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Debuting at Del Mar – Loving the 2-Year-Olds

It might sound strange to say that this is one of my favorite horse racing weeks of the year. After all we are far removed from the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup is still months away, but when you consider the opening of two of America's finest meets this week, you can understand my excitement. Yes, there is nothing quite like racing at Del Mar and Saratoga. Two high quality meets in the heart of summer, at beautiful locations, and on opposite sides of the country. It doesn't matter which you prefer, they are both highlights of the calendar year. To further celebrate the opening of both, I have decided to reflect on one of the many exciting aspects of each meet ... All those wonderful juveniles. 

It's no accident that so many well thought of young horses make their career debuts where the Turf Meets the Surf, or at The Spa. Horsemen want to run, win, and make a splash at either Del Mar or Saratoga. They are racing's places to be seen. Wouldn't you want to win a race at one of these meccas? Sure you would, and so does virtually everyone involved in the sport. Many of these promising youngsters debut at the beginning of the respective meets, to ready themselves for attempts at the big stakes later in the meets. Horses beginning their career in the next week or two may soon be winners of prestigious races like the Hopeful or Del Mar Futurity, or the Spinaway or Del Mar Debutante. Or maybe they will go on to much more. 

Since Del Mar opens first, on Wednesday, I will start on the west coast. Let's take a look at my favorite horses that made their career debuts at beautiful Del Mar: 

Year Horse Claim to Fame
1982 Roving Boy Champion 2yo 1982
1983 Life's Magic (f) 2-time Champion 1984 & 1985
1985 Ferdinand Horse of the Year 1987
1986 Capote Champion 2yo 1986
1989 Tight Spot Turf Champion 1991
1989 Itsallgreektome Turf Champion 1990
1989 Pleasant Tap Champion Older Horse 1992
1991 A.P. Indy Hall of Fame
1991 Pleasant Stage (f) Champion 2yo filly 1991
1991 Bertrando Champion Older Horse 1993
1992 Eliza (f) Champion 2yo filly 1992
1996 Free House 2-time Cal HOY 1997 & 1998
1996 Silver Charm Hall of Fame
1999 Anees Champion 2yo 1999
2000 Point Given Hall of Fame
2001 Farda Amiga (f) Champion 3yo filly 2002
2002 Vindication Champion 2yo 2002
2003 Halfbridled (f) Champion 2yo filly 2003
2003 Action This Day Champion 2yo 2003
2004 Sweet Catomine (f) Champion 2yo filly 2004
2004 Declan's Moon Champion 2yo 2004
2005 Midnight Lute Sprint Champion 2007
2008 Stardom Bound (f) Champion 2yo filly 2008
2008 Midshipman Champion 2yo 2008

 

As you can see, the last thirty years have been an embarrassment of riches for horses that have begun their career Where the Turf Meets the Surf. From the great Ferdinand, to the fantastic rivals of the early ‘90’s, A.P. Indy and Pleasant Tap, Del Mar has proven to be a track where you need to keep an extra close eye on the first time starters.

 

In 1996, Del Mar patrons were lucky enough to see the first starts of two future superstars and Triple Crown combatants, in Bob Baffert’s Silver Charm and his top adversary, Free House. In 2000, another Baffert great, Point Given, was unveiled to the surfside fans, and in 2005, it was Midnight Lute debuting at Del Mar for the Hall of Fame trainer.

 

In recent years, Del Mar has been the place for juvenile champions to get their careers rolling, with a sweep of both the male and female Eclipse Awards in 2003, 2004, and 2008. Which currently unraced juveniles will kick-off their excellent careers with a debut at Del Mar? Better stay tuned!

 

What the Nation is saying about Debuting at Del Mar – Loving the 2-Year-Olds...

