By J.N. Campbell

Del Mar Picks & Late Pick 5 Analysis for November 28

By J.N. Campbell
Saturday's Del Mar card is the best in North America, highlighted by 3 Major Graded Races on the Turf!
Saturday's Del Mar card is the best in North America, highlighted by 3 Major Graded Races on the Turf!
  • Del Mar Picks

Del Mar Picks

  • Race 1: 2-5-8-1
  • Race 2: 8-3-7-6
  • Race 3: 9-2-7-8
  • Race 4: 7-2-4-6
  • Race 5: 13-8-2-5
  • Race 6: 3-1-5-11
  • Race 7: 10-13-4-9
  • Race 8: 9-4-2-7
  • Race 9: 13-8-10-2
  • Most Likely Winner: Race 1: Three Ay Em #2
  • Live Longshot Play: Race 3: Pulpit Rider #9

The best turf racing in America continues from Del Mar Racetrack as we enter the heart of the weekend. Their Turf Racing Festival will unfortunately not have teeming throngs of fans down by the rail, like back in days of Bing Crosby. The coronavirus temporarily changed that tradition, but we can still enjoy the pageantry and full fields that Del Mar has to offer.

As Saturday brings us a 9-race card including 3 Graded Stakes races on the grass—Jimmy Durante S. (G3), Seabiscuit Handicap (G2), and capping off the day with Hollywood Derby (G1). It will be a magnificent slate, so check out my selections, plus an in-depth analysis from the hefty Pick 5!



LEG 1: (Race 5: Turf 1 Mile, Jimmy Durante (G3), 100k, 2F)

We are looking at a challenging Pick 5 ahead because 3 of these races are major G-races. It is going to be a blast! We are going to start with a fixture for 2-yr-old fillies on the grass—the G3 Jimmy Durante. At Hollywood Park, this used to be called the Miesque Stakes before that track was summarily closed and those races shifted to DMR. This is a healthy group of 13 who draw in here. I may want to get aggressive and single, thus saving the proverbial ammo, if we reach an Alamo moment later in the sequence.

As we saw on Thanksgiving Day, two out-of-town turf training titans are squaring off here. Graham Motion and Chad Brown are adversaries at different meets, and the former brings in Invincible Gal #13. I almost did a dbl-take when I saw her M/L odds were 6/1. That seems high considering her class experience and pedigree. I can see her being a co-favorite with Brown’s Fluffy Socks #8, which I think the betting public will overestimate. That win in the Selima 150k 2-back at Pimlico, which did include Motion’s runner (finished 2nd), was over a yielding course. The rest of that field was so-so. Then she caught a drenched turf in the Chelsey Flower 100k last time at Belmont with Irad riding. She barely won against Ingrassia at the wire, in what was probably one of the slowest second halves of a turf race I have seen. The point is, I do not really have a sense of what she is capable of, and in this race she will face a much more competitive group.

If Manny Franco, Motion’s go-to rider, can catch the break from that outside post, and position Invincible Spirit 3-4 off the lead in the 2-3 path, then I think she has an excellent chance for a triumph. Her experience running in the Breeders’ Cup to me is the lynchpin. That was a highly competitive field of 14 (no joke J.N…), and it was impossible for anyone to catch Cox’s Aunt Pearl’s breakneck pace. In other words, do not be fooled by her 11th place finish that was 7 lengths back @KEE. She is a major player!

That is why I would single her in this first leg. It is a significant risk, but it will pay dividends if we can get her home on turf that we know will be a much firmer surface.

Selection: 13 (Single)


LEG 2: (Race 6: Dirt 6.5F, Clm16kn2L, 3+)

There is nothing like an 11-horse dirt sprint with a bunch of claimers who have never won 2 races. That is what we face here in the 2nd Leg. Going as deep as possible might be “the way.” John Sadler’s Connection #1 looks game if he can clear the temp rail and be near the lead. Joel Rosario should accomplish that, so including this son of Twirling Candy makes sense. The only issue is does Sadler have him ready off the bench? I do not see a reason not, considering he has not missed a workout in nearly 3 months.

The other runner that looks promising off a drop is Simon Callaghan’s Great Power #3. Back in the summer, it appeared like his conditioner thought this one had some promise, running in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3). He finished a disappointing 4th in a 4-horse race behind Baffert’s Uncle Chuck and Thousand Words. The last time he was at Del Mar, he couldn’t finish the OC80k turf route race he was in and was vanned off. Maybe he just needs to find the right level by going back to the drawing board?

As for the rest of the field, I think including King Parker #2, Ecologist #4, Single Me Out #5, Final Rose #6, Bedrock #10, and Cal’s Gem #11 are all insurance, just in case the 2 mentioned above cannot get the job done. Coverage bets always assist. 

Selections: 1/2/3/4/5/6/10/11 (8 Deep)


LEG 3: (Race 7: Turf 1 1/16th, Seabiscuit H. (G2), 200k, 3+)

The Grade II Seabiscuit H. (named for a horse that needs no introduction; funny enough, he never ran on turf) has some of my favorite recent winners associated with its running—Ring Weekend, Caribou Club, and the defending champ (won the 2019 edition @27/1) who returns, Next Shares #9. This time around, I do not think he will hit the board though.

After surveying this field, my sense is that marking Flavius #12, who is trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz, as the deserving favorite is utter nonsense. In fact, I am going to be bold and say that this son of War Front may finish out of the money. His coffers will be full in the pool because of the duo of Brown-Ortiz, but there are so many other options in here with some hidden ability. I will look elsewhere.

