(Trainer Richard Mandella / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Del Mar Turf Club Media Team:


In a year where the handicap division appears up for grabs, a performance like the one exhibited by Geaux Rocket Ride in the G1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Saturday puts the 3-year-old colt smack dab in the championship picture. There’s no Flightline out there this year so races like the G1 Fanduel Pacific Classic appears completely logical for an improving 3-year-old.

That’s why trainer Richard Mandella is considering running the son of Candy Ride in the Pacific Classic on September 2. It’s an ideal prep for any horse considering the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November and by winning the Haskell Geaux Rocket Ride has punched his ticket to the big race.

Sunday morning, Mandella, normally one of the better dressed trainers on the grounds, was in a sweatshirt and jeans, but who could blame him. He was back in his barn at Del Mar less than 24 hours after Geaux Rocket Ride burst on the national scene with a tenacious run in the Haskell, fighting off Kentucky Derby winner Mage in the stretch. Mandella made the cross-country trip back from the Jersey Shore late last night.

He says the colt came out of the race in good order and will fly back to Del Mar Tuesday.

“The (Pacific) Classic is a possibility,” Mandella says. “But first we’ll get him home Tuesday, give him a few days off and let him get over this trip. He’s been through a lot to get this far this fast. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”


Life is full of choices and sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Trainer Bob Baffert did just that when he first came to Del Mar back in the early-nineties. It has proven to be the right move.

Baffert returns to Del Mar for his 35th season. He’s enjoyed his share of success at the seaside oval where he holds the mark for the most wins by a trainer with 596 and the most stakes victories with 156. He’s won the G1 Del Mar Futurity a record 17 times, including the last two years, and the Fanduel Pacific Classic six times.

But all of this never would have happened had the 70-year-old conditioner never took a leap of faith when he was first dabbling in Thoroughbred horses.

“I was still training quarter horses and I had a real good quarter horse to take to the All-American,” Baffert says. “But (D Wayne) Lukas told me if I wanted to succeed (in Thoroughbreds), I needed to get rid of all my quarter horses. I had to show I was all in. He said if I get rid of them my business will double because they don’t like to see you doing both.”

They want to see the commitment and Lukas would know. He had done the same thing years before.

“It was scary,” Baffert admits, “because I was used to winning a lot of big quarter horse races. Two or three or four a week. Whereas here I was winning once every three months. At Santa Anita I ran last three times in a row.”

But then Baffert won three Cal-Cup races in 1991 and the rest is history.

“After that I went over to Los Alamitos and shut down my operation there,” Baffert says. “The last quarter horse race I won was with the son of my first winner at Los Alamitos.”

Now, two Triple Crowns, six Kentucky Derbys, four Eclipse Awards, 18 Breeders’ Cups victories and a Hall of Fame induction later he is one of the most successful Thoroughbred trainers ever and looking to add to that resume this summer at Del Mar.

He shared the trainers title at Del Mar last year with Philip D’Amato winning 19 times. It was his first title at the seaside oval since 2003 and it was bolstered by a top class group of 2-year olds. He hopes to do it again in 2023 but says it’s all up to the horses.

“We just let them develop on their own,” Baffert says. “Some can win early. You just don’t know until you run them. They come in waves for getting ready so some will get ready right away, some it takes longer. We don’t push them.”

Baffert says the objective is to get some races into them and find out how they want to run.

“The main thing is to get races into these 2-year olds because we want to have as many as we can for the Futurity at the end which gets you ready for the Breeders’ Cup.”

He mentions Muth and Prince of Monaco when asked about his 2-year olds crop. Both broke their maidens already. He’s pointing the pair to the G3 Best Pal at Del Mar August 13. His 2-year-old filly by Arrogate, Dua, broke her maiden Saturday at Del Mar.

As for his older horses, Baffert says Defunded, arguably the top handicap horse in the nation, is being pointed to the G2 San Diego July 29 with the Pacific Classic being the long term goal.

National Treasure and Reincarnate are on the grounds but they have flight plans for upstate New York and the G1 Travers at Saratoga. Arabian Lion has been nominated for the Bing Crosby at Del Mar also on July 29  but he may also head east to Saratoga.

Baffert doesn’t have a concrete plan yet for Cave Rock, Del Mar’s top 2-year-old last year, and Speed Boat Beach, who set the record for 5 ½ furlongs at Del Mar last summer, has been turned out.


