2016 Del Mar Summer Preview

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D.S. Williamson

July 1st, 2016


August 1 2015: Beholder with Gary Stevens up wins the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race at Del Mar Race Course in Del Mar CA. Zoe Metz/ESW/CSM

July 15 is the first day of Del Mar's traditional summer meet. I know some horseplayer friends of mine who only wager at Del Mar during the summer. They sit on their hands every day, maybe a bet on the Derby or Classic, until July comes around. That's when they start hanging out at Bing's old place where the surf meets the turf. Going to the Pacific Classic with my father and brother used to be an annual excursion.

My father doesn't get around as well as he used to. But my brother and I still try to make at least one trip down to Bing's haunt. 2016 figures to be an exceptional meet at Del Mar. Here's some of the information for SoCal's most prestigious horse racing meet of the year.

California Chrome returns 

The best horse in the world returns to American Racing at Del Mar this summer. Chrome is expected to run in 2 races at Del Mar before the Breeders Cup Classic and then the Pegasus World Championships. Chrome is probable for both the San Diego Handicap and the Pacific Classic. He's only listed as possible for the Breeders Cup. One of the reasons why is because of the Pegasus World Championships. With a purse of $12 million dollars, the Pegasus World Championship is the richest horse race in history. Chrome's connections can be forgiven if they don't want to risk injury by running for a much smaller purse in the Classic.

Dortmund and Firing Line also return

Dortmund and Firing Line had a great battle in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes last year before their other battle in the Kentucky Derby. Dortmund didn't run his best in the Preakness Stakes. Neither did Firing Line. Both horses have been on the bench for a while.

Firing Line hasn't run since the Preakness. If he's matured, there's plenty of time for Firing Line to become one of the top handicap horses in Southern California. He almost held off American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe, if they had skipped the Preakness with him Firing Line could have been Pharoah's biggest competition in the Belmont Stakes.

Bob Baffert was pointing Dortmund to the Dubai World Cup. Although Dortmund won his 2 races after his Preakness flop, Bob didn't like how he was training leading up to his final Dubai prep. He's kept Dortmund on the bench since last November. Like Chrome, both Dortmund and Firing Line are probable for the San Diego Handicap and the Pacific Classic.

Beholder pointing towards the Pacific Classic again

Trevor Denman described Beholder's Pacific Classic romp as poetry in motion. It's hard to argue with Trevor. It was one of the most brilliant races I've ever seen. She dominated a good group of male horses. Beholder is expected to run in the Pacific Classic this year. But her real goal is the Pegasus World Cup at 1 1/8 miles. My hope is that instead of running in the Breeders Cup Classic, they run Beholder in the Breeders Cup Distaff against Songbird. That's the race that I want to see. Then, she can go ahead and battle California Chrome and the rest in the Pegasus World Cup.

SoCal racing fans won't see Songbird until the fall

Songbird's next 2 races are the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks and the G1 Alabama. Both of those races are at Saratoga. Then, the brilliant 3-year-old filly will run in the G1 Cotillion at Parx before trying her hand against older fillies and mares in the Breeders Cup Distaff. Songbird's connections are adamant about not running her against the boys. That's too bad since she has the talent to be as good as she wants to be. Oh, well. Del Mar racing fans are going to have to check out Songbird in the BC Distaff at Santa Anita in the fall, or take a trip to the Spa, if they want to see her run.