Del Mar Barn Notes: Historic Meet Gears Up for Big Closing

(Trainer John Sadler and rider Drayden Van Dyke are both having huge meets / Photo Courtesy of Del Mar)

From the Media Team at Del Mar:


In the winner’s circle after Saturday’s victory in the Pat O’Brien Stakes, John Sadler was asked how special it was to have two horses like Catalina Cruiser, who had just completed a 7 ¼ length romp, and Accelerate, who had won the Pacific Classic by a record margin a week earlier.

“What it does is make me get up every morning,” Sadler said. “I’m so excited to go to work. It’s easy to go to work when you have these nice horses in the barn. It’s a blessing.

“When you’ve trained as long as I have, when you have special horses you’re really appreciative. I’ve had great horses in the past, but now as a veteran trainer it’s really fun to have horses that are this good.”

Sadler, like practically every other Del Mar-based trainer, was up early as usual Sunday morning. The preliminary check on Catalina Cruiser, the unbeaten (4-for-4) 4-year-old son of Union Rags he trains for Hronis Racing LLC, indicated the colt had returned from the effort in good shape.

Catalina Cruiser’s work here is done. He produced victories in the Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles and the Grade II $200,000 Pat O’Brien at seven furlongs. They were accomplished by a combined 14 lengths with minimal encouragement from jockey Drayden Van Dyke. The $120,000 winner’s share of the O’Brien purse increased the earnings of the $370,000 purchase at the 2015 Keeneland September sale to $303,600 with sky’s-the-limit potential in the future.

The O’Brien was a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Churchill Downs, which is where Sadler said Catalina Cruiser is headed. The Pacific Classic was a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, which Sadler said is the destination for Accelerate.

“Then this horse (Catalina Cruiser) will, hopefully, by January be ready for the Pegasus,” Sadler said. “He’ll be a little more seasoned, mature and all that stuff by then.” The $12 million Pegasus World Cup is in January at Gulfstream Park.

Saturday’s other stakes winner, Tatters to Riches in the $100,000 Shared Belief, also came out of the race in good shape, trainer Jeff Mullins said. A plan for future races for the 3-year-old, like Catalina Cruiser a son of Union Rags, will be formulated later.

For now, it’s enough that the $1 million purchase at the Ocala sale in April of 2017 has come back from an 11-month layoff due to a chipped bone in a rear ankle to win twice at the meeting, three weeks apart, culminating with the Shared Belief.

“So much credit to Jeff and the guys at the barn,” jockey Tyler Baze said after the victory. “They’ve spent a lot of time getting this horse right. Now he’s a dream. I hope he keeps on going.”

With two wins Saturday, Mullins raised his total for the meeting to 11, his first time to reach double-figures at Del Mar since 2012.

“You always like to win as many as you can here. You’re always happy when you’re winning,” Mullins said with a laugh.

For both Mullins and Sadler, there’s potential for a big finish to an already big meeting.

Sadler has Sigalert, who’ll work six furlongs Monday, for the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, September 3. Mullins has likely favorite River Boyne for the Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Derby on September 2 and Spin Lightning for the Futurity the following day.


In her racing debut here on August 12, Give Me a Hint cruised to a 9 1/4 –length victory under Kent Desormeaux at odds of 9-1.

Trainer Bob Hess, Jr., took the hint and has entered the California-bred daughter of Merit Man in Wednesday’s $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for 2-year-old state-bred fillies hoping that his instincts are correct.

“She ran a good race and she’s been doing well since,” Hess said Sunday morning. “The negative is we’re coming back pretty quick (17 days), but sometimes that’s the nature of the beast here at Del Mar.

“I’m not going to work her, just give her some strong gallops up to the race and take her to the paddock and the gate to school a lot. Just trying to keep her where she was two weeks ago (in terms of fitness) for what looks like a very competitive race.”

The first-race victory wasn’t as big a surprise to Hess and Desormeaux as it seemed to the bettors.

“Kent had worked her prior to the race and really loved her,” Hess said. “I wasn’t surprised either. Merit Man, who I trained, is a first-year sire, and he was a good horse. He ran third to Orb in the Florida Derby and was the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint and just barely got beat.

“(Merit Man) broke his maiden here at Del Mar, so I figured she had a right to be quick and precocious.”

The field from the rail: Be Lifted Up (Drayden Van Dyke), Time For Suzzie (Heriberto Figueroa), Give Me a Hint (Kent Desormeaux), Dichotomy (Mario Gutierrez), Mucho Unusual (Flavien Prat), Swing Thoughts (Tyler Conner) and Creative Instinct (Tyler Baze).


