When Gary Stevens recorded his first Del Mar Stakes victory – aboard Tsunami Slew in the 1985 Eddie Read Stakes – Bill Shoemaker already had 86 in the track’s record book.
Stevens, then a 22-year-old with six years of experience riding thoroughbreds, would add another Del Mar Stakes in 1985, the Del Mar Derby aboard First Norman. Shoemaker, then a 54-year-old who started racking up stakes wins at Del Mar 13 years before Stevens was born, also had two stakes wins in the summer of 1985 – aboard Savannah Dancer in the Del Mar Oaks and Daily Busy in the Ramona Handicap.
The gap between Stevens and Shoemaker remained at 86.
Shoemaker would record six more stakes wins at Del Mar, four in 1986 and two in 1987, and would retire from riding in 1990 with 94 at the track. Stevens would continue on through the years of his Hall of Fame career. And last Saturday, guiding Defiantly to victory in the Let It Ride Stakes, caught up to Shoemaker with 94 stakes victories, sixth on the track’s all-time list.
Memories of competing against Shoemaker on the track, and being with him in the jockeys’ room and in social situations, are still strong for Stevens.
“Shoe loved it here,” Stevens said. “It had to be his favorite meeting place. He used to come in and play cards every day with Dr. (Robert) Kerlan in the old silks room before the old grandstand was torn down and the new one was built.
“I would try and be lucky enough to sit in on the games and try not to lose too much money.
“A lot of good nights after racing here with Shoe … He was my mentor and a guy I looked up to in the sport. It’s a great honor to have tied his record.”
Shoemaker became a trainer after retiring from riding and won two Del Mar Stakes. They were with Baldomero in the 1990 Osunitas Handicap and Diazo in the 1993 Relaunch Handicap. Paralyzed from the waist down in a 1991 car accident, Shoemaker died on October 12, 2003 at the age of 72.
The next Del Mar Stakes victory for Stevens, 53, will move him into a tie with two fellow Hall of Famers, still active Alex Solis and retired Eddie Delahoussaye. Third-place Laffit Pincay (96) is only two wins away.
Stevens is scheduled to ride Oopper Wallah for Matthew Chew in the Grade III $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes on Saturday.
EAST TO OUTNUMBER WEST FOR DERBY, MATRIARCH? IT’S POSSIBLE
The nomination deadline for the two $300,000 Grade I stakes of closing weekend – the Hollywood Derby on Saturday, December 3 and Matriarch Stakes on December 4 – is Saturday at midnight.
And when the accounting becomes available on Sunday, Stakes Director Chris Merz would not be surprised if the races turn out to be a Shipperganza.
“I expect (entries from the) East to outnumber the West,” Merz said Thursday morning. “We’re getting a lot of interest from East Coast trainers. Chad Brown is sending three out for the Derby and two for the Matriarch and there are several others telling us they plan on sending horses out here.”
In developments for other upcoming stakes:
- The acclimation to Del Mar by Japanese import Nuovo Record continues to be going well toward a planned start in the Grade III $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap on November 24. The 5-year-old granddaughter of Sunday Silence, an earner of nearly $5 million lifetime, continued a series of daily jogging/galloping exercises with a two-mile gallop Thursday morning and is scheduled to breeze on the grass course Sunday.
- Expectations of The Pizza Man defending his title in the Hollywood Turf Cup on Friday, November 25, have dimmed somewhat with reports that there may be travel-related problems for the 7-year-old gelding with earnings of more than $2 million.
MASTERY FAVORED IN FIELD OF FIVE FOR SATURDAY’S BOB HOPE
Mastery, a son of Candy Ride owned by Cheyenne Stables LLC and trained by Bob Baffert, drew the No. 3 post in a field of five and has been established as the 4-5 favorite on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s opening line for Saturday’s Grade III $100,000, seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes for two-year-olds.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Mastery took command soon after the break and proceeded to a 4 ¼-length victory in his racing debut, a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita on October 26.
