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2010 Del Mar: Day 1

The first day of the 2010 Del Mar meet is upon us, which means we are finally heading into the height of the summer racing season.  Saratoga will kick off their meet on Friday which will begin a month and a half of great racing on both coasts.  

Similar to the Keeneland Sprint meet, I'm going to try and provide a brief daily overview of aces at Del Mar through the 2010 meet.  I won't be previewing the whole card, just a few races that caught my eye while going through the form.  You can find a link to all entries, post positions and morning line odds below.

Del Mar, July 21, 2010 Entries (Link)

Let's get started with opening day.


Race 2: $32k Claiming, N1Y, 1 1/16 miles (Turf), 3&up

Ron Ellis has put 3-Valiant Effort (4/1) into an interesting training pattern as of late: in his last six starts he has run this horse on the turf, then the synthetic, turf, synthetic, turf, synthetic; each time running each two-race set at essentially the same distance. The races are essentially at the same class level, with minor movements in each direction.

The horse pretty much runs the same on each surface but I wonder if Ellis puts Valiant Effort on the turf in order to a) help keep him in form ,or b) to add a bit of stamina into the horse.  It also appears that he has a bit of difficulty keeping this gelding in form as the last six starts took place in Jan 09, Feb 09, April 09, May 09, June 10, and July 10.  This will be the first time in over a year that this gelding has been able to put three starts to together in a two month span.

5-Yankee Bravo (8/1) looks like a gelding that I'd want to stay far away from at Del Mar right now.  He's making his first start for trainer Eoin Harty after running at Emerald Downs for Mike Chambers a couple of times this spring.  Mike Chambers has put up some huge training numbers at Emerald the past few years and to see a horse of his perform as badly as Yankee Bravo did in his two starts up here makes me wonder what kind of condition this horse is in right now.  Horses that run at Emerald and are trained by Chambers rarely finish out of the top three so to see Yankee Bravo struggle as much as he did, even if it was against listed stakes company, give me some hesitation.

6-Carbon Footprint comes into this race in good form but the quality of the competition that he faced in his last race is questionable, at best ($12.5k Claimer, N2L).  Combine the class questions with what 5/1 odds on the morning line, and he doesn't appear to possess a ton a value.

Valiant Effort hasn't done a ton of winning and he's never scored over the lawn (7-0-2-1) but I give him a shot to take the top spot in this race, especially if his odds stay at 4/1 or higher.

Race 5: OC 40k/N1X, 1 1/16 miles, 3&up

4-Lions Story has all the looks of an absolute money burner.  He's run eight times in his short career and six of those times he's been the betting favorite as the field went to post but he's only managed to win one of those races for a paltry 5-1-3-1 record as the betting choice.   In two of his last three races he's been the odds-on choice of the crowd and each time he came up short of the top prize.  He's been close a lot and perhaps today is the day he breaks through, but I'll look elsewhere.

5-In the Paint (2/1) doesn't offer much value but he really appears to stand out in an otherwise ho-hum looking group.  The key move for this colt is the trainer switch from Kellyn Gorder to Mike Mitchell.  Over the last five years, Mitchell is 28-for-107 (26%) with horses making their first start after a training switch, with a $2.75 ROI.  He faced some decent competition at Churchill and Turfway and could find this race to his liking.

In the Paint, while likely offering minimal value, could be a decent single in a Pick 3 play.


Race 8: The Oceanside, 1 mile (Turf), 3yo

The feature race on opening day is the 54th running of The Oceanside, a one mile turf stake restricted to horses that have never previously won $50,000 in a stakes race.  As a result of the condition, the field is made up of a bunch of horses coming out of the OC Allowance ranks. 

3-Twirling Candy (5/2) will make his first start on the lawn after scratching out of the Swaps Stakes last weekend.  He is a stable mate of Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy and is sired by the same horse, Candy Ride

I wrote the other day that I thought it might make sense for Sidney's Candy's connections to put him on the lawn at some point, especially considering that Candy Ride has a decent amount of turf breeding in his pedigree, despite not being a prolific turf runner himself.  Twirling Candy might be an even stronger case for a horse to run on the grass as he has some excellent turf influences on the bottom half of his pedigree.  His dam sire, Chester House, was 2nd in the Group 2 Prince of Wales's Stakes, 3rd in the Group 1 - Juddmonte International at age 3, and won the Grade 1 Arlington Million as a five year old.

Even though I think Twirling Candy will love the switch to the lawn, I'm leaning heavily toward 9-Gallant Gent (5/1) in this spot.  The distinguishing factor with this horse for me is the back class, something many of his rivals just don't possess.  Gallant Gent's only turf try was in the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, where he finished 7th beaten 3 ¾ lengths.  He didn't run too badly in that day and the race was really a mess in deep stretch as about ten horses were all within a few lengths of each other at the wire.  It was also a pretty deep field that included such runners as Pounced, Interactif, Awesome Act, and Dean's Kitten. 

The last race of his juvenile campaign in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot was a complete disaster but I'm willing to give him a pass on that race for two reasons.  First, the race went off over a sloppy and sealed track that day and it's possible that Gallant Gent just didn't care for the surface.  Second, that was the seventh race of his juvenile campaign and it appears that he was pretty worn down after a pretty ambition racing schedule.  Twenty or thirty years ago a seven race juvenile campaign was nothing special but in today's game that is on the heavy side for juvenile racing action.

Following the flop in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot, the connections gave Gallant Gent a good bit of time off and brought him back to the races over six months later in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 19th.  That may have been a bit too ambitious of a spot for this gelding as the field was fairly strong and most of his competition was in good form.  He probably needed that race and should be ripe for a good performance in the Oceanside today.

The Oceanside is the contest race in Del Mar's meet long on-line handicapping contest.  I'll likely have the majority of my bankroll pointed toward Gallant Gent with some additional action aimed at Twirling Candy.