Trainer Richard Mandella hoping weekend bountiful after stakes win


Richard Mandella opened what could be a big weekend for the Hall of Fame trainer Friday with Big City Lights’ win in the $175,000 Real Good Deal Stakes.

Mandella also has the favorite Sumter running in Sunday’s Grade III La Jolla Handicap. And Beholder, another horse trained by Mandella, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame on Friday at Saratoga in New York.

For good measure, Mandella has a long shot Soothsay entered in today’s Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Stakes.

Juan Hernandez quickly moved the favored Big City Lights ($4.80) to the lead after breaking last in the 7-furlong stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds on the main track. Big City Lights led by as many as 2½ lengths and finished 1¼ lengths ahead of Slow Down Andy (Mario Gutierrez). Finneus was third in the eight-horse field.

“He was running well right from the start,” Hernandez said of the son of Mr. Big. “Mr. Mandella told me just to play it as it came up. He said I shouldn’t take anything away from him. When we went past the five-eighths pole he really wanted to go, so I just let him. He was comfortable and so was I.

“He got a little tired at the end, but he got it done.”

“It was nice having the outside post where we didn’t have to rush and worry about getting trapped,” said Mandella, who returned to the track after a bout with COVID. “I just told Juan, ‘Just let him break and if he wants to go to the lead that’s fine … if he settles, do that.’ He settled for a little bit and then went on.”

The Real Good Deal was the fourth stakes win of the summer meeting for Hernandez and the second for Mandella, who has a total of 72 stakes wins at Del Mar.

One of the biggest of those came in the 2015 Pacific Classic with Beholder, a daughter of Henny Hughes. After Beholder won the Clement L. Hirsch earlier in the 2015 meeting, Mandella said, “We’re taking on the colts,” meaning running in the Pacific Classic. “Often you say those things and it doesn’t work out,” said Mandella. “But it did.”

During her career, Beholder won three Eclipse Awards and three Breeders’ Cup races among 11 Grade I stakes wins.

Today’s 11-race program features the $400,000 Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at 11/16 miles for older fillies and mares and the $150,000 California Dreamin’ Stakes at 11/16 miles on the turf — a test for 3-year-olds as part of the Golden State Series. Del Mar’s third weekend caps Sunday with the La Jolla Handicap at 11/16 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds.

While the Brad Cox-trained Shedaresthedevil returns to defend her championship in the Hirsch as the favorite over the Bob Baffert-trained Private Mission, Mandella’s Sumter is the slight early favorite over Armagnac in the La Jolla Handicap.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be aboard Sumter who is coming off three straight wins, including his first last November at Del Mar.

The Baffert-trained Armagnac is racing for the first time since finishing seventh in the Preakness. Florent Geroux will be aboard.

Notable

Spirit of Makena, a 40-1 long shot, won Friday’s final with Drayden Van Dyke aboard. Spirit of Makena paid $85.20 — the largest return of the meeting. Spirit of Makena was the fifth winner of the meeting for trainer George Papaprodromou.

The Pick 6 will have a carryover of $608,414 today with a mandatory payout.

Hernandez was the only rider with two wins Friday, widening his lead in the jockey standings to six over Umberto Rispoli.

Center is a freelance writer.

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