Full Field of 3-Year-Olds in Opening Day Feature at Del Mar

Full Field of 3-Year-Olds in Opening Day Feature at Del Mar
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The excitement is hard to contain as Thursday marks Opening Day at Del Mar Race Course in beautiful Southern California.  Two months of top-notch racing and immaculate weather commences with a solid 10-race card with full fields throughout.  A horseplayer’s dream! The $100,000 Oceanside at one mile over the grass is Thursday’s feature.  This restricted stakes event drew well and like every race on Opening Day offers plenty of options at the window.

Papacoolpapacool for trainer Phil D’Amato is the deserving 5-2 morning line favorite for the Oceanside coming in off a troubled trip effort in the Grade III Penn Mile.  The son of Temple City enters the event 4 for 9 in his career and gets the services of Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. The D’Amato conditioned gelding drew the 10-post, which is far from ideal and he will need to work out a trip if wants to get back to his winning ways. Before shipping to Penn National, he rattled off three straight victories at Santa Anita Park, but had ground saving voyages in each of them. He likely will have to prove he can navigate a win from a less than ideal position to beat a strong group on Thursday.

While Papacoolpapacool is the morning line favorite, Soul Driver for Jeff Mullins and Bloom Racing Stable is the one to beat.  This son of Street Boss finally put it all together last month in the Singletary at Santa Anita Park when he defeated a field of 12 by four and half-lengths. According to Managing Director of Bloom Racing, Jeffrey Bloom, he comes into Thursday’s feature doing “spectacular.” Bloom said that after several less than ideal trips to start his three-year-old campaign, the colt finally had an “opportunity to run in his last.” This led to a powerful turn of foot and an easy victory in which rider Gary Stevens had little to do other than steer the three-year-old to the wire. 

Mullins and Bloom enter the Oceanside confident that Soul Driver will move forward off of his last race. They will turn to veteran rider Mike Smith, who has ridden the colt a few times in the morning and has been very impressed, as Stevens opts to ride Papacoolpapacool.  Like the D’Amato trainee, Soul Driver drew way outside in the 11-hole, but with an honest pace and a clear trip he has every reason to win his third lifetime race on Thursday. He will be very tough if he can replicate his last out effort.

The top two look very tough in the Oceanside, but it is certainly far from a match race.  Anytime Anyplace for trainer Paddy Gallagher heads into Del Mar off of a solid victory down the hill on June 26th in a high-level optional claiming event.  The quick son of Any Given Saturday displayed new tactics in rating just off the early pace under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.  Thursday’s event looks to have several runners that do their best running on the lead, but if Anytime Anyplace can relax early he definitely could get the jump and hold off the two favorites.  He provides an interesting option at 6-1 on the morning line.

Forest Blue for Peter Miller makes his turf debut after three efforts over Santa Anita Park’s main surface.  The son of Tale of Ekati ran a solid second to Kentuckian in the Grade III Laz Barrera after a dominating maiden score in April, but draws the rail in his lawn debut.  Jockey Victor Espinoza will likely have to send from the inside and hope to not get too much early competition from Anytime Anyplace, or long shots Tried and True and Extant.  If they do 'bang heads' early, it will likely set things up for one of the favorites or perhaps Doug O’Neill trained Royal Albert Hall. This son of Royal Applause has not made a trip to the winner's circle since arriving in the States in 2015, but has two runner-up efforts in four North American starts and could get a perfect trip on Thursday with Flavien Prat once again onboard.

For those looking to “light up” the tote board in Del Mar’s Opening Day feature, Fueled by Bourbon could be an option. The $85,000 son of Stroll is 2 for 2 on the turf in 2015 after winning his last start due to the disqualification of Something’s Unusual. He should have a strong foundation for his first start at a route after two sprints down the hill, but will have to prove he has the class of the top contenders.  Ground Rules is also intriguing at 12-1. This son of Smart Strike has the pedigree to like the lawn in his first try over the surface, but trainer Clifford Sise has struggled on the grass in 2015.  Peacenluvpeacenluv, Tried and True, Ride Hard Kowboy, Thanksgiving Day, and Extant would all be very surprising if they hit the wire first in the Oceanside.

While I respect the resume of Papacoolpapacool, he has been the recipient of a number of perfect trips thus far in 2015. The outside draw and shipping back and forth from the East Coast makes him a vulnerable favorite.  In my opinion, Soul Driver is the likeliest winner and a horse worth wagering on at 3-1 or higher. I will use him in exotics with Royal Albert Hall, Anytime Anyplace, Fueled by Bourbon and Ground Rules as well.

Good luck on opening day at Del Mar and remember to check “Shapper Da California Capper” regularly as your source for stakes racing all summer where the “Turf meets the Surf.”



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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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