Photo: Melanie Martines
Both the East and West Coast had their fair share of exciting races over the weekend. This was Del Mar's signature summer weekend, and I was fortunate to be there with my camera to capture the excitement of what this sport is all about. With the weekend behind us, we are now left with fond memories, (hopefully) more money in our pockets, and sheer anticipation on what's ahead for several superstars who shined over the weekend.
It is said, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'd like to share my passion through my photos and show you why I love this sport so much. The beauty, power and grace of these equine athletes are beyond words. Reflecting on this past weekend, a few dreams came true, a track record was broken, and it all happened at the place where the turf meets the surf...
So if you are one of the few who have figured-out Del Mar's surface there were opportunities to start the weekend with a bang! On Saturday, Alonzo Quinonez won the first race, aboard long shot Backwoods Belle who paid $24.40 to win! Anybody have the #3?
of the coolest names of Saturday was a horse named, “Jedi Mind Trick”. Third
off the lay-off, he won the third race with Victor Espinoza aboard, and paid
$6.60 to win.
The featured race on Saturday was the 75th Running of the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap-G2. Part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win & You're In, the winner earns a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf to be held on Saturday, November 1 at Santa Anita Park. This is the only Del Mar Stakes race that has been run in all 75
summers that the track has raced. Tyler Baze aboard Fire With Fire, and others, ran by me for the first time.
A 1 3/8 on the turf, Mike Smith aboard 8-5 favorite Big John B seized the lead turning for home to earn this sharp 5-year old gelding a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf! He won convincingly by 5 1/4 lengths. Big John B was recently transferred to Phil D'Amato, the former Mike Mitchell assistant, from trainer Mike Stidham.
Two thumbs up in the Winner's Circle from a very happy Mike Smith.
"I think as of now, we're looking for the Breeders' Cup. That's the plan, D' Amato said. "This horse, every race he improves and his confidence is through the roof right now."
Sunday Morning arrived, and the excitement brewed as the day highlighted three stakes races, two of which were part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win & You're In! Winners would be guaranteed an expenses-paid berth into the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and the Breeders' Cup Classic. An attendance of 28,290 filled the track.
Race 5 was the 28th Running of the $250,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap- G2. Obviously was hammered as the 2-5 favorite, but broke awkwardly and stumbled out of the gate. He quickly gathered his composure, and Joe Talamo moved Obviously straight to the front; drilling fast fractions before eventually weakening to fourth under his top weight of 126 pounds. Biding his time and sitting in fourth, Tom's Tribute moved strongly to the outside into the stretch, took the lead, and drew clear off the firm-turf to return $8.20 to win!
Happy Trainer Jim Cassidy being interviewed by TVG Simon Bray.
Race 9 was the 29th Running of the $250,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes- G2. Part of the Breeder's Cup Challenge Series: Win & You're In! The winner would earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Goldencents wire-to-wire performance was no doubt beyond spectacular. Under jockey Rafael Bejarano, they both blazed home setting a track record of 1:20.99; leaving only a trail of dust behind them.
Winner's Circle with the star Goldencents and Rafael Bejarano.
Race 10 was the prime highlight of the of the entire weekend. The 24th Running of The TVG Pacific Classic- Grade I. With a purse of $1,000,000 and a prestigious spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic; anticipation filled the air.
From a competitive field of 10, including 2013 winner Game On Dude three-year-old Shared Belief proved he was the "real deal". Sporting a perfect 5-5 record like his Sire, Candy Ride who won this race in 2003 he sparkled on the track winning by 2 3/4 lengths over three-year-old colt Toast Of New York. Shared Belief, who previously won the Los Alamitos Derby is now pressing forward to the $1 Million Bolton Challenge Bonus which would be paid to any horse that wins the Los Alamitos Derby-G2, the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic, AND the $5 Million Breeders' Cup Classic. Winning all three race is not an easy task, but Shared Belief has one more race to prove he is one of the best three-year-old out there. Definitely an exciting time for the connections of this talented colt.
Crowd awaiting the race.
7-year-old gelding, Game on Dude streaked to the
lead along the inside by Martin Garcia and was pressed hard by 25-1 Argentine
import, Mystery Train. Unhappy Trainer Bob Baffert quoted, "Long shots are always
the biggest danger to a horse like Game on Dude. They
always want to go after him. I hate to see that. I think he was gonna' win if
they hadn't gone after him like that. It's frustrating to train a horse and get
him ready for his biggest race and have a horse who has no shot to win take
that chance away."
Shared Belief heading for home with Toast of New York and Game on Dude behind him.
Shared Belief flying home.
Mike Smith giving some thanks on his win.
Toast of New York ran a gamely race coming in 2nd.
The place where dreams come true... In the Winner's Circle.
I had a wonderful weekend that was filled with excitement from start to finish. More than anything, I am just thankful it was a safe weekend for both the jockeys and the horses. Until next time I'll be dreaming of sunshine and horse racing!