A couple of speed plays on Del Mar's opener

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 16th, 2015

Del Mar concluded an eight-year synthetic run last fall and reverts back to a dirt main track for the 2015 summer meet. No one knows exactly how the new track will perform in the afternoons but I’m expecting to see early speed do well.

We’ll get a good look at inside speed in Thursday’s opener, a one-mile claiming event. Candy for Debbie (#1) was a top contender when entries were taken, with good form and early foot for Doug O’Neill, and the scratches of Broadway Nika and Secretatmidnight, a couple of front-runners who drew close in the starting gate, enhance the gelding’s prospects.

Candy for Debbie led wire to wire after breaking from the innermost post two starts back, defeating $16,000 claimers at Santa Anita, and drops down a level for a $12,500 tag today. Another front-running victory appears capable but if the likely favorite falters, speed may not play as well as expected.

I’ll highlight a couple of potentially live speed horses at a better price.

Race 2 – #1 Adriatic Sky (6-1) has not set the pace in her last four starts because they were flying early in the five-furlong turf sprints, establishing sub 22-second opening quarter-mile splits each time. That kind of early gas is lacking here and the 5yo mare likes to race on the front end, leading wire to wire in a five-furlong race on Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta five starts back. Adriactic Sky could not be in better form for trainer Tim McAnna, capturing four of her last five starts, the lone setback being a third behind a pair of next-out winners, and she’s won at the 6 ½-furlong distance before. The Golden Gate shipper could be overlooked due to class concerns but she’ll probably be the one to catch.

Race 7 – Hot Lightning (6-1) should break running under Victor Espinoza in a 10-horse field that lacks speed. The 3yo gelding stretches back out to a mile, recording a head second in his last attempt at the distance, and is trained by Vann Belvoir, who knows how to get a horse ready for Del Mar, winning two races on last year’s opening day program. Hot Lightning has placed in his last four starts and looms a threat to steal this one.