My top selection is Richard Baltas’ One Bad Boy #10 who retains the stellar turf riding ability of Flavien Prat. There is so much I like about this runner, and it is prefaced with his Twirling Candy-Cumulonimble pedigree. That speaks to some strong turf advantage. Having Prat back aboard instills confidence. I think Baltas has targeted this race for him all along by taking him up the ladder in competition over the past 2 races. Don’t forget that this guy is a former winner of Canada’s Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, so he obviously has ability.

Others to consider, include Paulo Lobo’s Argentinian 2nd outer, Imperador #4. The 4-yr-old colt has significant turf experience running primarily at San Isidro. After Lobo acquired him, his American debut was a solid effort (finishing 2nd) in a OC80k at Churchill back in late September. He finished a game second to Big Agenda. Getting Drayden Van Dyke to ride this time around is not necessarily a rider upgrade from Joe Talamo, considering that the Kentucky-based rider has improved his turf efforts. Still, I like his chances, especially since Lobo’s smaller operation gets overlooked when shipping out West.

I would take a long look at Bowies Hero #13 because he is so streaky that you just never know what kind of runner is going to show his face. Will it be that Shadwell Turf winner from a year ago @KEE, or the one that finished 10th in the Turf Classic @CD back in September? Getting Umberto Rispoli in the irons cannot hurt. Trusting Phil D’Amato to find the right spot is a cinch. Arguing over this one’s class is futile. I would include this seasoned runner on any ticket. 

Selections: 4/10/13 (3 Deep)


LEG 4: (Race 8: Dirt 6F OC20kn1x, CA state breds, 3+)

This state bred affair is a blow-and-go sprint on the dirt. With 10 runners entered, it will be a challenge to single in here. If I play my picks correctly and nom just 1 or 2 in the finale, the Hollywood Derby (G1), then I can go 6-deep in here. That should keep me under $300 for a $1 P5 ticket. Picking that many out of here is not an issue.

My choice on top will be Colt Fiction #9, since Bill Spawr’s speedster has good experience with the DMR MT. Couple this with his performance last out earlier in the Meet. It was excellent. He looks fit and Tiago Pereira retains the mount. Spawr’s charge though is going to have his hands full, if Curry #7 can class climb his way to a win for Bruce Headley. So, get this…in his maiden last year at Santa Anita he lost by 13 lengths, then returned, in exactly the same company, this year, winning by 12 lengths. Huh? It is hard to know what expect from this 4-yr-old, but whatever happened after he was gelded, seemed to work.

As I said, we have some mustard left in the jar, so going a bit deeper is not a bad idea. I also want to include the Greek-named Agamemnon #2 from Ron McAnally’s outfit. This warrior gets Jose Valdivia again, and he did not do half bad last time against similar when he was 44-1. Will see how much he likes the DMR MT going again in here.

I would not discount the 2 Doug O’Neill entries that appear accomplished. I Will Not #3 has some back class running over in Dubai and Strike It Lucky #1 is a turf runner who is trying dirt for the first time. I like both those angles for different reasons, of course. O’Neill continues to pound away with an ever-competitive stable.

I do have one final spot in my lineup, and I want it to go to Carla Gaines and her son of Quality Road, Coalinga Road #4. He is rather like Strike It, in that his turf form is not bad. Umberto Rispoli has experience with him in the saddle, and I fully expect this one to have the opportunity to hit the board.

How deep can we go? See below…

Selections: 1/2/3/4/7/9 (6 Deep)


LEG 5: (Race 9: Turf 1 1/8th, Hollywood Derby (G1), 300k, 3)

The Hollywood Derby has a long history of providing us with some thrilling moments. Who can forget seeing accomplished former Derby Trailers on the grass—recall when California Chrome or Court Vision won? Lately, sire Uncle Mo has given us the past 2 winners in 3 years’ time, with Mo Town and last year, with Mo Forza. In 2020, a 12-horse field (California Kook #6 scratches after running on Thanksgiving in the G3 Red Carpet) draws in to contest this 1 1/8th on the Del Mar Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

There is probably no stronger deserving favorite in this race than Christophe Clement’s Decorated Invander #10. After winning 5 of 6 high-level stakes races, he was finally bested in the Saratoga Derby Invitational back on 15 August when he finished 5th. It was quite a run up until then. That day, Domestic Spending #8, who apparates at Del Mar here for Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables, got the best of him and the other Clement entry, Gufo #13 (he finished 2nd).

Interesting that Clement is taking a page out of the Brown playbook and sending 2 route specialists from the same stable (or maybe Brown swiped that idea from Clement…Ha!) Brown-Klaravich-Irad Ortiz form a potent triumvirate that will not easily be undone. I cannot imagine that Domestic Spending will remain around his M/L of 5/1. Instead, I am thinking close to 2/1.

At any rate, this should be quite a reunion for all involved. As I see it, you could put names in a lunch sack, shake it up, and when you pour one out, any of them could win this thing. That makes choosing a victor quite difficult.

After mulling it over like a 14th century Confucian bureaucrat taking the “eight-Legged essays,” I think Gufo #13 scores the top prize. If he can handle the plane ride out West, and arrives in good order, I do not see why he would not be able to dominate this race. He has quite a record too, winning 5 of them, and hitting the board in all 7 of his contests, lifetime. The distance of 1 1/8th is perfectly in his wheelhouse, and with Flavien Prat aboard, he should be able to study the tape and understand this colt’s tendencies. I like the sire, Declaration of War, when it comes to producing turf runners.

My sense is that Gufo wins the day, but Domestic Spending will be a juggernaut. I cannot see any others vying for supremacy. Let’s hope that a 2-deep coverage plan will keep us safe and get one of these home!

Selections: 8/13 (2 Deep)


$1.00 P5 TICKET COST: $288.00

Enjoy where the “Surf Meets the Turf!” Best of Luck!

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