never too early to start dreaming. On Sunday afternoon at Del Mar seven
juveniles and their connections will begin their graded stakes journey towards
what they hope will lead to a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile or Kentucky Derby win.
However, the road that begins with the G2 Best Pal Stakes is not only long but
generally not the best place to start.
1972 the Balboa Stakes formally became the race that it is today, a Juvenile stakes and sprint at Del Mar that is raced annually. Since then it is
very rare that an entry in what is now known as the Best Pal Stakes ever moves
on to capture one of the most illustrious prizes for either the Juvenile
division or 3-yr-old season. But, that’s not to say it has not been done.
looking back there are three entries that got started early yet still delivered
later when it mattered most. The first, and most recent, is your 2012 Kentucky
Derby winner I’ll Have Another. He wasn’t ready to get the best of Creative Cause
in the 2011 Best Pal Stakes but a duel to the wire and 2nd place
finish got him on his way. What happened later is history but he wasn’t the
only Kentucky Derby winner that got his hooves wet early at Del Mar.
1981 Gato Del Sol became the very first Balboa Stakes horse to later go on and
win the Kentucky Derby. Since his rare feat was accomplished it wasn’t until
the race was renamed in 1995 in honor of Best Pal, a California-bred who won
the Balboa Stakes in 1990 and later went on to finish 2nd to Strike
the Gold in the Kentucky Derby, that I’ll Have Another did it again. So, Best
Pal to the roses is only 2 for 41, not the best odds.
so what about the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile? Unfortunately it is not that much
better because it’s only happened once. Sure, the Breeders’ Cup began later in
1984 but 1 for 29 doesn’t sound good either. So then, who’s the one that did
it? This name you should easily remember. In 1994 Timber Country stormed home
to win the Balboa Stakes by a neck before firing back later in the fall to
claim the G1 Champagne at Belmont and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at
Churchill Downs. 1995 wasn’t his year until he and Pat Day spoiled the Triple
Crown party and reappeared with their first win of the 3-yr-old season in the
that’s three solid horses that got things moving in the right direction in this
race here at Del Mar. Counting Best Pal and other notable non Kentucky Derby or
Juvenile winners like Lookin’ at Lucky or Dixie Union, this race isn’t anything
short of a good place to start. So, which of these 7 is likely to graduate from
early Juvenile success and move on to greater things down the road? That’s hard
to answer but what I can tell you is who I like today.
we got to ask who you like better between the 1-2 finishers in the Hollywood
Juvenile Championship, Alpine Luck or Ontology? Alpine Luck was superior that
day but the morning line favors Ontology; 5-2 vs. 3-1. Agree or disagree?
by Mike Harrington and ridden by Gary Stevens, Alpine Luck was strong enough to
score his 2nd straight victory in his 4th career start
when he held on to his lead in the 6F duel versus Ontology last time out.
Ontology on the other hand is still searching for his first. Trained by Simon
Callaghan and led by Rafael Bejarano, Ontology was sent to the Hollywood
Juvenile Championship right after finishing 2nd in his career debut,
a 5f MSW at BHP that was won by a horse that we’ve already mentioned. Yes that
is correct, Ontology has finished second best to Alpine Luck back to back.
the third time be the charm? Maybe, at least the odds maker thinks so but as for
me I’m going to go out on a strong limb and say that neither of these two will win
the 2013 Best Pal Stakes. Now that may be a bold prediction because I do feel
that Ontology and Alpine Luck have the best potential to move on to better
things later this fall or next spring but I’ll take my chances.
I can’t take my eye of Skydreamin. Trained by Jeff Bonde, with Russell Baze in
the saddle, the Kentucky bred colt and son of Sky Mesa comes in hot, a perfect 2
for 2. Although he made the move from Northern California and Golden Gate
Fields down to Del Mar, I like his chances to get the best of
the heralded boys from southern California.
for the rest of the field, there’s no reason I may have misjudged any of them and that and they are ready to make an early splash. Your field for the 2013 Best Pal Stakes
1/2 Furlongs | 2 Year Olds |
Purse: $150,000 | Post: 5:40 PDT