With Bejarano serving out a suspension, Mike Smith has the assignment on Mastery in the Hope.
The field from the rail: Ann Arbor Eddie (Mario Gutierrez, 5-1), Bernin Sensation (Martin Garcia, 10-1), Mastery (Mike Smith, 4-5), Oopper Wallah (Gary Stevens, 12-1) and California Diamond (Norberto Arroyo, Jr., 8-5).
The Bob Hope goes as the fifth on a nine-race card.
PRAT, BALTAS AND PUYPE POST BEST OPENING WEEKEND NUMBERS
Flavien Prat built a two-win lead in the jockey standings while Richard Baltas and Mike Puype tied for the lead among trainers as the first three days of the meeting concluded Sunday.
A year ago, Prat was in a full body cast as the result of a spill at Los Alamitos and missed the entire Bing Crosby meeting. Healthy for several months now, the 24-year-old native of Melun, France, had two-win days on Friday and Saturday and carries a two-win edge over eight other riders entering the second week of the meeting.
Baltas notched victories with the first three horses he saddled while Puype had one win on Friday and two more on Sunday. Both have healthy win and in-the-money percentages. Baltas is at 30 and 70 percent in the categories, Puype 50 and 83.
Businesswise, the Bing Crosby meeting got off to a strong start with on-track attendance up 6.9 percent from 2015 and with overall and on-track betting handle up more than 20 percent from comparable days last year.
NINE, WITH ONE A SUPPLEMENT, ENTERED FOR SUNDAY’S GRANT
A field of nine, among them the supplementary entry of Tough But Nice by trainer Hector Palma, was set Thursday for Sunday’s $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes for California-breds at seven furlongs.
The draw for post positions was scheduled later Thursday, but the horses, with trainers and jockeys in parentheses, in alphabetical order are:
Acceptance (Kenny Black/Stewart Elliott), Gold Rush Dancer (Vann Belvoir/Flavien Prat), Grazen Sky (Steve Miyadi/Tyler Baze), Lucky J Lane (Brian Koriner/rider TBD), Magic Mark (Ron Ellis/Drayden Van Dyke), Solid Wager (Victor Espinoza/Peter Miller), Tengas Ransom (Jeff Mullins/Norberto Arroyo, Jr.) and Tough But Nice (Hector Palma/Fernando Perez).
FURMANSKI, PRIVMAN TO SHARE EXPERTISE IN WEEKEND SEMINARS
The question of youth versus age and experience could play out in this weekend’s handicapping seminars.
Press box steward Jeff Furmanski, at 19 a shining example that racing can appeal to the young, will provide selections and comments on the Saturdaycard. A day later, veteran Daily Racing Form correspondent and TV commentator Jay Privman will be the guest of Scott Shapiro.
The programs are from 11:30-12:15 at the Seaside Terrace near the top of the stretch.
CLOSERS – Jockeys Brice Blanc and Chantal Sutherland are approaching 1,000 career wins. Both are at 991 entering today. Blanc is scheduled to ride Buttercup Gold (5-2) in the second race and Eagle Screams (4-1) in the third, for trainer Jonathan Wong. Sutherland is booked on Tribal Tribute (4-1) for Chris Hartman in the third race and Prize Ticket (20-1) for Jim Cassidy in the fifth. Sutherland replaces Norberto Arroyo, Jr., on Tribal Tribute. Arroyo, scheduled to ride seven of eight races, called to inform stewards that he was out of state and unable to return in time to meet commitments … Veteran jockey Corey Nakatani is reportedly planning to end a hiatus from riding although plans for when and where have not been specified. Nakatani’s 104 stakes wins at Del Mar are second only to Chris McCarron’s 134. Nakatani’s intentions were announced in a Twitter post from his son, Matt, a former University of Louisville football place kicker, who said he will serve as his father’s agent … Flamboyant worked six furlongs on the turf in 1:17.80 Thursday morning prepping for the Grade II $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on November 25.
Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club