final three days of the Del Mar summer meet, beginning with Friday's three o'clock (Pacific) card featuring California-bred juveniles contesting the I'm Smokin Stakes. Post time is 1 p.m. Pacific on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday's TVG Del Mar Debutante for 2-year-old fillies and Sunday's closing day Runhappy Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds are both Grade 1 events run at seven furlongs. Both races have had a significant impact on year-end Eclipse Awards, with five Debutante winners since 2000 named 2-year-old filly champion, most recently Songbird in 2015. The Futurity has had seven winners since 2000 go on to be named Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old male, with Game Winner in 2018 the most recent. Two of those seven – American Pharoah in 2014 and Nyquist in 2015 – would win the following year's G1 Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah actually broke his maiden in the Futurity, the first of eight consecutive wins that included the 2015 Triple Crown.

Trainer Bob Baffert has dominated both the Debutante and Futurity. Since 1995, Baffert has won the Debutante on 10 occasions, including the last three from 2019-'21. He's got two of the eight entries in this year's Debutante, including 9-5 morning line favorite Home Cooking, an Honor Code filly who drew off by 9 ¼ lengths to break her maiden in her second Del Mar start on Aug. 21.

One filly not in the Debutante lineup is the John Shirreffs-trained Justique, a daughter of Justify who was extremely impressive in her debut, closing from last to win a maiden race by 2 ½ lengths going 5 ½ furlongs July 31. She missed some training in August and will be pointed for the G2 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita Oct. 8.

Baffert has three colts entered in the Futurity in hopes of padding his record 15 victories in the meet's top race for 2-year-olds. Baffert, who trained last year's Futurity winner Pinehurst, saddled seven consecutive winners of this race from 1996-2002.

Cave Rock is the strongest of the Baffert trio. The Arrogate colt romped by six lengths in his debut on Aug. 13 at Del Mar, going wire to wire under Juan Hernandez. Cave Rock earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure that afternoon. The next two highest Beyer Speed Figures in the field came from Baffert-trained Havnameltdown (81) and Newgate (80).

Both Cave Rock and Havnameltdown are owned by the partnership of Michael E. Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, who entered Friday's racing atop the Del Mar owner standings with seven wins from 19 starts. Just one win back is six-time leading owner Hronis Racing, with six wins from 38 starts. (Note: Hronis Racing's win total does not include Flightline, which the Hronises own in partnership with four other entities.)

In the trainer standings, Baffert is tied with Doug O'Neill going into the final three days, each with 17 wins, though Baffert's come from just 64 starts compared with O'Neill's 124. Phil D'Amato is just one back at 16, with George Papaprodromou at 14 wins, Peter Miller and Jonathan Wong at 13 each, and the trio of John Sadler, Mark Glatt and Andy Mathis with 12 wins each.

Wong and Mathis, who have been based in Northern California, both had a major impact during this year's meet, tripling their output from 2021 when they each won four races.

If Baffert comes out on top, this would be his first Del Mar training title by wins since 2003, when he led the standings for the seventh consecutive year. O'Neill is a five-time summer meet leading trainer, most recently in 2019.

Tenth-leading trainer with eight wins is Dean Pederson, who won an astounding 67 percent of his 12 starts during the meet. Pederson has had just 37 starts in all of 2022, winning 13 times. Among his clients is longtime California owner-breeder John Harris of Harris Farms.

All told, 67 trainers have won races during this year's summer meet.

Juan Hernandez, who gained the most when perennial leader Flavien Prat shifted his tack to New York, has been the runaway leader in the jockey standings since tripling on the first two days of the meet. He enters the final weekend with 45 wins from 178 mounts, 19 more than Umberto Rispoli.

Prat made one appearance during the summer, and it was auspicious. He won with four of eight mounts on Pacific Classic day Sept. 3, including the big one, the TVG Pacific Classic, aboard the horse everyone in racing is talking about, Flightline. Prat guided the Tapit colt to a 19 ¼-length win in near-track record time despite being geared down in the final sixteenth of a mile.

Hands down, Flightline will be the horse of the meet, based on that one memorable performance, but special mention goes to Jaime R. Renella's homebred Chismosa, a Clubhouse Ride filly who won three races during the meet. Trained by Rafael DeLeon, the California-bred miss won her debut in a maiden race July 23, came back to win the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes Aug. 7, then added the Generous Portion Stakes on Sept. 5.

Closing thoughts:

-Friday's races were taken off the turf because of a rare summer storm that moved into the area from the south.
-There will be a mandatory payout in the Pick 6 and all other bets on Sunday's closing day.
-The Del Mar fall meet kicks off on Nov. 11 and races on a Friday through Sunday schedule, plus Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 24. Closing day is Sunday, Dec. 4.

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