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Jul 13, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The new season at Del Mar will get underway on July 18th and run through September 5th. At the track “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” there will be a different feel this year than there has been in years past. The new Polytrack surface will be in use and has many horseman as well as racing fans excited to see how that affects racing at this prestigious meeting. With all the racetracks in California mandated to switch to a synthetic surface, Del Mar will be the second one behind Hollywood Park that will run races over this surface. Although Hollywood went with cushion track, Del Mar decided on Polytrack which first started in the states at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

            Over the last few years there has been a rash of breakdowns at Del Mar for whatever reason and many feel that this will put an end to that problem to an extent. As Hollywood has seen many trainers want to run their horses over a synthetic surface which makes for bigger fields, more competitive races and thereby larger handle; so everyone wins. However, for those who like to bet on Del Mar they should probably give it a few days of racing to see how that new track plays considering they are so close to the water and how that will affect the track which is made up of polypropylene fibers, recycled rubber and silica sand covered in a wax coating. Obviously with wax as part of the surface depending on how hot or cold it is or how the ocean affects it may have an impact on how the track is playing towards speed or closers and whether or not there will be a pronounced bias. At Hollywood Park their cushion track seems to play as fair as any synthetic surface in place in the United States, hopefully the same will be said for Del Mar which should make for a great meeting.      

            Many trainers point their horses towards this meeting because they want to win here. It is like Saratoga in the East the prestige these trainers get from winning races here can set them for the whole year. Last year’s leading trainer was Doug O’Neill who won with 19 of 127 starters that was three more than Jeff Mullins who finished second. Bob Baffert a perennial winner at this meeting finished third. This year look for a different outcome, O’Neill’s barn is not going so well right now while Mullins is having a great Hollywood meeting after a slow start. Baffert is always loaded with two year olds so he could always pop up and lead the standings again. John Sadler, Mike Mitchell and Brian Koriner, who finished third, fourth and fifth respectively are all capable of having big meetings and are also a threat to take down the title.

            On the jockeys side of things, Victor Espinoza, is coming off a big meeting last year where he won 64 races, besting second place finisher Martin Garcia by 29 wins. However, just like with the trainers this year promises to be different. Michael Baze who finished with 17 wins last year at Del Mar is currently battling for the title at Hollywood Park and is in career form. Joe Talamo, a bug boy who started out in Louisiana is battling Baze for that title and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Those two are expected to make a big splash at this year’s meeting. Richard Migliore who came to California last fall to try his hand out West is still riding here and will also get some wins at this meeting making for a very wide open affair. Hall of Famer Mike Smith is back on the West Coast trying to get things going again and is pointing towards Del Mar to make some noise, follow him as he could pop at a price here or there.

            With the Polytrack, the wide open jockey and trainer races and the great weather where is there a better place to be this Summer.       

            For more information on Del Mar and the upcoming events, visit their website at www.dmtc.com.

 



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