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HRN Original Blog:
First Time Turf

Oceanside Highlights Opening Day Del Mar Card

Enterprising wins 2014 Pasadena.


Thursday afternoon marks the start of the 2014-racing meet at beautiful Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, California.  Opening day will not only bring out a massive crowd where the “Turf Meets the Surf,” but will also see the return of the normal cast of top horsemen as well.  Richard Mandella, Peter Miller, Jerry Hollendorfer, Thomas Proctor, and of course Bob Baffert will all be represented as they seek success and several trips to the winner's circle again this summer. The top jockeys will also be ready including the return of Southern California’s leading rider Rafael Bejarano and Santa Anita’s recent riding champion Joe Talamo. They lead the list of those trying to capture one of the most coveted riding titles in North American racing. Who else is as excited as I am?


The card is not overwhelming on opening day, but it does offer some horseplayers several quality wagering opportunities. The featured $100,000 Oceanside Stakes run at one mile over the Del Mar turf course is of the best chances to find value on Thursday as well as a future turf superstar.  A full field is entered for the non-graded stakes event, which features some runners who had success as a two-year old, as well as some entering their first ever stakes race.


The original field for the race lost a bit of its early speed with the scratches of Patrick Biancone’s Diamond Bachelor and Darley Stable’s Yard Line, but remains deep from top to bottom. While there still could be a bit of a battle for the early lead, a combination of a new turf course with the rails out and reports that the grass is cut extremely short have me believing I want to play horses close to or on the early lead during the first week or so of the Del Mar summer meet.  I am hopeful that the grass will play fair, but recent history as well as discussion with some other veteran handicappers about past new courses has me a bit concerned that will not be the case.  I would not necessarily suggest overthinking things early, but I would be a bit leery of playing a deep closer regardless of the potential early pace.


The probable favorite in the opening day feature is the Glen Hill Farm entrant Enterprising. The son of Elusive Quality is trained by Tom Proctor and ridden by Mike Smith. This well-bred colt has shown the most consistency at the level, however he has not been a great finisher in his last few starts despite obvious talent. In his most recent race, he finished a disappointing third as the 6-5 favorite, but the two runners who finished ahead of him, Home Run Kitten and Flamboyant both have come back and proven to be quality animals.  The cutback in distance from a mile and an eighth to one mile should help his kick and he should sit a great trip under the hall of fame rider. He may be one of the likely winners, but he is even more likely to be an underlay on Thursday. 


Texas Ryano is another one of the logical contenders and probable favorites for trainer Carla Gaines and jockey Joe Talamo.  This son of Curlin is out of an extremely productive Irish-bred broodmare, Blending Element.  The European daughter of Great Commotion earned nearly $450,000 in her racing career and has been extremely productive in her life after the races.  In fact, today’s offspring Texas Ryano is a half brother to a number of six digit earners including Tiz a Blend, Tiz Elemental, Holladay Road, Excessive Blend, and American Blend. Not only does this Curlin colt have solid pedidgree, but also in the three-year old’s two victories, he has made an extremely impressive late run from the back of the pack. There is little doubt that this colt has some serious ability, but I wonder if the course will play like the Santa Anita course he had success over in his first three starts.


Conditioner William Morey sends out another one of the logical contenders Argyle Cut. This Harlington colt has run well in his nine starts, but unfortunately has suffered from “seconditis.” Veteran rider Corey Nakatani gets back aboard and the draws the rail for her Del Mar debut.  Argyle Cut definitely has had encountered some trouble in a few of his starts, but I am starting to wonder if this one does not create his own traffic issues.  He certainly is still learning despite being one of the most experienced runners in this group and could show continued improvement on Thursday.  Sammy Mandeville draws in from the also eligible list for Doug O’Neill and Rafael Bejarano and is in with a shot as well despite the tough outside draw. This son of Rock Hard Ten exits a strong Belmont Park allowance group that included one of the favorites for the $100,000 Sir Cat Stakes run on Friday at Saratoga, Tourist. An appearance in the winners’ circle with such little experience may be a reach, but I think this runner has a solid future ahead of him and is capable of a big effort on Thursday.


While the late runners in this field may end up being the most talented and successful of the group, the new course as well as the omission of a few potential pacesetters has me leaning towards horses that will be on or near the front end.  One of the entrants that fit this profile is long shot Forever Juanito. This Badge of Silver gelding is conditioned by Victor Garcia and has had a bit of success over the grass in his four career starts, however not yet at today’s distance. He makes his second start at a mile and can hang on for apiece here with slight improvement and a strong ride from veteran jockey Agapito Delgadillo.  G.G. Ryder is another that should be involved early. This Jerry Hollendorfer trainee is 5 for 9 and 2 for 3 over Golden Gate Park’s lawn, but takes a jump up in class in his voyage to San Diego and draws inside the other speed. He will have to run a career best under Elvis Trujillo to have a shot in the Oceanside Stakes.


Home School is the second of the uncoupled entry for trainer Doug O’Neill. This son of Intense Focus is just 1 for 11 in his career, but has finished in the money 8 times and enters the second half of his three-year old campaign having already earned over $75,000.  In addition, he has been facing the best competition Southern California has to offer and has competed well.  I am most impressed with his latest effort in the Singletary Stakes where he put away the other speed before being run down by Argyle Cut and the ultra impressive David Hoffmans’ runner Home Run Kitten.  A repeat of this performance over a course that should be more friendly to front runners has me extremely intrigued by the 15-1 morning line odds.  I will make this one by top choice and boxcar selection in a wide-open affair.  Let’s get this meet rolling with a double-digit winner on opening day.











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Scott has been a fan of handicapping and following thoroughbred racing since Garden State Park was rebuilt in Cherry Hill, NJ in 1985.  His first memories of the racetrack include the 1985 Jersey Derby won by Spend a Buck and the 1990 Met Mile clash between Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Housebuster, but it was not until his mid to late twenties that Scott became confident he had a knack for choosing winners. Scott points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History near Del Mar Race Course as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills and attention to detail to the next level.  It was at this time where he had his first real big score.   He had four of only five winning combinations in the now extinct “Place Pick All” on a $8 ticket netting himself $40,000. 


Since his time spent in San Diego, Scott has lived in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado, but has found a way to make racing a big part of his life no matter his place of residence.  A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, shapperdacapper.com showcasing his selections, analysis and commentary on North American racing. Scott loves playing tournaments on Derby Wars and constructing pick four and pick five tickets when there are vulnerable favorites.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, and Charismatic and his favorite jockey is Joel Rosario.  Scott is also a die-hard fan of University of Wisconsin athletics and is in several fantasy football leagues.


Scott is planning a move back to the San Diego area in 2015 so he can be closer to the horses on a daily basis. He managed musicians for several years and continues to do so in a part time role when not focused on his writing and research.


He can be found on twitter at @shapperdacapper or on his Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/shapperdacapperhorsesandsports. He also releases daily selections and analysis of NYRA and Southern California racing on his website www.shapperdacapper.com.