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Del Mar Friday

Friday night racing where the turf meets the surf.

Del Mar
Del Mar
Matt Gardner

It's day 2 of the 2014 Del Mar meet, and the first Friday of seven cards that kick off at the special Friday post time of 4:00 pm Pacific (that's 7pm for those of you on the East Coast). With a twilight post time I guess that means we should be doing some Del Mar Friday's around here (formerly known as "Friday Night Lights"). As I attempt to break out of my handicapping drought, let's take a look at some of tonight's card where the turf meets the surf.

Race 1

Juvenile fillies going six on the Poly and not a ton to get excited about for the early Double. The first timer for Jerry Hollendorfer, 5-I Heart You (7/2), comes into her debut off a steady stream of morning works and should be dangerous right from the start. I'd take 7/2 if I could get it (of course, we should watch the board to see how the action shakes out in the early wagering), but I'm guessing this filly is going to be 5/2 or 2/1 by post time. It will be a last minute decision for me in the opener.

Race 2

A maiden claimer for the second race of the day. Sweet.

I hate first timers that draw the 1 hole so I'm tossing Vladimir Cerin's 1-Macho Sox (so, you know, key him all over your bets!).

The Sadler first time off the claim (4-Forest Romance 2/1) ran really well in his debut but I'm not willing to take a small price on a horse doubling his tag in this spot.

I'm a bit drawn to the first on the far outside - 8-Smokey's Legacy (12/1); trainer Robert Hess, Jr. doesn't win very much with firsters, but when he does, he gets a price (as evidenced by his lowly 7% hit rate but flat bet profit off of his last 56 debut runners. Additionally, sire Slew City Slew does really well with synthetic runners, although his first timers are typically average. At 12/1 on the board, I'm willing to take a shot that this gelding might be ready to run big at a price.

Race 3

The first turf race of the day on the newly widened Del Mar lawn is an N1Xer for Cal-breds at 8.5 furlongs.

4-Boozer (7/2) stretches out after running down the hill at Santa Anita in his last four starts. The last time he ran today's distance on the lawn he missed by a 3/4 of a length at Hollywood. He's got tactical speed but can sit just off the pace early if need be (and he'll probably need to do that in this race). This is a pretty tough (and big) field, so nothing is going to come easy in this spot; I won't take less than the ML price and I would prefer odds right around 4/1 to 9/2.

There aren't a lot of closers in this field but 9-Eddie's Turn (8/1) might be able to pick up some pieces late if the pace is hot (and that could certainly happen). He was 3 1/4 behind Boozer on the downhill last time but that was a difficult spot to try the lawn for the first time; I'm thinking he might come up with a much better effort this time out.

Race 4

Maiden Claimers. Yeah, buddy!

The ML favorite, Distinct Asset, scratched, leaving us with a lot of work to do to get through this race.

I got a real simple angle with this event: look for someone (anyone) that's shown some kind of decent form on synthetics. There wasn't much to be found.

A huge layoff for 2-Salt Power (10/1) but this gelding has shown some signs of life on synthetics in the past, including a couple races at Del Mar as a juvenile. If I'm going deep into an exotic, he's got to be on my ticket.

The best race in the career of 6-Voluntary (12/1) came in his second try on the Cushion Track at Hollywood last December. He's shown some signs of life in his last couple of starts, prompting the early pace inf three straight races. Perhaps he's starting to figure things out. Or perhaps the move to the Poly will give him a boost. Or perhaps this maiden claiming race is one I should be passing all day long. Nah. That can't be it.

Race 5

Open company $8,000 claimers going six on the Poly. I gotta say, I like these open company claiming races. They can be really tough but the horses at least have some form to look at.

The track profile for races at Del Mar going six panels is pretty simple: get to the lead. According to the Bris track stats, horses on, or just off, of the lead have won 60% of the last 72 run at the distance. That being said, I'm leaning towards an off-the-pace runner in this spot in the form of 7-Siempre Esperanza (8/1).

There looks to be enough speed in this field to ensure an honest pace, and Siempre Esperanza has enough speed to keep touch, even if she's never one to stick her noes on the lead early on. Her synthetic races at Hollywood are arguably the best of her career and she running at the lowest level of her career. Give me those 8/1 morning line odds and I'm in.

Race 6

Turf spring, of the non-downhill variety. Lovely.

I like the two outside runners in this race - 8-Rosengold (5/1) and 9-Ankeny Hill (8/1). I like them so much I'm probably going to toss them into an exacta and call it a race. Of the two, I like Ankeny Hill the best; there's not tons of speed in this race (for a 5f turf dash), he's drawn wide and should stay out of trouble, he's got the speed to be up on the lead, which in a race like this is practically gold, and I think those 8/1 odds are generous, even if he is taking a step up in class.

Of course, this is a turf sprint, so my two picks will likely run last and second to last.

Race 7

Hey, a juvenile stakes race, er, glorified allowance!

Yeah, I got no real opinion about this one.

Race 8

The nightcap is a Maiden Special Weight on the lawn for Cal-breds at a mile and a sixteenth, and I really like the 3-Unusually Green (7/2) to finish off the card. This colt's been close the last few times out with all three of those recent efforts good enough to win a garden-variety running of a race at this level at Del Mar. My biggest concern is a horse stealing this thing on the front end, someone like 4-Smarty Journey (5/1) and Tyler Baze. We'll see.

Good luck!