Shapiro reviews star-studded days at Del Mar
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
The stars were out during an exciting second week “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.”
A thrilling stretch duel between California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap highlighted the first full week of racing at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Between the battle of two of the top handicap horses on the West Coast and workouts from Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder, it was quite a fulfilling five days for Southern California racing fans.
The San Diego certainly did not disappoint as the race set up just like most experts expected. Dortmund controlled the pace from his inside post and California Chrome tracked him from his outside draw. When they turned for home it appeared Chrome might draw away, but the Kaleem Shah owned colt fought on gamely. In the end the 2016 Dubai World Cup winner showed tremendous heart and grit to hit the wire first once again. Both runners are pointing to the $1 million dollar Pacific Classic next month.
California Chrome headed back home to Los Alamitos at 8AM Sunday morning where trainer Art Sherman believes he is more relaxed than he is around all of the action at Del Mar. Sherman was extremely pleased with how the five-year-old came out of the race and will put him through “a couple of easy drills” in Orange County before shipping back down South for the Classic.
Dortmund also appeared no worse for the wear on Sunday morning. Trainer Bob Baffert said, “He looks great this morning. He showed up (Saturday) and I’m proud of his performance. You look at his form and he only loses to Kentucky Derby winners.” When asked about his thoughts in regards to the 2014 Horse of the Year, the Hall of Fame trainer declared, “I had a lot of respect for California Chrome going in and I gained a lot more respect (Saturday.) Art has done an exceptional job with him.”
In addition to the San Diego this weekend at Del Mar, champion mare Beholder worked on Sunday morning. The Richard Mandella trainee was extremely impressive in her final work before next Saturday’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes. The winner of eight straight, including two Grade 1’s at Del Mar last summer, breezed five furlongs in a snappy 59.20. Mandella said, ”It went a little quicker than we planned, but she does that often….She’s ready.”
Beholder’s chief competition in the Clement L. Hirsch, champion filly Stellar Wind also worked on Sunday with regular rider Victor Espinoza aboard. She got five furlongs in in one minute. According to trainer John Sadler it was “a maintenance work. She had her stronger work a week ago, so she’s ready.”
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist also put in a final work before heading East for next weekend’s $1 million dollar Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. In a workout at 1PM Sunday afternoon called by track announcer Trevor Denman, the son of Uncle Mo worked a mile in 1:39.40. Trainer Doug O’Neill was “very happy with it.” O’Neill stated, “He broke off nice and relaxed, settled nicely and when Mario called on him he finished well. He did everything we wanted and did it the right way.”
Overshadowed by the star power on display this weekend at Del Mar was a superb three-year-old debut from Bob Baffert conditioned Pretty N Cool in the C.E.R.F Stakes. The Scat Daddy filly relaxed well under the handling of jockey Mike Smith and finished strong to capture the Wednesday feature. She could be set for a big second half of 2016.
Racing at Del Mar resumes on Wednesday at 2PM.
California Chrome photo by Benoit.