The second half of the stakes twinbill today is the $100,000 Wickerr Stakes. Another full field is expected. The 14 horses, 3-year olds and up, will travel one mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

Irideo is back to defend his title. The 7-year-old Argentine-bred rallied through traffic to capture last year’s Wickerr for trainer Marcelo Polanco, who also trained Del Mar’s top distaffer last summer Blue Stripe. Irideo followed up his effort in the Wickerr with a runner-up finish to Hong Kong Harry in the G2 Del Mar Mile.

While Irideo has not returned to the winners circle since last year’s Wickerr, he’s run some bang-up races. If it wasn’t for the talented Exaulted, Irideo would be at the top of his class. He’s finished second to Exaulted in both the G3 America and the G1 Shoemaker.

“He’s coming along good,” Polanco says. “That was a big time race (the Shoemaker) and he should be okay.”

Irideo was 31-1 when he won the Wickerr last year and was 41-1 in the Shoemaker. He’s the morning line favorite Sunday.

Philip D’Amato brings a pair of runners to the Wickerr and that’s when he’s the most dangerous. Cathkin Peak is returning from a 9 ½ month layoff. He ran second to Beyond Brilliant in the G2 City of Hope last out. D’Amato’s other entry is Cash Equity a winner of a second level allowance last month at Santa Anita.

Bob Baffert is also represented in the Wickerr with Du Jour. The son of Temple City returned from a two-year layoff in February and posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in graded stakes, the G3 Thunder Road and the G1 Kilroe Mile. But he subsequently finished behind Irideo in both the American and the Shoemaker Mile.

Evening Sun, winner of the 2022 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields, is another one worth considering. He hasn’t raced since that victory up north.

“We’ll find out,” trainer Jeff Mullins says. “You never know until the doors open.”

The Wickerr is the ninth race on Sunday’s 11-race card. Approximate post time is 6 p.m.

Here’s the field from the rail with jockey and morning line odds: Cathkin Peak (Umberto Rispoli, 4-1); Evening Sun (Hector Berrios, 6-1); Whatmakessammyrun (Scratched); Lamplighter Jack (Diego Herrera, 20-1); Restrainedvengence (Edwin Maldonado, 30-1); Flavius (Jose Valdivia Jr., 20-1); Du Jour (Juan Hernandez, 5-1); Time to Party (Joe Bravo, 20-1); Salesman (Ramon Vasquez, 8-1); Cash Equity (Kent Desormeaux, (8-1); Irideo (Abel Cedillo, (7-2); I’m A Gambler (Antonio Fresu, 6-1); Hit the Road (Victor Espinoza, 12-1) and Count of Amazonia (Tiago Pereira, (20-1).


It has been a hectic couple of weeks for many of the horsemen and women on the backside at Del Mar. Leading up to the opening of the summer meet they had to pick up roots and move a hundred miles south.

Granted they get to come to a beautiful place near the ocean but that doesn’t make the task of packing and unpacking belongings, essentials and equipment any easier. Oh, and throw hundreds of horses into the mix, too.

This is the world of horseracing in Southern California. Every year at this time, Thoroughbred stables in the region migrate south as Santa Anita closes-up shop for the summer and Del Mar opens for business.

Trainer Doug O’Neill knows a thing or two about moving dozens of horses down to Del Mar every summer and the organization needed to get the job done without a hitch.

“We have an excellent crew,” O’Neill says. “They’ve been doing it for years. It’s a lot of work and it ain’t easy though they make it look easy.”

O’Neill brought 50-horses to Del Mar, a process that took four or five moving vans and two big U-Haul trucks for all the equipment.

“We do it every year,” trainer John Shirreffs says. “It’s just a matter of putting stuff on and getting it off. The guys do a great job. It takes about two days to get things sort of situated.

“Doing it over and over again helps,” Shirreffs adds, “and many of these people have worked at the track for over 20 years so they’re used to doing it. After a while it’s almost second nature.”

Shirreffs brought a string of 43 horses. Mark Glatt brought 50-plus horses for the meet.

“It’s not easy,” Glatt says. “We’re not just bringing horses, we’re bring all of our employees. So, in addition to moving horses, we’re also moving people and their lives. It’s quite a chore but we got it down to a science, make it as safe and as easy as possible.”

