Del Mar Summer Preview and Oceanside Stakes Analysis
By Michael Patricks
Nirvana begins this week for horseplayers across the globe with the commencement of Del Mar on Wednesday and Saratoga this Friday. Del Mar’s 36-day meeting with run Wednesday through Sunday into the first week of September and offer a closing day Labor Day program on September 4th, (coinciding with Saratoga’s closing day coincidentally). Del Mar will reopen on November 1st for a 16-day fall meeting that will showcase the Breeders’ Cup on Friday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 4th. This will be the first time the Breeders’ Cup has been conducted at Del Mar in its 34-year history.
Del Mar is off to a great start with a 10-race program offered opening day and an average field size currently set for 9.4 runners a race. In addition, 9.25 runners per race are entered to contest Thursday’s eight-race program. Arrogate will be competing in the San Diego Handicap this Saturday and his presence alone should bring with it a palpable hue of anticipation throughout the Del Mar grandstand. The Pacific Classic is set for August 19th and promises to be a great race in its 27th renewal. We will have all the Del Mar action for you simulcast live from the Jockey Club. Admission is free of charge on weekdays and with all the great racing action fast approaching there is no reason why you shouldn’t tell your friends and make plans to join us for a summer to remember.
7/19/2017 Del Mar-Race #8
The 71st Oceanside Stakes
1 Mile on Turf for Three-Year-Olds
Post Time: 5:33 PM PST
1-Arms Runner 3/1 ML- A field of 16 passed the entry box and 14 three-year-olds with do battle in here. Arms Runner is the second choice on the morning line and sports an unblemished resume from his two starts. This will be the two-turn debut for him and expect Arroyo to put him in the race early from his inside post. He’s cut out to be a real runner and Peter Miller is probably the favorite to win the Del Mar training title. He must show he is more than a down-the-hill specialist and prove it against quality rivals but I fully expect him to be in the middle of things turning for home; can’t fault those that will be running into his arms.
2-Bird Is the Word 5/1 ML- Eleven starts to his credit and thus he sports quite a bit of foundation and experience that other rivals may lack. The maiden win came on grass and like his father Birdstone, he likes to sit back and come with one sustained run. The string of high-80’s Beyers tells you what you’re dealing with and if you assume that a number in the low 90’s would likely be his ceiling in a career best effort, you’d have to think that at least a few of his competitors project to run numbers equal to, or better than his. He may be 14th and last into the clubhouse turn and if that is in fact the case, I wouldn’t want to be an investor at this short a price when he must weave through thirteen of his brethren in order to get up; feels like he’ll be an overlay from his morning line price and I’m not just not buying what he’s selling.
3-Vending Machine 8/1 ML- Former $50,000 claim has paid great dividends for Peter Miller. Vending Machine captured the $80,000 Eddie Logan Stakes on turf December 30th but failed to lift his legs in the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields at 6/5, and then had his doors blown off in the Grade II San Felipe behind Mastery. His Singletary was an improved effort in a race he needed off a brief respite, but Bowies Hero and Bird is the Word each blew by him in the stretch. Arroyo bails on him for the Miller-trained Arms Runner. His backers thought they were rewarded at a nice price in an allowance spot down the hill last month, but later found out their money got stuck in the bill slot and were given no refund when he was disqualified and placed fourth. Anything from this stable deserves a second look and close examination, but it appears he would need to take a couple steps forward to prove best in the Oceanside; outside chance.
4-Bowies Hero 5/2 ML- Morning line favorite draws well and has demonstrated a real nice turn of foot at times. His effort here in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf last year was extremely professional in only his second start and his Singletary performance was ultra-impressive after stumbling at the start and coming home six wide to sack the leaders. His race at Belmont to me is a toss out in that he shipped across country, got off the plane, was vanned to Belmont and then got right off the van and ran. That sequence of events can take a lot out of a horse. He also chased Oscar Performance who got to set very easy fractions and was never challenged. He will have to carve out a trip and the price is sure to be a bit short given his style, but he’s obviously more than capable of handling this group and he’s always fired fresh in the past; tough customer.
5-Pioneer Lad 15/1 ML- Trainer Richard Baltas is yet another horseman in this race who is extremely competent and cagey. Pioneer Lad will be making his turf debut after running strongly against older male rivals on dirt in May and June at Santa Anita. The dam’s only other foal to race is John’s Kitten, a chestnut gelding by El Prado that ran has run exclusively on turf in 11 lifetime starts, sporting three wins and earnings of nearly $100,000. It’s nice to see Tyler Baze stick around to ride in the Oceanside and he’s shown that he doesn’t need the lead in order to win from past performances. This is the all-important third start off a layoff and Pioneer Lad has four works since his last race, including a three furlong blowout on the Del Mar turf course Sunday. He’ll likely get a jump on the closers and there is plenty of upside potential in this corner at a price; color me excited.
6-Rockin Rudy 20/1 ML- The return to turf looks to be a logical transition coming off of back-to-back dull efforts on the main track. Rockin Rudy broke a bit sluggishly in the Arkansas Derby and found himself on heels with Gutierrez’s feet in the dashboard two back, then raced wide on the wet Churchill Downs strip on Kentucky Derby Day and as we all know by now, that was not where you wanted to be on that track. Perhaps you can draw lines through his past two efforts and he has been freshened up for the Oceanside. However, it’s been four months since his last strong race, he appears to be missing a drill from the end of June, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe there’s a slight crisis of confidence between his ears at this point. He’ll have to go out and take this race since it won’t be handed over on a silver platter and I’m just not confident he’s in the right frame of mind to do so; would be a surprise.
