The good news came on Monday that turf racing would resume
at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club after giving it three days off. The turf course was shut down after the
fourth horse in two weeks of racing over the grass had to be euthanized on
Saturday afternoon. The San Diego based
track already had planned to perform maintenance on the new course on Monday,
but decided the extra day could only help in what was a rough start to the 2014
summer meet. Included in the plan was moving the rails out to 18 feet and
aerating the grass to give it a bit more bounce. Hopefully this will help in avoiding further
issues and casualties, but there still remains concern that there is more to
the recent occurrences than just the condition of the course.
With the announcement that racing on the Del Mar lawn will
resume on Wednesday, we can hopefully get back to normalcy at the picturesque
Northern San Diego destination. Included in Wednesday’s eight race card is a
maiden special weight event for two-year olds at one mile over the modified
turf. Many horseplayers think these
races are “crapshoots” without having seen much of the runners, but these are in
fact some of my favorite races to handicap. The sixth race on the card is one of these
races. Generally when handicapping them, I first look at each horse’s pedigree.
This includes investigating not only the sire, but the broodmare as well. It is
often difficult to find value with the bloodlines of the father because there
is a plethora of information available plus a large sample to choose from,
however the same cannot be said for the dam who is only able to produce one
foal per year. Researching the
productivity of the broodmare can prove to be beneficial in these races and
also provide the horseplayer with value at the windows.
The sixth race on Wednesday at Del Mar did not provide me
with too much help in separating these runners based on pedigree, however it
did provide a bit of useful information. Firstly, # 5 P Club, for trainer Walther Solis, is a half brother to Dan
and Sheila, earner of over $180,000. The problem is that the older is a son of
More than Ready and sold for significantly more than his half brother.
Additionally he is 3 for 30 including just 0 for 2 over the turf. I will side
with others. #6 Mr. Chase also is out of an extremely productive daughter of
Forest Wildcat, Cat Out. This mare has produced two six-digit earners including
Apollo Da Vinci earner of nearly $500,000, but once again there is little to
suggest that the lawn will be the best place for this one based on the history
of both mother and father. #1 Ligety
fits under the same profile as her mother Back in the Shade finished third in the
1996 Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park, but was 0 for 6 on the turf.
While the investigation of pedigree did not produce a
standout, the most useful data came when evaluating the breeding of #2 Seve’s
Road. This son of 2009 Florida Derby winner Quality Road is out of a Giant’s
Causeway mare named Silk Road. Silk Road
never made it to the races, but was sold for an impressive $435,000 at the 2011
November Keeneland sale illustrating that someone thought this one was going to
be a productive runner. Interestingly, his
first progeny, Finalize, sold for $200,000 and is still unraced, but once again
this colt must have looked “the part” given the significant price of sale. While it is hard to decipher how successful
this broodmare will be long term, not only is she from the extremely productive
Giant’s Causeway family tree, but also her two offspring have sold for a
significant amount at the top sales the States have to offer. Seve’s Road in my eyes is the best bred in a
field of two-year olds who probably will do their best running on the dirt or
synthetic, not the grass.
More important to me than pedigree in two-year old maiden
special weight turf races is the trainer of each runner. A horse can be bred
regally on both sides, but if a conditioner is not one to crank them up in
their first and second starts it must be taken seriously. Often times I will see a runner who is a full
or half sibling to a star of the past or present, but it will take them several
starts to get to their best simply because the conditioner and connections want
to be patient. These horses generally
get over bet in their first few starts and are bad options at the window.
Conversely, if a trainer is known to have his runners ready at first asking,
they can overcome below average breeding and run big early on in their career.
Wednesday’s sixth at Del Mar has a few entrants where the
conditioner’s strengths and weaknesses must be taken into serious account. A solid example of this is #8 Popsracer who
makes his third career start for trainer David Hofmans. While this one is bred
decent enough on both sides to succeed on the grass in a relatively weak group,
I am reluctant to use him tomorrow because of Hofmans statistics and history.
In 2014, he is 0 for 12 with runners making their turf debut and just 1 of 16
with two-year olds as a whole. In addition, he has also not succeeded moving
runners from the dirt to the turf yet in 2014 in ten tries. In contrast, #9 Papacoolpapacool is a son of
Temple City who has not sired a winner on the grass yet this year and out of a
Saint Ballado mare named Sainttwok who has never produced a grass winner despite
several successful offspring attempting the lawn. Despite the poor pedigree, I
give this one a look tomorrow because his trainer Jeff Mullins is capable
winning first out. I am not in love with
this one, but the point is that in my mind Mullins style “trumps” the lack of
With the course being altered over the dark days, I am
reluctant to get too heavily involved financially in this one and recommend
watching how the turf plays earlier on.
The rails being out could definitely lead to a speed-favoring course but
who knows with the amount of maintenance done the past few days. In addition,
this field does not offer much in terms of value as the best bred horse as well
as the one who ran best first out, Seve’s Road is the 5-2 morning line favorite
for trainer Doug O’Neill.
We do see a few horses with value that have been training
well and could run big. Cody Autrey who
has been red hot with debut runners in 2014 connecting at an eye-popping 39%
trains one of them, #3 Dallas Skyline. I am not in love with Autrey on the
grass or in Southern California usually, but he will have this son of Scat
Daddy cranked up for his debut and 12-1 with Kent Desormeaux seems worth a
chance. #4 Nakamoto for Adam Kitchingman took no money in his debut where he
broke and ran an even fourth, but has been training well and could improve in
his second try. Finally, #8 Visitation
for trainer Paddy Gallagher is worth a shot given the okay pedigree and
Gallagher’s ability to fire first on the grass. He is a solid 27% in 2014 with
a relatively solid sample of 22 and 12-1 makes him somewhat intriguing.
I have no suggestive wagers here because of the unknown
course, but watch the first and third races and perhaps take a shot with one of
the value horses mentioned above as well as trifecta keying Seve’s Road over a
few long shots. All in all I am just happy racing is back on the grass!