Overflow field in contentious Del Mar Derby; Sobradora Inc tops Mabee

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September 2nd, 2016

The final Sunday of Del Mar’s summer meet features a pair of Grade 2 turf stakes. The $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2) has attracted an overflow field of 16, led by the winners of the first two legs of the sophomore turf series, Monster Bea (pictured) and Free Rose respectively. Two races earlier, unbeaten Argentine import Sobradora Inc seeks ascendancy over the usual suspects in the $200,000 John C. Mabee (G2).

The Del Mar Derby will test the merit of the La Jolla (G3) form. Free Rose capitalized on a speed-friendly course that day to spring a 28-1 upset, and the son of Munnings also benefited by saving every inch of ground from his rail post. Sunday presents a tougher task from post 11, potentially more speed on tap, and the pick-up of six pounds. Hence the Richard Baltas trainee may find it harder to duplicate that result here.

The second through fourth in the La Jolla – Lucky Bryan, Moonlight Drive, and Monster Bea – could turn the tables, especially over the added ground of the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby.

Monster Bea has added appeal as the smashing winner of Del Mar’s first stakes for three-year-old turfers, the Oceanside, in his debut for Peter Miller. Given how the course was playing next time in the La Jolla, he was unable to uncork his wide, circling move to the same effect. Yet Monster Bea ran more than creditably to go down by only 1 1/2 lengths as the 122-pound highweight. He gets a rematch at level weights this time, and keeps Hall of Famer Gary Stevens.

Moonlight Drive has performed well when second in the one-mile Oceanside and third in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla, and the Bob Baffert pupil may be better suited to this trip. By 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Red Rocks and out of a mare by the stout Monsun, the Italian-bred has the pedigree to go longer. That’s seconded by his juvenile record in France, where he placed in a couple of one-mile stakes on soft ground. If you’re already competing at that level over a mile at two, you’ll want more distance over time, particularly in U.S. conditions.

Lucky Bryan has been steadily improving since joining John Sadler. Third to Arcature in his reappearance in the Singletary, and fourth to Mr. Roary and Ralis in the Rainbow, Lucky Bryan rallied from well back to get up in an entry-level allowance here July 16. He finished strongly to take second in the La Jolla, and the Lookin at Lucky colt is likely still on the upswing.

Ralis is among the contenders who didn’t take part in either the Oceanside or La Jolla. Trainer Doug O’Neill dispatched him to New York for the lucrative Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), and although he was only eighth, he was beaten all of a couple of lengths. That form passes muster, with the victorious Deauville going on to finish third versus his elders in the Arlington Million (G1), and the Belmont Derby third and sixth, Beach Patrol and Long Island Sound, producing the exacta in the Secretariat (G1).

Others joining the party for the Del Mar Derby include Wood Memorial (G1) near-shocker Trojan Nation, who was drubbed in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont (G1) before breaking his maiden in his recent turf debut; Gold Rush Dancer, winner of three straight stakes in Cal-restricted company (including the May 28 Snow Chief in a photo over Ralis); speedy stakes debutant Blackjackcat, last seen beating Free Rose in a July 23 Del Mar allowance; Curlin Rules, who wired a local allowance in his first turf try for Sadler (and could force the pace to help fellow Hronis Racing colorbearer Lucky Bryan); and the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained I’malreadythere.

Dressed in Hermes, fourth in the Oceanside and sixth in the La Jolla, just hasn’t progressed since the winter, while Oceanside sixth Diplodocus makes his first start as a gelding. The also-eligibles are Aga Khan-bred import Ebadan, who would add blinkers after unplaced efforts in the first two legs of the turf series, and last-out starter allowance winner Materialistic.

A dozen turf distaffers are set to negotiate the same trip in the John C. Mabee, where Sobradora Inc bids to extend her unbeaten sequence to six.

A perfect four-for-four in her native Argentina, the daughter of Include rapidly climbed the class ladder, culminating in top-level victories in the 2015 Gran Premio Enrique Acebal (G1) and Gran Premio Copa de Plata (G1). Sobradora Inc was acquired by Katsumi Yoshida of Japan’s Northern Farm and transferred to Simon Callaghan.

In her U.S. premiere in the August 7 Osunitas, Sobradora Inc had to tap on the brakes with nowhere to go on the far turn, found herself last into the stretch, and still got up in time over Prize Exhibit and Elektrum. If they couldn’t beat her going 1 1/16 miles off an eight-month layoff, their assignment appears even stiffer in the rematch. Rafael Bejarano reunites with the exciting newcomer to the circuit.

Elektrum merits respect as the reigning titleholder in the Mabee, and a genuine and fairly consistent type. Yet the Sadler mare can be a trouble magnet – just see her winless record since she held on from Queen of the Sand in last year’s edition. Queen of the Sand is another capable enough on her day. Although she hasn’t won since the 2015 Santa Barbara (G3), she’s making only her second start of 2016 in this spot, and figures to move forward off her comeback fifth in the Yellow Ribbon (G2).  

Sadler is double-handed with Elektrum and Nancy From Nairobi, victorious in the Royal Heroine (G2) and most recently third in the Yellow Ribbon. Also exiting the Yellow Ribbon are runner-up Fresh Feline, who missed by a mere neck at 18-1; fourth Finest City; and sixth Keri Belle. Fresh Feline is reaching top form for Hollendorfer, having previously checked in a close third in the Santa Ana (G2) and fourth to Havanna Belle in the Astra. 

Kentucky shipper Personal Diary scored her personal best here in the 2014 Del Mar Oaks (G1), and went down by less than a length after a troubled passage in the 2015 Mabee.

With the exception of Sobradora Inc, the other established contenders are much of a muchness, useful sorts lacking a standout. That makes a pair of recent allowance winners very much worth a look on the class hike.

Well-bred Avenge, who just beat Fanticola in front-running fashion on this course, represents the successful tandem of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and jockey Flavien Prat. Gloryzapper tests turf for the first time, but the pacey daughter of Ghostzapper edged Vale Dori – the Argentine Group 1 winner, UAE Oaks (G3) runner-up, and UAE Derby (G2) fourth who romped in Wednesday’s Tranquility Lake. 

Photos courtesy of Benoit