While Saratoga gears up for its six day a week schedule - which makes it very much an outlier these days - Del Mar is tentatively and optimistically hoping for five.
“I was pretty panicked a couple months ago,” the track’s director of racing, Tom Robbins, admitted. “We’re trying to stretch to five days instead of four. That is the challenging part.”In addition to an impressive purse hike fueled by that notorious takeout increase, the track is offering a guaranteed $1000 and a 20% purse bonus for horses that made their last start out-of-state. Good thinking there, and the effort has shown some early success.
Del Mar is the first Southern California track to regularly schedule five days a week since last fall. Robbins, therefore, was relieved at the increased number of arrivals. He expects 2,000 horses to be stabled on track, an increase of 200 from last year.[Daily Racing Form]
As many as 100 horses have been added to the inventory for the 37-day meeting. Six “shippers” will run opening day. [SignOnSanDiego]Still, the last three Fridays are slated to have just seven races; Thursdays could be shortened to seven races, too.
Well, all is well on opening day at least, with ten races, with no less than eight horses (in three of them) scheduled to start. The first feature of the meet is the Oceanside, a restricted stakes race on the grass for three-year olds. Mr. Commons is the morning line favorite at 5-2 in his first race since a not-that-terrible 8th in the Preakness. The second jewel of the Triple Crown has turned out to be a funny race in that the only horses who have subsequently won (out of ten who have since started) are the ones that finished in the last three spots, 12th (Sway Away, my Preakness selection, thank you), 13th (Midnight Interlude, who finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Mr. Commons in winning the SA Derby), and 14th (Flashpoint, who won the Jersey Derby). Both Sway Away and Midnight Interlude won in California, the latter in stakes company on the grass.
Mr. Commons is returning to that surface, over which he graduated easily on the downhill course in his only grass start. He's a son of the BC Mile winner Artie Schiller, out of a mare by the Round Table stallion Apalachee; so you might figure he'll like this mile route. Not totally sold on him if he's a heavy favorite though, so I'll give a mention to Burns (12-1). This gelded son of Unusual Heat made his first start in December, and has nary a layoff line in sight amongst his ten starts. Seems to be really thriving on the work, improving since shedding blinkers, moving up from state-bred company to an open allowance win in his last, and seeming to have found a home on the grass. In his first race for Valenzuela, Burns broke a bit better than in the past, circled the field effortlessly on the turn and outgamed Cloud Man, a nice-looking Moss-homebred Thunder Gulch colt. His turf route Beyers match up with anyone in the field. Think he can outrun those odds here.