7-Allboutmike 15/1 ML- Another intriguing bullet from Peter Miller, he’s in great form right now and is looking at the possibly of three straight if he can raise his game another level. ‘Mike has his father Zensational’s brilliant gate speed and the former maiden claimer has never been better. How far up the class ladder can he climb? He’s obviously still eligible for first level allowance horses and Peter Miller doesn’t need to run them where they don’t belong, so going off that line of thinking he’s intriguingly placed. Conversely, just who has he been beating and is he ready to take a big step forward? The price is square and Maldonado sticks around. Given his style sprinting, he’s going to have to find a way to avoid getting broiled on the firing line. If he can stalk and pounce, you never know… I won’t talk you off my namesake if you’re interested; longshot possibility must show he can handle name brand rivals.
8-Lucky Bode 30/1 ML- It took him six tries to finally break through but he did it in clear and easy fashion at Golden Gate and at a healthy number. He also was beaten 44 lengths in his two prior starts, failing to beat a horse in the process and that’s difficult to swallow and get around if you’re reaching for your money clip. His 70 Beyer speed figure from the maiden victory is pedestrian at best and glancing to his company lines from Golden Gate, the horses he beat last time both Alleycat and Mini Bar each came back with listless efforts at Pleasanton and would be 99/1 in this race; wait until you see this one surface at Golden Gate Fields to tackle allowance foes; pass.
9-Placido 8/1 ML- Son of Shackleford came home in race horse time to graduate in start number three July 2nd and it’s encouraging to see Prat stick around for his debut against winners. Placido had a torrid pace to run at and a perfect stalking trip which enabled him to capitalize on his embattled leaders up front. When trainer Simon Callaghan gets them headed in the right direction they usually continue to climb the ladder and therefore this runner will have his share of para-mutuel supporters. If Prat can get him to avoid over racing in the early stage of proceedings then he rates a look at being a big player in the stretch; tab tote for more clues on this chestnut.
10-Grecian Fire 20/1 ML- Faced state-bred rivals the first five races of his career while maturing into a more competitive runner. His first step out of the boat landed him a victory in the Alcatraz at Golden Gate Field, prevailing at a medium sized price. He next ran in Santa Anita’s equivalent race, the $80,000 Rainbow and was dismissed at a big price before running evenly to finish fifth. The top three horses from that effort are not competing in the Oceanside and truth be told there just isn’t one thing about Grecian Fire on paper that you can point to and say to yourself, ‘He’s going to run big today because…”. Never dismiss a Jerry Hollendorfer-trainee out of a hat for any reason, but giving him every benefit of the doubt it just doesn’t appear to be in the cards that he’ll be talked about much heading into– or coming out of–this race; outsider.
11- Caribou Club 20/1 ML- It appears he will ship west to compete in the Oceanside. Caribou Club was comprehensively handled by Yoshida at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard and Yoshida came back to fruitlessly chase Oscar Performance around the track of the Belmont Derby on July 8th. Glen Hill Farm has thought of him as a turf runner all along and given that he’s been unseen in 60 days it’s quite possible he’ll come back to the races and take another step forward off his consecutive 79 Beyer speed figures. In order to crack the code in the Oceanside, he will most likely need to run a Beyer somewhere in the low 90’s and that just seems to be a bit unlikely to happen. Proctor and Van Dyke are 1-for-37 the past two years; huge lack of evidence to be optimistic about his chances.
12-Fortune of War (GB) 20/1 ML- It took this ridgling eleven starts to finally break through although he did come home in 1:35.1, which is a fairly strong time for maidens going a mile. Perhaps a bit discouraging is the reality that Fortune of War missed training after his maiden victory and his next official spotting was June 15th in a workout at Santa Anita. The draw here is a bit tough and so it is likely Nakatani will drop back, anchor in and make one run with this colt and see where it takes him. He’s been his own worst enemy at times with respect to racing luck and the deck seems to be stacked against him in terms of quality and opportunity in the Oceanside. He may end up having a useful summer but like Lucky Bode, I’ll be waiting for his next appearance against allowance runners before truly deliberating on whether I should financially back him; he’ll have too much to do turning for home; pass.
14-My Man Chuckles 30/1 ML- Once again, this is a difficult post-position draw and assignment for a two turn debut. The dam Top Marks has tossed several competitive runners over the years and it’s likely the Into Mischief gelding will find his way and prove to be a tough customer somewhere down the road. It took him a few tries to beat maidens and subsequently a couple tries to clear starter allowance types, and lately he’s been working on clearing the first level allowance condition. This appears to be a dramatic step up in company for him and given that he was offered twice for $30,000 in the maiden claiming ranks tells me that his future is most likely as a salty claimer and not as the winner of the Oceanside Stakes. Expect jockey Kyle Frey to bring in a few nice prices at Del Mar this summer and show that he belongs on the colony, but it’s very difficult to envision Chuckles being one of those; playing against.
16- Harbour Master (GB) 20/1 ML- Was well regarded last year as a two-year-old coming over from England and enticed the services of Mike Smith in the Zuma Beach and Juvenile Turf Sprint on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Santa Anita. He’s been laid up since November and this will be his three-year-old unveiling off an eight month rest. Espinoza and Cassidy have combined to do quite well together through recent years and it’s possible this colt needed to do a bit of maturing and that he’ll be a completely different animal in 2017. He’s marooned in the outside stall of the Oceanside and that will be difficult to overcome, however, if Espinoza can find a way to avoid losing too much ground, I expect this colt to come with an eye-catching move through the lane that will raise some eyebrows. He may not be able to overcome all the obstacles in front of him to greet the camera man, but don’t be surprised if he comes back to the races looking like a new horse; longshot potential.