Opening weekend at Del Mar is one of the highlights of the racing year in California, and the San Diego oval has scheduled a pair of graded stakes races to kick off its summer meeting this year.
First up on the graded stakes schedule across the country is Delaware Park’s prestigious G1 Delaware Handicap, for fillies and mares at 10 furlongs on the main track. With a $ 750,000 purse, the race has drawn a well-matched six-horse field. Larry Jones’ I’m A Chatterbox has been pointing for this race since last year, and recently captured the local prep race. Before that, she was second in her 2016 debut in the G3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland. Paid Up Subscriber, winner of the G2 Fleur De Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs last out, should provide the biggest challenge for I’m A Chatterbox, as the Al Stall trainee has made steady progress in her recent starts and should continue to improve. Kiaran McLaughlin’s entry Penwith needs to get back to her form from earlier this year, but she has been working steadily at Greentree Training Center and may be sitting on a big effort. Mei Ling will be seeking her first graded stakes win, but she has placed in graded company, and Todd Pletcher doesn’t normally ship horses if they don’t have a solid chance to perform well.
Following the Delaware Handicap is the G3 Kent Stakes, featuring sophomores at 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Delaware Park. Shug McGaughey’s Inspector Lynley leads the field following a good second over a flat mile at Belmont Park, where he just seemed to run out of racetrack while closing strongly at the end. Mighty Mo was beaten just a neck by Highland Sky two starts back, who went on to run second in the G1 Belmont Derby last weekend, so that should put the Bill Mott trainee in the mix here as well. The Chad Brown-trained Converge may also pose a threat if he is able to regain the form he showed in February to win the G3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
On the opposite side of the country, Del Mar kicks off its graded stakes action with the G2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 on the turf. John Sadler sends out the morning-line favorite in Nancy From Nairobi, who hasn’t been seen since fading to sixth in the G1 Gamely at the end of May. Before that she won the G2 Royal Heroine with a strong late-rallying finish, and she has been working steadily toward this start. Finest City will try to give trainer Ian Kruljac his second graded stakes victory following a third-place effort behind Beholder and Stellar Wind in the G1 Vanity Mile. Multiple graded stakes winner Prize Exhibit is in the field, along with G1 winner Her Emmynency and G3 winner Keri Belle.
At Indiana Grand, sophomore fillies and mares will compete for $ 200,000 in the G2 Indiana Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Wayne Catalano’s Family Tree is the morning-line choice off her win in the G3 Iowa Oaks, but is coming back off just over two weeks’ rest. Bob Baffert ships in Emmzy off a pair of victories at Santa Anita to be the second pick, while Neil Howard’s multiple G2-placed Dream Dance seeks her first graded victory.
The $ 500,000 G2 Indiana Derby follows suit, with sophomores competing at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for Dale Romans, though the distance may not suit his late-running style. G2 Rebel Stakes winner Cupid ships in for Bob Baffert and gets a new jockey after a headstrong performance in the listed Easy Goer saw him fade to last in a field of five. Buff Bradley’s The Player may be the most consistent entrant in the race, coming in off two strong victories at Churchill Downs, but he is stepping into graded company for the first time. Star Hill, third in both the G2 Woody Stephens and G3 Pat Day Mile, will break from the 13-post for trainer Rusty Arnold, but may have enough speed to overcome the bad draw.
On Sunday, Flipcup features in the G3 Ontario Matron Stakes at Woodbine, held at 1 1/16 miles over the Tapeta. The Bill Mott trainee most recently won the G3 Arlington Matron at the end of May. She faces a field of eight other fillies and mares, including listed winners Miss Chatelaine for Christophe Clement and Hot Kiss for Michael De Paulo.
Back to Del Mar Sunday evening, the G2 Eddie Read Stakes features 3-year-olds and up over nine furlongs on the turf. Multiple graded stakes winner Flamboyant will be making his first start since the Dubai Turf for Paddy Gallagher, and enters off a pair of bullet workouts. Phil D’Amato’s Midnight Storm, recent winner of the G1 Shoemaker Mile, will break from the center of the nine-horse field. Bolo hasn’t run since a sub-par finish in the G1 Woodford Reserve, but Carla Gaines has been working the colt steadily since then and he can’t be left out of the mix. Si Sage and Patentar, one-two finishers in the G2 Charles Whittingham, will look to add to their resumes for Simon Callaghan and James Cassidy, respectively, while 7-year-old Finnegans Wake looks to regain momentum for trainer Peter Miller.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2016 Paulick Report.