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HRN Original Blog:
Shapper Da California Capper

Del Mar's return to the grass a success

Enterprising La Jolla 615 X 400
Photo: Benoit Photo


After an ill-fated start to midsummer turf racing in San Diego, all signs pointed to brighter things ahead for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club lawn.  The new course, which saw an unfortunate number of casualties in its first few weeks of use, performed “without incident” on Saturday and Sunday.  Five races over the weekend went in good order over the newly installed seven-furlong oval and track officials and horsemen appeared to be pleased, as well as relieved with the weekend’s events.


Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith who has been over his fair share of grass courses and was aboard Enterprising in Saturday’s La Jolla Handicap said, “I think it really is a good course. I thought so from the start. It was firm, but it had a nice bounce to it. Now it might be even better. Horses go over it smooth, quiet. Smith continued, “ You don’t hear any of that clump, clump, clump on the backstretch. It’s all-good. By the time we’re done here, this course might be as good as any in the country.” The turf course was closed for six days and during this period it was aerated, additional water was added and the inner rail was adjusted to the 24-foot marker. The extended rail allowed for the thoroughbreds to race on a “fresher” part of the course.  The modifications all appeared to work well providing optimism where “The Surf meets the Turf.”


The return to the Del Mar grass allowed for both of last weekend’s features to be run on the lawn instead of being moved to the all weather course as had been done in previous days.  Saturday’s highlighted event was the aforementioned $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for three-year olds. The compact field of six featured favored Glen Hill Farm entrant Enterprising coming off his win in the Oceanside Stakes on opening day, as well as Amerman Racing’s Schoolofhardrocks exiting a fourth place effort in Arlington Park’s Grade III American Derby.  Schoolofhardrocks appeared to be going well on the early lead, but somewhat surprisingly weakened late, while Enterprising settled in the back and rolled home with an extremely impressive late kick for his second consecutive victory.  The son of Elusive Quality paid $5.00 to win, while Doug O’Neill runners I’ll Wrap It Up and Sammy Mandeville ran impressively to finish second and third at nice odds.


In addition to the featured La Jolla, Saturday also saw a maiden special weight race for three years old and upward at one mile on the newly renovated lawn.  Hronis Racing and John Sadler’s three-year old son of Kitten’s Joy, Sunny Kat who had been winless in four prior starts, won the race.  Wicked Finance closed out the exacta for trainer Eric Kruljac who still has just one win at the 2014 Del Mar meeting. Kulik Lodge took the third grass race of the day for Stonestreet Stables nosing out Husband’s Folly in an optional claimer at one mile.


Sunday’s feature was the $250,000 Grade II John C. Mabee Handicap at a mile and an eighth. The six-horse field featured post time favorite Miss Serendipity off her win in the Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita Park and another Tom Proctor/Glen Hill Farm runner Wishing Gate off a fourth place effort in the Grade II Royal Heroine. Wishing Gate pulled her way to the front early, kicked clear around the first turn, but was gunned down late by Richard Mandella’s four-year old filly Moulin De Mougin.  The daughter of Curlin, much like Enterprising had the day before saved ground on the rail and came from well off the pace under jockey Mike Smith to take the lions’ share of the purse money.  Miss Serendipity was forced to steady in midstretch and finished last. The stewards did conduct an inquiry into the event that caused the steadying, but made no change in the end.


In addition to the graded stakes event named for one of the founding members of the Board of Directors of Del Mar Thoroughbred, Sunday also saw Philip D’Amato’s Pioneer of the Nile colt Midnight Storm defeat Doug O’Neill trainee Home School to take Race 2 at juicy price of $21.40.  Again the races went without with any problems.


With the successful return of turf racing this past weekend Southern California horsemen and handicappers eagerly anticipate a normal, full week on the grass starting on August 13th.  The racing week on the lawn commences on Wednesday with a maiden special weight event in race two and an allowance event in race six. Both are for three year olds and upward and limited to California breds.  The slate for the week also includes two talented allowance groups on Thursday and Friday afternoon, Friday’s featured $90,000 Sandy Blue Handicap for three-year old fillies and the 58th running of the $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks on Saturday. There appears to be a lot of optimism that the changes have rectified the issues regarding Del Mar’s turf course.


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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 picking winners. He points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills, and his 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. 

A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, www.shapperdacapper.com showcasing his and other experts' selections, as well as analysis and commentary on North American racing. From there, he began writing a weekly column for www.danonymousracing.com called "Race of the Week" and soon thereafter started writing for Horse Racing Nation. Currently, he is Horse Racing Nation's Southern California Racing Correspondent and can be found most days at Santa Anita Park or Del Mar Race Course.

Scott loves playing in horse racing tournaments and constructing pick four and pick five tickets.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, Fly So Free and Charismatic. He has lived in multiple states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado before returning to Southern California in the middle of 2015 to start "Shapper Da California Capper." 


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