Del Mar Handicap 2021 Entries: Arklow looks to bounce back for Cox & Co. ...
Race 11: 1 3/8ths (Turf), Del Mar Handicap (G2), Purse $300k, 3+ (Saturday)
The turf tradition of Pacific Classic Saturday continues with the renewal of the Grade II Del Mar Handicap which is sponsored by the folks at The Japan Racing Association. The implication for older, more experienced runners is huge because the winner has the right to return to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Turf—"Win and You’re In.” A distance test on the grass, recent winners include a bevy of runners out of the barn of Phil D’Amato. He has won with Big John B (twice), Hunt (IRE), Fashion Business (GB), Acclimate, and last year’s victor, Red King. The 82nd running of this high-caliber contest will once again offer significant betting opportunities, and the chance to back what will be a BC Turf entry. Should be a rousing time on the sod!
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Media Blitz (Jky: U. Rispoli/Trn: S. Callaghan):
Kaleem Shah owns this excellent colt who is looking to make his 1st jump into a much larger class pool. It will not be an easy point upwards, but I sure do like these types because they offer major value. Trainer Simon Callaghan was running this 4-yr-old out of Medaglia d’Oro against some salty Churchill competition. The conditioner then brought him back to Del Mar, and he just ran superb in an OC62.5k going 1 1/8th on the grass. At odds of 12/1, the colt really outdid himself with JJ Hernandez aboard. Switching to Umberto Rispoli, the connections are not losing a step. Wouldn’t it be something if this 30/1+ shot could get home? You never know … I like his chances, and stay tuned to see if I pick him on top …
#2 Crossfirehurricane (Jky: M. Gutierrez/Trn: M. McCarthy):
Trainer Mike McCarthy sent this Kitten’s Joy colt from the tarmac at LAX to the workout track at Santa Anita, and then into the Shoemaker Mile (G1) back in late May. Arriving from running in Ireland, he was up against foes like Smooth Like Strait. Finishing 6th, 16-lengths from that winner, was not at all surprising at odds of 25/1. He will probably be that again in this spot because the action is going to be even tougher. Mario Gutierrez is going to have to give the ride of his life … it won’t happen.
#3 Red King (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: P. D’Amato):
Phil D’Amato’s defending champ has returned, and he is looking for more trophies for the case. It is a little different this time around because he isn’t riding a 2-race win streak. His recent form is, I must say, pretty suspect. Back at Santa Anita, he was up against ALLW Co. and couldn’t get it done making his 2021 debut. Ok … so you draw a line through that one. Makes sense … However, the Whittingham (G2) and SJC (G3) were clear regressions, even though he was in the money. After a surface switch, even though he is back on the grass for the folks at Little Red Feather, it just seems the 7-yr-old is headed in the wrong direction. If only there was a jockey who could breathe some new life into him? Well, just in time … how about Joel Rosario? If there is anyone who can flip a script, especially on the grass, it is this fellow. Maybe this is just what they need … Rosario might be able to right the ship.
#4 United (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: R. Mandella):
Here is a question … which 6-yr-old gelding out of Giant’s Causeway for Richard Mandella is going to show up on Saturday? Will it be the power runner who has the ability to take over a race midway or at the top of the lane? Or will it be the one who comes up short when asked the question, and just cannot seem to find those late gears? I am not sure … What I do know is Flavien Prat is back, and he knows this router better than anyone. LNJ Foxwoods has already reaped the benefits with earnings in excess of $1.6 million, so that is saying something. Big chance to capitalize on that win in the Eddie Read (G2) because he is more than capable.
#5 Masteroffoxhounds (Jky: K. Desormeaux/Trn: R. Baltas):
Rockingham Ranch and Richard Baltas made a gutsy move sending their colt out of War Front to the Manhattan (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard. At 38/1, he finished an impressive 4th … those odds were off the charts at 38/1 … way to bolster the .10 Super! Despite not being in-the-money in a G1 race, there is no reason to think that this 4-yr-old cannot improve markedly dropping into this one. I have some misgivings about the choice of jockey Kent Desormeaux because even though his stats on the grass are better than ever, I do not trust him to get the job done in here. I would put this one in some exotic wagers, but do that with caution. In a tasty field like this one, there are a ton of great options.