Trainer Leonard Powell brought 35 horses and his full staff.

“Santa Anita closes for the summer so we don’t have a choice,” Powell says. “Everybody comes down. It’s like the circus coming to town.”

The Del Mar summer meet runs until September 10 and then they’ll pack-it-up and move back to Arcadia.


Trainer Powell says his G2 San Clemente winner Anisette came out of her race, “very well and if she keeps going well, the Del Mar Oaks should be the next target for her.”…Last year’s leading rider at Del Mar, Juan Hernandez, posted his first two victories of the 2023 meet Saturday, guiding Dua to a maiden victory in race 8 and Sarwar to an allowance win in race 11. Hernandez missed Opening Day due to a one-day suspension for a whip violation…Umberto Rispoli had a riding triple on Saturday and now sits atop the jockey standings at Del Mar… Saturday’s $100,000 Osunitas Stakes winner Warren’s Candy Girl may show up next to defend her crown in the $150,000 Solana Beach August 20 or trainer Craig Lewis says: “There’s an outside chance we might try her on the dirt.”…Breeders’ Cup winner Twilight Gleaming is the highweight for Friday’s $100,000 Daisycutter Handicap. The Wesley Ward-trainee will carry 125 pounds. Phil D’Amato’s Amy C and Steve Miyadi’s Becca Taylor are next at 123 pounds…Notable works on Sunday: Dirt – C Z Rocket (3f, :36.60); Arabian Lion (4f, :47.80); Ceiling Crusher (4f, :50.60); Elm Drive (4f, :46.20); Adare Manor (5f, :59.20); American Theorem (5f, 1:00.00); Desert Dawn (5f, 1:00.60); Muth (5f 1:00.00); Prince of Monaco (5f, 1:00.00) and Slow Down Andy (5f, 1:01.20). Turf – Amy C (4f, :49.40); Macadamia (4f, :52.40); Motorious (4f, :47.80); Balnikhov (5f, 1:01.80); Cabo Spirit (1:05.40); Count Again (5f, 1:04.80) and Masteroffoxhounds (5f, 1:02.40). A total of 280 horses put in official works on the dirt, 36 on the turf.

Del Mar Statistics

Jockey Standings
(Current Through Friday, July 22, 2023 Inclusive)

Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Umberto Rispoli 14 3 3 2 21% 57% $278,220
Joe Bravo 13 2 2 0 15% 31% $118,780
Edwin Maldonado 14 2 1 1 14% 29% $146,200
Hector Berrios 15 2 1 1 13% 27% $150,480
Mario Gutierrez 6 2 1 0 33% 50% $120,500
Juan Hernandez 7 2 0 2 29% 57% $126,880
Mike Smith 5 2 0 0 40% 40% $71,700
Tiago Pereira 14 1 2 3 7% 43% $118,320
Ramon Vazquez 18 1 2 2 6% 28% $121,140
Antonio Fresu 8 1 2 1 13% 50% $83,500


Trainer Standings
(Current Through Friday, July 22, 2023 Inclusive)

Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Doug F. O’Neill 13 4 3 1 31% 62% $183,460
Leonard Powell 7 3 0 0 43% 43% $231,040
Philip D’Amato 13 1 2 2 8% 38% $126,020
George Papaprodromou 11 1 1 3 9% 45% $95,260
John W. Sadler 9 1 1 1 11% 33% $82,340
Mark Glatt 10 1 1 1 10% 30% $78,740
Andy Mathis 3 1 1 0 33% 67% $66,100
Bob Baffert 5 1 1 0 20% 40% $68,460
Antonio C. Garcia 5 1 1 0 20% 40% $68,340
Robert B. Hess, Jr. 7 1 1 0 14% 29% $34,780


Winning Favorites Report
(Current Through Friday, July 22, 2023 Inclusive)

Winning favorites — 7 out of 21 — 33.33%
Winning favorites on dirt — 4 out of 13 — 30.77%
Winning favorites on turf — 3 out of 8 — 37.50%
Winning odds-on favorites — 1 out of 2 — 50.00%
In-the-Money favorites — 14 out of 21 — 66.67%
In-the-Money odds-on favorites — 1 out of 2 — 50.00%