Fanticola headlines strong field for John C. Mabee at Del Mar

Fanticola headlines strong field for John C. Mabee at Del Mar
Photo: Benoit Photo

The co-feature on Saturday at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club card is the Grade II John C. Mabee run at nine furlongs over the beautiful Southern California turf course. The race named for the famous California owner and breeder drew a solid field of nine probable runners on the eighth of a solid ten-race weekend card. The event promises to be another thriller, led by the top three finishers in June’s Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes at Santa Anita Park, as well as a few “new shooters” that are in with a significant chance.

The morning line and likely post-time favorite for the John C Mabee is Fanticola, The five year-old mare comes into Saturday in great form and will be tough to beat for trainer Phil D’Amato. After a few near misses in the Grade III Santa Barbara and the Grade I Gamely, the daughter of Silent Name was able to get to the wire first on Gold Cup Day at Santa Anita Park and looks to continue her winning ways “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.” Unlike in the Royal Heroine, when jockey Joe Talamo was able to sit off the early pace of Doug O’Neill trained Bird Lover, Fanitcola appears to be the controlling speed on Saturday and has a chance to dictate moderate early fractions. While, the additional furlong will be challenging, the rest of the field will be in trouble if they let Talamo off with an easy first half-mile. Given her current form and the likely moderate early pace, she clearly has a great chance of making it two wins in a row, however her inability to close the deal several times makes her a somewhat vulnerable top choice, especially at the mile and an eighth distance.

Queen of The Sand for trainer Paddy Gallagher is the 7-2 second choice on odds maker Russell Hudak’s morning line coming off a neck defeat in the Royal Heroine. This daughter of Footstepsinthesand has won 1 of 4 starts in 2015 and is 2 for 3 with one runner-up effort over the Del Mar lawn. Drayden Van Dyke will return to ride the five-year old mare that looks to put back-to-back in the money finishes together for the first time since last winter. She has very little early speed and has struggled at the nine furlong distance, but will likely see her share of money at the windows coming off the near miss last out. I prefer others.

Stormy Lucy for trainer Ed Moger, Jr. ran a big race off the layoff in the Royal Heroine and is 4-1 on the morning line in Saturday’s co-feature. The six-year old mare finished fourth in this event last year and gets Rafael Bejarano back in the irons, but will need to move forward off of her 2015 debut if she is to run down Fanticola down the lane. Her 0-for-3 record at Del Mar and her need for a brisk early pace are both a bit concerning at a relatively short price. Blingismything also returns from the Royal Heroine. In that event, the Eric Kruljac conditioned daughter of Arch was buried on the rail and never had a fair shot to run down the leaders when she finished a disappointing sixth at 5-1. The outside draw, two solid races over the Del Mar course and a barn that comes in off a strong few days, make this mare intriguing, but the nine-furlongs may be a bit too much “real estate” for her to put up what will need to be a career best performance.

While those coming out of the Royal Heroine certainly have a big shot in the John C. Mabee, there are others that have realistic chances as well. One of them is Emotional Kitten for trainer Wesley Ward. This daughter of Kitten’s Joy makes the cross-country voyage from Belmont Park after a solid fourth in the $100,000 Perfect Sting. While that race is a non-graded event, it drew an outstanding field that stands up to this one. The five-year old mare was drawn outside that day and was forced wide. She should definitely enjoy moving inside and the additional furlong on Saturday as well as the services of Hall of Famer Gary Stevens for the first time. Ward has had a rough start to the summer, but is definitely in with a shot here for owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.

Notte d’Oro also ships in from out of town. This four-year old filly heads to San Diego after two runner-up efforts at a mile at Canterbury Park including most recently in the $100,000 Lady Canterbury on July 11th where she ran a hard closing second to favorite Kitty Wine. She certainly is an outsider, but Michael Stidham gets Flavien Prat up for the mount and is worth a long shot look at what should be a big price.

Two runners that were set to run on opening weekend at Del Mar, but were forced to scratch due to the record-breaking July rainfall return on Saturday and both are in with significant chances. Elektrum for trainer John Sadler and Hronis Racing figured big time in the Osunitas Stakes after a troubled trip in the Gamely in late May. This four-year old daughter of High Chaparral has done little wrong since her Stateside debut on February 1st, but has found racing trouble in three of her four starts.  This filly clearly has the talent to compete with the top contenders in the John C. Mabee and at 6-1 makes for an appealing value option. If the hiccup in her training regiment due to the wash off on July 18th does not impact Elektrum’s effort, she could be ready for a career best performance on Saturday. Veteran jockey Victor Espinoza gets his first mount on the Sadler trainee.

Personal Diary also was forced to scratch out of the Osunitas Stakes after being sent west for trainer Victoria Oliver. The four-year old daughter of City Zip had a brilliant performance in the Del Mar Oaks last August, but has not run back to that effort since. In fact, she has not hit the board in three efforts in 2015, but her connections are hoping she regains the form that led to her powerful closing kick in the Grade I event over this course almost a year ago. Oliver had a win on Thursday afternoon and “legs up” jockey Brice Blanc on Saturday. She should run a strong race, but the lack of significant early speed is definitely a concern. Gusto Dolce was scratched out of last week’s Clement Hirsch over the main track and is the likely longest shot on the board in the Mabee for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

The John C. Mabee is scheduled to go to post at 5:40 local time and is the second of two graded stakes event on Del Mar’s Saturday card. It makes up the second leg of the Pick Four and the fourth leg of the Pick Six.



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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, 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 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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