#6 Master Piece (CHI) (Jky: D. Van Dyke/Trn: M. McCarthy):
This former member of Chad Brown’s barn is coming out to the West Coast after running up the class ladder in both the Manhattan (G1) and United Nations (G1). His Chilean bred just was not good enough in those contests, and it was disconcerting to see him fail at such a short price in the latter at Monmouth. Now, with ownership switching to McCarthy, they are hoping that this homebred can be inspired to new heights on the scoreboard at race’s end. The ridgling is not without upside, despite getting Drayden Van Dyke who is as cold as an icicle in the saddle. Class can make a big difference, and if you are looking for a price, then this one might fit the bill. He needs to get back to running his brand of race … tracking 2-3 off the lead might do the trick. We shall see …
#7 Acclimate (Jky: R. Gonzalez/Trn: P. D’Amato):
Here is the 2nd of 3 D’Amato entries, and this one, looks pretty inviting. I would not sleep on the gelding because he has the ability to modulate the pace up front. If Ricardo Gonzalez can control the tempo, keeping some of the late rollers at bay, then the 7-yr-old could be on the verge of a “signature” win. Of course, the cutback in distance could go either way, since the SJC (G3) was such a long route. Whatever the case, he must leave enough in the tank if he wants to secure this victory. Entirely capable of happening …
#8 Arklow (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):
One of Brad Cox’s greatest all-time runners, besides Monomoy Girl, has to be this son of Arch. He just keeps going, and though he failed to impress as the “deserving favorite” last time out in the UN (G1) at Monmouth, he still has that je ne sais quoi. Cox is a master at preparation, and I am not sure he really sleeps. Maybe he is like Daredevil, the Marvel superhero, who sleeps inside one of those sealed tanks? This spot will be an interesting one for one of Donegal’s all-time investments. He hasn’t won over $2.7 million for nothing. Regular rider Florent Geroux is on-hand, and he should be able to put this late-geared burner into the right spot. This may be the fight of his life, but if there is anyone who can battle back, it is this horse.
#9 Award Winner (Jky: JJ Hernandez/Trn: D. Hofmans):
Back in May, this David Hofmans runner was game in the Whittingham (G2) … the gelding bested a field that included some of the foes that he will once again face here. There is no question that was a highlight race, and trying to come back into similar company against the mighty United #4 just wasn’t in the cards. The Eddie Read (G2) just came up too tough. Now, JJ Hernandez is back up, and Team Amerman is going to tempt fate in another G2. It is hard to fathom that this son of the great Ghostzapper can exhibit enough speed to cross the wire first. Making and holding an easy lead might be his only hope.
#10 Astronaut (Jky: V. Espinoza/Trn: J. Shirreffs):
When it comes to some of the greats that have graced the barn of one Mr. John Shirreffs, I cannot say that there are that many grass types. Granted he has had a few, but his power runners, female and male, primarily take to the dirt. Still, the conditioner is one of the all-time best of the best, and his colt that he brings into this race is one I like very much. Out of Quality Road, this 4-yr-old has fared nicely as he has risen through the ranks. Always there towards the end, he came to Shirreffs from Tom Albertrani’s midst last year. Steadily, he started to elevate from MSW Co. all the way to the SJC (G3) at Santa Anita back in mid-June. That 2nd place finish with Victor Espinoza up was clearly his best race to date. If he can improve on that, then there is at least a sliver of a chance … but this will be a long shot at best. Hitting the board should be the goal …
#11 Say the Word (Jky: J. Bravo/Trn: P. D’Amato):
The final gate outside will be filled by Phil D’Amato’s 3rd entry. The 6-yr-old gelding out of More Than Ready was on the outside, looking in, last time in the Eddie Read (G2). He just was not on his game, as HOF jockey Mike Smith missed his opportunity to get him clear. Now, his conditioner switches to Joe Bravo, and we will see if that can make a difference. It was not all that long ago (even though it seems like it), that this one was winning the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland during their Spring Meet. At 6/1, that is a pretty square price, and if he drifts towards 9/1, that qualifies him as an overlay. Watch out for this nicely bred turfer because he could be dangerous to those at the top of the tote come race time.
It’s Pacific Classic Day … from beautiful Del Mar! Check out all of our selections come Saturday!