Eight 2-year-old males were entered Sunday for Friday’s 29th running of the $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for California-breds.

The I’m Smokin will kick off a four-day closing weekend of the meeting which will comprise eight stakes races.

Post position draw for the I’m Smokin was scheduled later Sunday but the entrants in alphabetical order are: Bea’s Boy (Heriberto Figueroa), Eighty Prood (Martin Garcia), Hey Sal (Geovanni Franco), Irish Heatwave (Kent Desormeaux), Listing (Mario Gutierrez), Oliver (Joe Talamo), Policy (Drayden Van Dyke) and Silken Prince (Flavien Prat).


Del Mar-based Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith made a not-unprecedented successful raid on Saratoga Saturday, winning two of the seven Grade II or higher stakes on the Travers Day program.

In the $700,000 Grade I Personal Engsign, Smith assumed a stalking position with favored Abel Tasman from the No. 1 post then guided the 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road to the front at the half-mile mark and held on for a neck victory.

On Marley’s Freedom in the ensuing race, the $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina, Smith took the 4-year-old daughter of Blame on a five-wide path turning into the stretch and she kept going to a 3 ¼-length victory in the seven-furlong event.

Abel Tasman and Marley’s Freedom both trained at Del Mar from the start of the meet. The victories in “Win and You’re In” qualifiers assured Abel Tasman a spot in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Marley’s Freedom a place in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs in November.

Smith was scheduled to go back to work here on Sunday with the mount on Harmon for Patrick Gallagher in the fourth race and Well Hello for Dan Blacker in the featured $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes, the ninth on a 10-race program.

Baffert has Tale of the Union and Mucho Gusto entered in the fourth and Thirteen Squared in the Torrey Pines.

CLOSERS – Selected works from 169 on dirt and 33 on turf officially timed Sunday: Dirt – Giant Expectations (4f, :49.20), Horse Greedy (4f, :48.20), Owning (4f, :49.20), Ransom the Moon (4f, :48.20), St. Joe Bay (4f, :48.00), Amboseli (5f, 1:02.80), Collected (5f, 1:01.00), Diamondsandpearls (5f, :59.80); Turf – Cambodia (5f, 1:00.40), River Boyne (5f, 1:02.80), Take the One O One (5f, 1:00.00) and Madame Stripes (7f, 1:28.20) … “Probables” for next Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Derby per the racing office: Adesh, Arawak, Desert Stone, Epical, Kazan, Pubilius Syrus, Restrainedvengence, River Boyne and Take the One O One. Ride A Comet is listed as “possible.”


Jockey Standings

(Current Through Saturday, August 25, 2018 Inclusive)

JockeyMts1st2nd3rdWin%In-money%Money Won
Drayden Van Dyke12030131725%50%$1,964,522
Flavien Prat1012618626%50%$1,769,360
Tyler Baze14222171715%39%$1,291,840
Heriberto Figueroa941911720%39%$527,750
Assael Espinoza15117161311%30%$673,713
Geovanni Franco11914131912%39%$708,317
Mario Gutierrez9511181212%43%$909,714
Tiago Pereira9811101411%36%$603,092
Joseph Talamo991171011%28%$687,666
Rafael Bejarano10410121410%35%$721,883


Trainer Standings

(Current Through Saturday, August 25, 2018 Inclusive)

TrainerSts1st2nd3rdWin%In-money%Money Won
Peter Miller8724141128%56%$1,131,741
Doug F. O’Neill11616201414%43%$1,058,390
Jerry Hollendorfer751415819%49%$963,666
John W. Sadler55144825%47%$1,610,124
Richard Baltas82139916%38%$709,493
Philip D’Amato8912101013%36%$1,031,391
Jeff Mullins49116522%45%$495,605
Bob Baffert3298428%66%$598,885
Brian J. Koriner3382124%33%$400,200
William E. Morey3074323%47%$375,850


Winning Favorites Report

(Current Through Saturday, August 25, 2018 Inclusive)

Winning favorites — 83 out of 253 — 32.81%

Winning favorites on dirt — 58 out of 155 — 37.42%

Winning favorites on turf — 25 out of 98 — 25.51%

Winning odds-on favorites — 24 out of 39 — 61.54%

In-the-Money favorites — 176 out of 253 — 69.57%

In-the-Money odds-on favorites — 37 out of 39 — 94.87%

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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