And Kris F. is correct about Del Mar's Polytrack. They had a rash of breakdowns last year and already have a training death this year. Just because they are artificial doesn't mean they are safe. I'll say it again, why not install Hollywood Park's Cushion track instead? Great for the horses and great for the bettors.
Brian a study was done and reported in the Racing Form. Dr. Parkin of univ. of Glasgow's study came up with these results: Horses break down on dirt at a rate of 2.14 times per 1,000 starts. Horses break down on synthetic tracks at a rate of 1.55 per 1,000 starts. This report was widely circulated and was ignored by the dirt-loving horse media. The study looked at 750,000 starts over the past few years. Mathematically, that's a 50% higher rate that dirt has. Something ponder, and I guess the dirt-loving horse media loves it's wallet more than the jocks and horses.
Looking forward to the Saratoga list!
I am not as big a fan of artificial surfaces, Mark ... unless it is proven that they are safer for our riders and horses.
Beautiful track;but too many injurys for me to feel comfy.
One more thing Brian, I'm a fan of artificial tracks. I believe they are safer for the horses and they open a new dynamic in handicapping. We have another angle to look at and perhaps if we study right, we can outsmart the other bettors. But even I can agree that Del Mar's track is just plain crap! Zenyatta's connections weren't sure if they were going to run there last summer. They made up their minds with a few hours to post. Also keep this in mind: Del Mar and Keeneland have the same polytrack surface and both track rank near the bottom of winning percentages on the favorite. Meaning they are somewhat unpredictable. So now handicappers have to handicap the different artificial tracks too. Another positive of the artificial tracks is that when horses ship from artificial to dirt, they hold their form. Dirt performers aren't as successful when they switch to artificial. Hollywood Park's surface is probably the best surface in the country, safe, fast and fair.
Midnight Lute is a fav of mine
I posted it twice in case any of you missed it the first time (it was one of those embarrassing mistakes, lol) (we've all done it)
I'm going to compare the two meets and give my rankings on which meet is better. Keep in mind, i grew up in southern California. I was spoiled by great weather and great racing at Hol, SA and DM. Having been to Del Mar well over 50 times and never been to Saratoga, I'm goiing to do my best at being unbiased. Horses: Del Mar is a continuation of the SOCAL curcuit. Meanwhile Saratoga attracts a much classier bunch. Winner: SARATOGA. Stakes races: Del Mar's best race is the Pacific Classic and not many really good older horses will ship out here to run on the polytrack. The Del Mar Futurity and Debutante hold their own. Saratoga has the best stakes program of any track, led by the Travers and the Alabama. Winner: SARATOGA. Trainers and Jockeys: winner SARATOGA. Facility: Saratoga is old and historic, Del Mar was rebuilt in the 90's. My favorite place to watch any horse race is the upper deck at Del Mar. It really hugs the track and gives a great view of the action. Winner: DEL MAR. Weather: Saratoga suffers the east coast heat and humidity, and sometimes it can rain for weeks at a time. Great horses racing over sloppy tracks is no fun. San Diego has the best cllimate in the country. In fact the horses racing at DM, Hol and SA probably race in tempatures over 80 degrees about just 15 times a year. Winner: DEL MAR. Women: Have you seen the women of Del Mar? They are so hot and so classy. Even the older ladies look good. Winner: DEL MAR! OK, it's a 3-3 tie, but I have to give more weight to the first 3 catagories than the last 3. So the overall winner: SARATOGA
Mark ... fabulous comparison! And I have to say, I can't disagree with any of your points.
I'm going to compare the two meets and give my rankings on which meet is better. Keep in mind, i grew up in southern California. I was spoiled by great weather and great racing at Hol, SA and DM. Having been to Del Mar well over 50 times and never been to Saratoga, I'm goiing to do my best at being unbiased. Horses: Del Mar is a continuation of the SOCAL curcuit. Meanwhile Saratoga attracts a much classier bunch. Winner: SARATOGA. Stakes races: Del Mar's best race is the Pacific Classic and not many really good older horses will ship out here to run on the polytrack. The Del Mar Futurity and Debutante hold their own. Saratoga has the best stakes program of any track, led by the Travers and the Alabama. Winner: SARATOGA. Trainers and Jockeys: winner SARATOGA. Facility: Saratoga is old and historic, Del Mar was rebuilt in the 90's. My favorite place to watch any horse race is the upper deck at Del Mar. It really hugs the track and gives a great view of the action. Winner: DEL MAR. Weather: Saratoga suffers the east coast heat and humidity, and sometimes it can rain for weeks at a time. Great horses racing over sloppy tracks is no fun. San Diego has the best cllimate in the country. In fact the horses racing at DM, Hol and SA probably race in tempatures over 80 degrees about just 15 times a year. Winner: DEL MAR. Women: Have you seen the women of Del Mar? They are so hot and so classy. Even the older ladies look good. Winner: DEL MAR! OK, it's a 3-3 tie, but I have to give more weight to the first 3 catagories than the last 3. So the overall winner: SARATOGA
Definitely one of the best on this list, Renee, if not the very best!
POINT GIVEN!!! <3 <3 <3

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