Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Del Mar kicks off another strong week of racing Thursday with deep and competitive fields.
Earlier in the week, Horse Racing Nation took a closer look at the hottest and coldest jockeys through the first two weeks of the stand. Next up is a similar look at Del Mar trainers.
Phil D’Amato, who in recent years has emerged as the dominant force in Southern California turf racing, leads the meet in number of starters (43), wins (7) and purse earnings ($818,166). He also collected stakes wins the first two days of the stand in the Oceanside and San Clemente (G2).
It will be another busy week for D’Amato as he has 13 horses entered over the next four days. In the featured $400,000 Clement L. Hirsch (G1) on Saturday, D’Amato will try to tackle older with 3-year-old Desert Dawn.
Below is a closer look at three other trainers who have gotten off to fast starts and three who have struggled.
Bob Baffert (21: 6-4-6, 29 percent)
The polarizing Hall of Famer has begun to drop the hammer after serving a 90-day suspension. Baffert’s winners include a trio of debuting 2-year-olds – Havnameltdown, Newgrange and Jackstown. He also won the Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old California-breds with Fun to Dream, whom he co-bred and is co-owned by his wife Jill. Plus, Juddmonte’s 4-year-old Into Mischief colt Laurel River returned from a 10 1/2-month layoff and crushed an allowance/optional claimer.
Baffert has three 2-year-olds entered in a maiden special weight in Friday’s eighth race and two more in Saturday’s eighth race. On Sunday, Preakness starter Armagnac is entered in the La Jolla (G2) for 3-year-olds on turf.
John Shirreffs (9: 3-0-0, 33 percent)
The veteran conditioner was 5-for-28 at last summer’s Del Mar meet. His three winners this meet have included a pair of maiden special weights: 3-year-old Clutch Hitter, who was making his second start, and the 2-year-old filly Justique, who showed big promise when rallying from last to win her bow for a trainer who rarely wins with first-time starters. Shirreffs’ other winner was 6-year-old Mobou, who scored in an allowance/optional claimer in his third start after a more than 2 1/2-year layoff.
In Thursday’s fourth race, Shirreffs starts a pair of 3-year-old straight maidens in Palagio (5-2) and Lord Sheldon (6-1).
Andy Mathis (10: 3-0-1, 30 percent)
Based in Northern California for most of the year, and dealing largely with California-breds and claiming stock, Mathis had a sneaky good Del Mar meet last summer with four wins and five seconds from 28 starts. He’s off to a good start again this meet with a 30 percent strike rate from limited starters. Mathis’s winners include a pair of California-bred maiden special weights with second-time starters Kings River Knight and Callhercontessa.
Mathis has two starters on Thursday at Del Mar, plus one at Santa Rosa. He also has two entries each day on Friday and Saturday and three on Saturday including Smiling Lady in the CTBA Stakes.
Others: Wesley Ward (3: 2-0-0, 67 percent), Luis Mendez (6: 2-1-2, 33 percent), Dan Blacker (9: 2-2-0, 22 percent), Marcelo Polanco (3: 1-0-1, 33 percent), Simon Callaghan (4: 1-1-1, 25 percent)
Jeff Mullins (11: 0-0-1, 0 percent)
After an encouraging Santa Anita meet that saw him hit at a 22 percent clip (22-for-98), things have stalled with the move south for Mullins. Of his 11 losses this meet, five have come in maiden special weights.
At last summer’s Del Mar stand, Mullins was 4-for-42. He’ll start two more straight maidens to kick off the week, Queenzy in Thursday’s opener and Packs a Wahlop in Friday’s lid-lifter. He also has four entries on Saturday, including Coast of Roan in the California Dreamin’ Stakes, and two on Sunday.
Mark Glatt (17: 1-4-3, 6 percent)
Last summer at Del Mar, he finished seventh in the trainer standings with 13 wins from 81 starts, a 16 percent strike rate. This go-around it’s been tough sledding this father.
Glatt has not had a win since opening day, when Priano scored in a $20,000 claimer for non-winners of three races lifetime. He has two entered on Thursday, six on Friday, three on Saturday and four more on Sunday.
Bob Hess Jr. (16: 1-0-0, 6 percent)
He finished just behind Glatt in last summer’s trainer’s standings with 11 wins from 80 starts, a solid 14 percent success rate. The child will need to warm up to approach those numbers this year.
Hess had his first winner at the meet last Thursday when Little Demon romped in an $8,000 claimer on the main track. The 4-year-old gelding was claimed by Jamey Thomas.
Hess has one starter set for Thursday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.
Others: Craig Lewis (10: 0-0-1, 0 percent), Jack Sisterson (7: 0-0-2, 0 percent), Neil Drysdale (8: 0-0-0, 0 percent), Jonathan Wong (11: 1-1-1, 9 percent), Mike Puype (11: 1-2-0, 9 percent), Carla Gaines (11: 1-1-2, 9 percent).