Calumet Farm’s Bal a Bali and jockey Mike Smith win the Grade I, $ 400,000 Shoemaker Mile, Saturday, June 3, 2017 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.© BENOIT PHOTO
In one of the most intriguing races of the 2017 Del Mar racing season, Brazilian-bred Bal a Bali, a two-time Grade I winner this year, will carry highweight of 125 pounds Sunday versus an all-star line-up of grass milers in the Grade II $ 200,000 Del Mar Mile.
Bal a Bali, a seven-year-old owned by Calumet Farm and trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, will have Mike Smith in the irons as he faces the always competitive Midnight Storm, who will pack 124 pounds in pursuit of his second consecutive success in the Del Mar Mile, and the hard-hitting Om, in at 122 pounds who was second, beaten a half-length, in the 2016 renewal of the race. Rafael Bejarano has the call on Midnight Storm, while Gary Stevens will pilot Om.
Completing the small but sterling field will be Vyjack, 120 pounds and Flavien Prat; Blackjackcat, 119 pounds and Kent Desormeaux, and, finally, Argentine-bred Le Ken, 119 in his American debut under Drayden Van Dyke.
After going winless in five 2016 starts, Bal a Bali has won two of three races this year, including the Frank E. Kilroe and Shoemaker, both Grade I’s at one mile on the turf. In between those contests, he was fifth in the Grade I Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. For his career, the son of Put It Back has won 15 of 25 races and $ 1.2 million.
Returning to the grass Sunday after five races on the main dirt track, MidnightStorm was a wire-to-wire winner of the 2016 Del Mar Mile, hanging on gamely to prevail over Om. After a third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita, he won Del Mar’s Native Diver in the fall on the dirt in a demonstration of his versatility. He’s unraced since a fourth May 27 in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Midnight Storm’s record is ten wins in 24 races and a bankroll of $ 1.7 million.
Om made his 2017 debut July 4 in the American at Santa Anita and was a bang-up second to Pee Wee Reese, beaten one and three-quarter lengths in the fast time of 1:32.26. He lost by a nose to Obviously in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November.
Vyjack, like Bal a Bali and Midnight Storm a millionaire for earnings, has a race over the Del Mar grass this summer, beaten a half-length by Blackjackcat, a rival Sunday, in the Wickerr July 23. In six starts at a mile on the turf, Vyjack has a record of 6-2-3-1.
Le Ken won five of eight races in Argentina, including a Grade I race at San Isidro last December, his most recent outing.
Del Mar will present a ten-race program Sunday with the first race at 2 p.m.
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