Del Mar Mile 2021 Entries: Mo Forza defends title ...

Trainer Peter Miller's defending champ Mo Forza is back for another try in the race he won convincingly last year. Check out this preview below ...
Trainer Peter Miller's defending champ Mo Forza is back for another try in the race he won convincingly last year. Check out this preview below ...

Race 7: 1 Mile (Turf), Del Mar Mile Handicap (G2), Purse $300k, 3+ (Saturday)

The 35th running of the Del Mar Mile is a handicap that pits younger colts versus older male runners. This is a tough spot for those that are less experienced because they are still working on their maturity and focus. It doesn’t mean they are at an extreme disadvantage, but it is something to consider when handicapping form. Last year, Mo Forza for Peter Miller won impressively after taking over the lead at the top of the lane. He etched his name into a list that includes a salty SoCal group … Catapult, Midnight Storm, Avanzare, Tom’s Tribute, Obviously (IRE) 2x, and many, many others … This Grade II can serve as a steppingstone for more success to come. Whomever wins, it will be a mark of distinction.

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 Neptune’s Storm (Jky: JJ Hernandez/Trn: P. Miller):

Trainer Peter Miller got this gelding from Richard Baltas’ midst 3 races back, and took advantage of his class distinction. That switch was roughly a year ago, so coming into the American (G3) @SA he finished 2nd. Dropping down to the Wicker80k back in July at the start of the Meet, he won convincingly out on the frontend. Now it is moment to ramp it back up, and take on a much tougher field. Let’s face it, Miller got his 5-yr-old a freshening, with some confidence headed his way. If he can use that controlling speed, it could be a powerful ally against what looks like a salty group of 5 others. JJ Hernandez continues to ride well on the turf. He is an asset.

Grade: B

 

#2 Hit the Road (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: D. Blacker):

The power of More Than Ready’s offspring continues to be “steady as she goes,” when it comes to their success on the grass. Trainer Dan Blacker had this colt in some tough competition back in the spring, and one of those races, the Kilroe Mile (G1) resulted in his very first Grade 1 win. It was a watershed moment for the team, and he immediately thought about further possibilities. Shipping to Keeneland for the Makers Mark Mile (G1) landed his 4-yr-old in the role of the favorite, but he came up well short of even hitting the board. Now, off the break, it looks as though this runner is coming off some solid works. Still, the layoff is a concern … Good to see that Florent Geroux is present, since he knows how to handle this one—he won the Kilroe aboard him! Dangerous horse who could end up being a price …

Grade: B-

 

#3 Smooth Like Strait (Jky: U. Rispoli/Trn: M. McCarthy):

Here is another turf specialist whose greatest weapon is the ability to control the pace on the engine. Mike McCarthy continues to turn in a banner year, and the Cannon homebred has quite a resume when it comes to his form. Every major SoCal turf race, and then some, appears on his resume. Jockey Umberto Rispoli knows this one backwards and forwards, and that is more than reassuring. After a brief layoff in June and most of July, he came back in the Eddie Read (G2), just missing by a neck. Getting back to a shorter distance looks to be something he wants to do. If he is forwardly placed on or near the front, Rispoli has a chance to steal this one. Will be very interesting to see how this one unfurls the sails once the field passes the clubhouse.

Grade: A-

 

#4 Next Shares (Jky: G. Franco/Trn: R. Baltas):

It was well over a year ago that this Baltas runner thrilled us with his late moves in big races. The now 8-yr-old gelding is pretty long in the tooth, and I am wondering just how much he really has left to give. Trust me, I am rooting for him. Nobody in this business is a bigger fan of an underdog, a boxcar priced runner, a true long shot, than I am. Geo Franco is going to have quite a chore keeping up with this lot. Frankly, it just may be too much for this pair. I will say this … completing 41 starts, and counting, is quite an accomplishment, and so are 7 wins, for that matter. What a workhorse who loves to run!

Grade: C

 

#5 Count Again (Jky: J. Bravo/Trn: P. D’Amato):

If there is a super sleeper pick in the DMR Mile, then it has to be Phil D’Amato’s Count Again #5. Since coming to his new barn back in October, he seems to regularly be on the outside looking in. Some of that might have to do with his style of running, which is mainly from the back of the field. He is quite content to settle, and make a nice big run late in the game. Even with an adept lawn jockey, that is not an easy ask. Maybe the cutback will assist from 1 1/8th to the mile? I would think having “Jersey” Joe, now “SoCal” Joe Bravo aboard again would do some good, for parity’s sake. These Awesome Again offspring end up being highly versatile, and they can adapt to any situation. Come Saturday, I might actually be putting this one on top. Wait for it …

Grade: A-

 

#6 Mo Forza (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: P. Miller):

Last year, this son of the great Uncle Mo was rolling late, and chomping up the sod like Pac-Man on board 20. Gobbling up ghosts was his anthem, and Peter Miller is hoping that he is on his pellet game come Saturday. There is little question that he is talented, and with Flavien Prat aboard, he is going for 3 straight wins. The difficult problem is discerning his level of efficiency coming off almost an 11-month layoff. Can he be in form against others who clearly are? That is the central question … Miller is a star when it comes to conditioning, but sometimes there is good reason to think that a runner just “needs a race.” This is one of those times. Honestly, I will be surprised if this 5-yr-old, making his 2021 debut, can win. Skeptical to say the least …

Grade: B

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It’s Pacific Classic Day … from beautiful Del Mar! Check out all of our selections come Saturday!

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