How to bet with, and against, Royal Ship in the San Diego Handicap

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July 16th, 2021

A field of nine will contest the $250,000 San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar during the opening Saturday of the meeting. Six of the entrants have enjoyed previous success at the graded stakes level, which makes the 1 1/16-mile contest such an exciting event.

The one to beat is Richard Mandella’s #4 Royal Ship (9-5), who missed by a head-bob in the recent Hollywood Gold Cup (G1). The Brazilian import was a dominant Group 1 hero in his native land on the green, but the transition to the dirt is what has elevated his game upon arrival to the states.

Royal Ship -- For

The five-year-old gelding has registered two huge races in succession when winning the Californian S. (G2) prior to his fine runner-up showing last time out. Midshipman gelding has acclimated to U.S. racing and has never been better since arriving here in 2020. In addition, his robust late kick might be more stout due to the cutback in distance for a conditioner who is an expert at spotting his runners. He will be formidable with his best performance.


$2 trifecta key 4 with 1,5,7,8 ($24)

$10 exacta 4 with 5 ($10)

Royal Ship -- Against

There are a few reasons to think that Royal Ship could be vulnerable in this spot, starting with his lone prior try at Del Mar. In the 2020 Native Diver S. (G3), he failed to muster much of a challenge when finishing a non-threatening fourth. 

The second reason to play against the morning-line choice is due to the overall depth of this cast, and the fact many in the field have been pointing particularly for this race. In the San Diego, Royal Ship is facing a cast arguably deeper than he has been up against in his last two outings.

It's also more than likely that the gelding is prepping in this race with one eye towards the Pacific Classic (G1) later in the meeting. He might come into the contest less than 100 percent cranked.

#5 Express Train (3-1) is a formidable foe and my top pick in the race. Trained by John Shirreffs, the four-year-old has won or placed in five straight graded events, and he will thrive on the cutback to 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. It’s also worth noting that the Union Rags colt is 2-for-3 locally with a 14-length maiden win on the strip to his credit.

Bob Baffert’s #7 Magic on Tap (12-1) is lightly raced and full of potential. The recent Triple Bend S. (G2) victor will appreciate the extra distance on Saturday, and he also has proven to be quite capable at Del Mar.

#8 Tripoli (8-1) has a class question to answer on Saturday, but looked the part in earning a 106 Brisnet Speed figure in his first attempt on the dirt for Sadler last time out. Kitten’s Joy colt is a wildcard that could be any kind in his second main-track endeavor.

Grade 2 winner #1 Rushie (5-1) is no slouch, and if he takes to the Del Mar surface, then he could easily challenge for the top prize for conditioner Michael McCarthy.

I will use each of these four in the multi-race wagers, but only put Express Train on top of my vertical plays.


$1 trifecta 5 with 1,4,7,8 with all ($28)

$2 exacta key box 5 with 1,4,7,8 ($16)