It has been a meet to remember for several Northern California trainers who like to summer at Del Mar, as well as one trainer who came to Southern California from Northern California and stayed.
Jonathan Wong rattled off seven wins in a week last month at Del Mar, winning trainer of the week honors and climbing into the Top 10 in the trainer standings. He never left. Wong has notched 13 victories during the meet, good for a tie for sixth best in the trainer standings, ranking him at No. 7 and nine wins set by co-leaders Bob Baffert and Philip D’Amato.
“Beyond pleased,” Wong said. “It’s definitely exceeded expectations. I was hoping we could win six to eight and we’ve won 13 so far, so we’ve doubled what we were hoping for. Just amazing.
“We’ve had great help,” Wong continued. “We had owners that let us place horses where they could win, a great group of guys working back here for us, making sure everything was taken care of. Fortunately, we got lucky. Horses were just clicking at the right time, they got into their races and everything worked out perfectly.”
Wong still calls Golden Gate Fields his base, but he’s training full time in Southern California. He’s tied for first in the trainer standings at Golden Gate.
“I live down here, but a majority of our barn is up in the Bay Area,” Wong said, “and we’re thinking about taking a string out to Keeneland for the meet and spreading out into the Kentucky area.”
Trainer Andy Mathis had his best meet ever at Del Mar this summer, winning 12 races, good enough for seventh in the trainer standings. Unlike Wong, Mathis already had returned to Northern California but he took lasting memories of the 2022 meet.
“So much better than I would ever have imagined,” Mathis said. “It hasn’t totally sunk in yet how good it worked out. I thought it would be more likely that I would win zero races than 12.
“It was one of those deals where we won a few races early and I thought if we could win six or seven races that would be really good,” Mathis added. “The next thing you know you’re at six or seven and you say ‘Boy, nine would be a huge number’ and then it was 10 and then last week we landed on 12.“
Mathis said he appreciates how difficult the summer meet is and how it takes a lot of good luck
“It was a lot of good fortune throughout the whole meet,” he said. “Whether it was pace scenarios or horses that got into races and not on the also-eligible lists. Del Mar is hard. Training starts early, you have the later post times. You really need everybody on the same page, all the grooms and the riders. It’s long days and hard work.”
Still, Mathis said he’ll probably be back next year.
“It’s like playing blackjack and you’re on a big roll,” Mathis says. “You can’t just get up and leave. Once I recover from it, I’ll be wanting to go back.”
Two other trainers at Del Mar for the summer left town with victories under their belt. Quinn Howey calls Northern California home, but he brought a string of horses to Del Mar and won three races. O.J. Jauregui did the same and pocketed one victory.