Del Mar training, riding titles will come down to the wire
With just six days to go at the Del Mar summer meeting the jockey and trainer races are up for grabs.
Two familiar names sit atop the rider standings as we head into the final week of racing. Flavien Prat and Rafael Bejarano tied for the title in 2016 with 38 victories apiece. Neither jock has been as dominant at the 2017 meeting, but Prat has a two-win lead on Bejarano (28-26) after the six-time champion won three races on Saturday and one aboard Bird Is the Word on Sunday afternoon.
Apprentice Evin Roman had the lead at one point, but suffered through a long drought before righting the ship last week. His two wins on Sunday have him in a tie for second with Bejarano. He still has a solid chance to be the first apprentice to win the Del Mar riding title since Steve Valdez did so in 1973.
Veteran Kent Desormeaux has not had the same amount of mounts as the top three, but he has arguably been the best rider this summer. His 21% win percentage leads all jocks with more than one mount and his 21 wins put him fourth in the standings.
Leaving Desormeaux off your tickets during the final week is probably unwise as he is "locked in" and making the most of his opportunities.
Prat is going to have to finish well because he is serving the final two days of a three-day suspension on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, Bejarano has several mounts over the two-day stretch, including being aboard 5-2 second choice Pasadena Princess in the Wednesday opener and 4-1 second choice Masco Yodeler in the finale.
As usual, Roman will be busy on Wednesday with seven mounts, including post-time favorites Cute Knows Cute in Race 1 and Show It N Moe It in the $100,000 Generous Portion.
Phil D'Amato holds a narrow lead as he strives to win outright back-to-back trainer titles for the first time since John Sadler did so in 2008 and 2009.
The graduate of the University of Southern California and mentor to the late Mike Mitchell beat Peter Miller by two wins in 2016 and holds a similar margin over both Richard Baltas and Doug O'Neill as we head into the final week.
Peter Miller has had a disappointing meet by his standards, but he still is in striking distance with 12 wins. He has a chance based on oddsmaker Russ Hudak's morning line to win four on Wednesday and make things very interesting over the last five days of the meet.
Mark Glatt also is just three behind D'Amato as his 22% is tops amongst conditioners with 20 or more starters. He sends out three runners on Wednesday, including my top pick in the seventh race, #5 Cordiality.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert ran 1-2 in the Pacific Classic (G1) in addition to his Travers (G1) win last weekend with West Coast, but he has only compiled eight wins at Del Mar in 2017. His 22% strike rate though ties him with Glatt and his $1,305,902 in earnings narrowly leads D'Amato going into the final week.
Amongst the Baffert runners we will see over the next several days is Del Mar Debutante (G1) entrant Just A Smidge. The daughter of Into Mischief looks to make it a perfect two-for-two after an impressive win on debut over this racetrack on Opening Day.
The tight races along with the two-year-old graded stakes action should make for an exciting end to what has been a challenging and fun summer at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Let's close things out strong!
You can find my full card Daily Selections each and every day for the Southern California circuit here.