An evenly matched group of seven older males squares off in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap (Grade II) over 1 1/6-miles on Polytrack with the winner earning an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Grade I) at Santa Anita in November.
(Click here to watch my interview with Ron Ellis)
Making his third start since moving back west to the barn of Ron Ellis, Rail Trip is the 7-to-2 co-third choice off a runner-up effort in an allowance optional claimer at Hollywood Park on June 28. The now 7-year-old son of Jump Start was a multiple graded stakes winner for Ellis in 2009 and 2010 before going winless in five starts in New York.
“When he left he was winning graded stakes. We haven’t done that lately so we hope to get back to that arena today,” Ellis told me this morning at his barn.
Rail Trip breaks from the outside again today after being in that same position a month ago, which resulted in a wide trip all the way around in a half-length defeat to John Scott, today’s 4-to-1 co-third choice.
“He was at the mercy of the post last time and it was a slow pace so they all bunched up. (The) same type of thing might happen today, but Jose (Valdivia Jr.) knows him well and I’ll just leave it up to him,” said Ellis. “I don’t have a definitive plan what’s going to work out, but the outside post gives us a lot of options.”
The best option to save ground is to return to being more forwardly-placed and stalk the flank of pace-setter John Scott, a 5-year-old son of Bertrando that began his career with a pair of wins over this main track in 2009.
In his only start over this main track nearly three years ago, Rail Trip was game while running third beaten just a length by Richard’s Kid in the Pacific Classic (Grade I). Seven starts at today’s distance have resulted in three wins and four runner-up efforts.
“He’s only been here a couple days, but he likes it,” said Ellis. “He ran well the one time we ran him here so I’m not worried about that.”
Bob Baffert sends a pair of sharp runners with Prayer for Relief also listed at 7-to-2 off a pair of triple-digit Beyer numbers that resulted in underneath finishes in Grade II’s at Hollywood Park and the regally-bred Take Control at 4-to-1 making his second start off nearly a three-year layoff after returning on June 30 to win an allowance optional claiming event impressively.
“He’s (Baffert) tough to compete against when he’s got the best horse. He always brings his horses ready to run, but they’re not his best the one’s he has in there today so we’ll give him a run,” said Ellis.
Given the nod as the 3-to-1 favorite is Kettle Corn, who exits a trio of underneath finishes in graded stakes at Hollywood Park for John Sadler. The 5-year-old son of Candy Ride won an allowance optional claimer by over three lengths when last seen on Del Mar’s main track last summer.
The under card sees 3-year-old Cal-bred fillies sprinting seven furlongs on the main track in the Fleet Treat Stakes, which amazingly has the same $200,000 purse as the feature thanks to the new Golden State Series. Favorites Willa B Awesome (5-to-2) and Starlight Magic (3-to-1) should prove tough customers in the field of eight.
We’re off to the races!
Leg 1 – Race 7 (1,4,8) – No. 1 Romantic Wish exits a pair of runner-up efforts against slightly better and makes her first main track start in the U.S. after having good success over synthetic tracks in Europe.
It’s a similar move for No. 4 Koko Loca, who debuted in the U.S.in a turf stake at Churchill Downs after a trio of solid races over synthetic to begin her career in Great Britain.
A third euro-invader also makes her second start stateside with No. 8 Zafeen’s Pearl dropping out of a third-place finish in the Vanity Handicap (Grade I) at Hollywood Park on June 16.
Leg 2 – Race 8 (1,4,5,6,7) – Use the five runners discussed above with No. 1 Kettle Corn, No. 4 John Scott, No. 5 Take Control, No. 6 Prayer for Relief and No. 7 Rail Trip.
Leg 3 – Race 9 (1,4,5,6,9) – Spread five deep in this tricky starter allowance heat with No. 1 Frisky Moment, No. 4 Mojo Workin, No. 5 Smoken Legacy, No. 6 Tummel and No. 9 Royal Meridian.
Leg 4 – Race 10 (2,5,8,9) – A full field of Cal-bred maiden allowance runners going long on the turf and we’ll use No. 2 Jolly Joseph, No. 5 Sizzlin’ Joe, No. 8 Jaco Red and No. 9 Affrettando.
Recap – (1,4,8) w (1,4,5,6,7) w (1,4,5,6,9) w (2,5,8,9) – Total cost of ticket = $150
Yesterday’s Result – (-$72)
Total for current Del Mar meet – (-$248.50)
Total from 12/26/10 – 7/15/12 – (-$1,571.15)
Pick 5 –
Leg 1 – Race 1 (1,4,5,8) – A baby maiden allowance decimated by scratches where we use four of the six runners with No. 1 Dry Summer, No. 4 Title Contender, No. 5 Forest Boy and No. 8 Power Broker.
Leg 2 – Race 2 (1,7,8) – We normally don’t like runners moving away from John Sadler and Mike Mitchell, but No. 1 Kalk Bay is sharp off a nice runner-up effort against Miss Oops, who came back to win at a much higher level. Kalk Bay makes her third start off the layoff after breaking her maiden in her third career start over this track last year with a strong late kick. Rafael Bejarano sees fit to ride and there should be enough pace up front to set her up.
Add a pair of fillies that could get first run on the top choice with No. 7 No Afillyation and No. 8 Roman Charity.
Leg 3 – Race 3 (1,4,6,8) – More maiden allowance babies, this time Cal-bred fillies, and we’ll spread with five runners using No. 1 It’s Aine, No. 4 Tanya Marie, No. 6 Boller Bomb and No. 8 Awesome Annie.
Leg 4 – Race 4 (1,5) – No. 1 God Of War plummets to the bottom of the maiden-claiming ranks and should dispose of these if anywhere near his best, but if he’s sprung too big a leak we’ll double up with No. 5 Nearly Was Mine in his second start off the layoff.
Leg 5 – Race 5 (1,2,3,4) – A first-level allowance on turf where many of these have continually show the inability to hit the wire first, so we’ll try No. 4 Until You stretching out for the first time in his third career start and potentially clearing to an easy lead. He does lose Victor Espinoza to No. 2 Robbie’s War, so we’ll use that runner as well along with No. 1 Unex Dali, who’s woken up since a brief layoff in March to post three solid efforts.
No. 3 Gab Power always makes a late run that comes up short, but we’ll add him begrudgingly in case he gets there.
Recap – (1,4,5,8) w (1,7,8) w (1,4,6,8) w (1,5) w (1,2,3,4) – Total cost of ticket = $192
Yesterday’s Result – (-$216)
Total for current Del Mar meet – (+$16,225.45)
Total from 7/20/11 – 7/15/12 – (+$1,874.55)
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