Del Mar Summer: Round One, Mandatory Payout Day, Plus One Hot 'Papa' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Del Mar Summer: Round One, Mandatory Payout Day, Plus One Hot ‘Papa’

Trainer George Papaprodromou, left, has a moment with American Theorem after the Bing Crosby

Despite having the largest average field size in years and daily cards sprinkled with longshot winners, there has not been a single ticket Pick 6 winner at Del Mar since the seaside track began its summer meet July 22.

The jackpot for the 20-cent bet has grown steadily for the first nine days of the meet and stands at $608,415 going into Saturday's 11-race card. when there will be a mandatory payout for the Pick 6 – the first of three for the summer stand (the others are Pacific Classic Day on Sept. 3 and closing day, Sept. 11. First post Saturday is 2 p.m. PT.

Saturday's Pick 6 sequence begins with the sixth race, which has a scheduled post time of 4:34 p.m. PT/7:34 ET. (those in the Central and Mountain time zones can do your own math). Four of the six races were oversubscribed at entry time and include also eligibles while the smallest field, with seven runners scheduled to compete, comes in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, where Shedaresthedevil ships in to defend her title in the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In Challenge Series race for the Distaff division. At 8-5 on the morning line, the Brad Cox-trained mare will be tough to beat as she seeks her 11th win in her 21st career start.

But is Shedaresthedevil worthy of a single on your Pick 6 wager? Not for my money.

There are four other graded stakes winners in the field who deserve a look: Richard Mandella-trained Soothsay; Phil D'Amato-trained Desert Dawn; Bob Baffert-trained Private Mission; and Marcelo Polanco-trained Argentine-bred Blue Stripe. All are capable on their best day.

Desert Dawn, the only 3-year-old filly in the field, is especially intriguing. An Arizona-bred by Cupid (one of 97 Thoroughbred foals born in the Grand Canyon State in 2019), she was a longshot winner of the G2 Santa Anita Oaks in April, then ran a very solid third behind Secret Oath in the G1 Kentucky Oaks.

Last out in the G2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita June 12, Desert Dawn stumbled badly coming out of the No. 1 post and, as track announcer Frank Mirachmadi said “was hopelessly last.” It was a miracle jockey Umberto Rispoli stayed aboard as the filly essentially went to her knees when she took her first two strides from the gate. Desert Dawn was never a factor that day as the 7-10 favorite but has impressed clockers with her recent morning activity.

D'Amato, Desert Dawn's trainer, has been red-hot in the early stages of the meet and sits atop the standings with eight wins from 50 starts. His 16 percent winning percentage would be much higher if he didn't have multiple entries in many of the races he's won.

Papaprodromou Notches First Grade 1

Speaking of hot, trainer George Papaprodromou comes into Saturday's program with four winners from his last 13 starters, including an $85.20 shocker in Friday's finale with the first-time starter Spirit of Makena, a Ghostzapper colt owned and bred by Bruce Chandler. This follows a strong Santa Anita meet where Papaprodromou  was seventh in the trainer standings by wins. He's won more races so far in 2022 than in any previous year he's been training and is about to hit the $2 million mark in earnings for the year – a personal best.

“Papa” is second in the Del Mar trainer standings by money won, with over $500,000 earned by his runners. The native of Cypress (the island nation in the Mediterranean, not the Orange County city where Los Alamitos is located) registered a career first last Saturday when the American Pharoah 5-year-old ridgling American Theorem won the Bing Crosby Stakes under “Del Mar Joe” Bravo, giving the trainer his initial career Grade 1 victory.

Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman described this on Twitter as the “Summer of George.”

The Crosby was a “Win and You're In” Challenge Series race for the Sprint division, and Papaprodromou is now setting his sights on the G2 Pat O'Brien Stakes Aug. 27, also a “Win and You're In” but for the Dirt Mile division.

That American Theorem was the horse to give the 46-year-old Papaprodromou his first Grade 1 was especially meaningful.

American Theorem was purchased privately for Rustin Kretz' Kretz Racing by bloodstock agent Gayle Van Leer for $200,000 after he failed to meet his reserve price and bidding stalled at $190,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He won his debut in a loaded Del Mar 2-year-old maiden race  in August 2019, then finished second behind Eight Rings in the G1 American Pharoah Stakes next out at Santa Anita.  He raced just once in 2020, finishing unplaced in the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn, then was sidelined with shin problems. After an early-season race in 2021, American Theorem went on the shelf again. When he came back late in the year, Papaprodromou raced him around two turns several times before cutting back to sprint distances, winning the G2 Triple Bend and then taking the Crosby.

On the day of the Triple Bend, Papaprodromou saddled four winners on the nine-race Santa Anita card, another first for the trainer.

“We've loved this horse since day one,” the trainer said. of American Theorem. “We had high hopes for him and then he got hurt. This was my Dad's favorite horse, too. He passed away two years ago.”

His father, Andreas Papaprodromou, was a trainer at the Nicosia Turf Club track in Cypress who came to the U.S. in the late 1990s, initially to look for a stallion to take home, then staying to train a small string of horses in Southern California. George assisted him while also free-lancing as an exercise rider for several years before taking over his father's stable in 2003.

There were some lean years, but things began to improve when Papaprodromou and Kretz teamed up about 10 years ago. Their first winner, Muchos Besos, was a claimer, but they've enjoy graded stakes success with G3 Eddie D. Stakes winner Mr. Roary in 2017 and now with American Theorem.

Kretz, CEO of Scorpion, a Los Angeles-based marketing and advertising technology company, got the racing bug watching Super Saver win the 2010 Kentucky Derby. “I went to that Derby as a fan and fell in love with it,” Kretz said. “I bought my first horse, Westwood Pride, a month later. Kristin Mulhall bought the horse privately and trained her for us and she competed in a Grade 1 but didn't win (2010 Matriarch, finishing fourth).”

Kretz said he now has about 40 horses, including runners at the track and mares, foals, and yearling kept at Mulholland Farm in Kentucky.

“Georgie has such a passion for the game,” Kretz said. “He's excited about the sport and about winning. He's not one of the big-name trainers but he tries his hardest. I like his passion and doing the right thing for his horses.”

Even rival trainers seem to be enjoying Papaprodromou's success, as witnessed by Dan Blacker's Tweet following the Bing Crosby.

Kretz credits Papaprodromou for his patience with American Theorem and for the decision to cut back to sprint distances.

“The first time he ran in 2019, we brought 30 or 40 people out to Del Mar,” he said. “We all went crazy, had a great time. We thought he could keep going and we wanted to run him long because we wanted to win the Kentucky Derby.”

After that ship sailed and American Theorem overcame his shin problems, Papaprodromou proposed a different approach.

“George said the horse does a really good job sprinting, so he cut him back in distance,” Kretz said. “The horse has a ton of heart and obviously Georgie loves him. It's his favorite horse.”

Papaprodromou said American Theorem is at his best “from six furlongs to a mile. Keeping him happy and sound is the most important thing,” he said. “He can go short, long. He can settle, make one big run.”

“If we can win the O'Brien, we've got some options,” said Kretz.

 

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