Horse racing

Observations from opening day

Del.mar.start @Beniot Photo

First controversy of the meet when jockey Garrett Gomez was taken off all of his mounts. Gomez missed time last month at Hollywood Park due to “personal” problems. Sources said it was marital issues, but Gomez returned to ride last week and was looking forward to a big Del Mar meet. According to reports, Tony Matos, Gomez’s agent, called in for him. When track stewards asked to talk to Gomez, he didn’t return a call. Steward Tom Ward said Gomez must come to see the stewards before he resumes riding.

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Del Mar is blocking feeds from its Wi-fi to other betting platforms like Xpressbet.com  and TVG.com. TVG sponsors the $1 million Pacific Classic. The track wants people using its betting platform. Fans who have ethernet or a data plan can wager on any platform they want, according to Walker McBride, Del Mar’s director of digital media. “We want to make things as easy as possible with our platform,” said Walker. This is first time Del Mar has blocked any other betting platforms.

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Defending training champion Peter Miller got off to a flying start by winning the first two races of the day. New Mexico import Casa de Cambio ($12.80) grabbed the first on the Polytrack under a masterful ride by Joel Rosario, who is the nation’s leading jockey. Miller then went one better in the second race when he finished first and second in the second with Keep Movin’ ($10.60) and This One’s for Mel. The Miller exacta paid $17.50. Miller was pumped up after winning the first, high fiving everyone in sight.

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Joel Rosario is already making a mockery of the riding race, but Del Mar jockeys can breathe easy because he’ll ride at Saratoga beginning Friday.

After winning the first two races for Miller, Rosario won the fifth race with Cal-bred maiden Moving Desert ($9.80) for Harris Farm, Inc.

Rosario then added the eighth race aboard first-time starter Love de Car ($7.60) for trainer Jeff Mullins.

Rosario legitimately could have had six winners before the final two races on the card and will be on the favorite in the final two events.

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Jockey Gary Stevens won the fourth race aboard Ivanho ($8.60).

It was notable because Stevens last winner at Del Mar came on Sept. 5, 2004, with High and Low Vixen for trainer Ron McAnally.

Of course, Stevens came out of retirement this year and won the Preakness aboard Oxbow for trained D. Wayne Lukas.

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Trainer John Sadler was unlucky not to win both divisions of the Oceanside Stakes.

His Greeley Awesome was a neck loser to Gervinho ($7.80) in the first division, but Rising Legend ($17.60) got the money in the second division.

“We were a little unlucky in the first half (with Greeley Awesome), but he (jockey Julian Leparoux) is a really good rider and he got the bob in this half, so it kind of made for the first.

“We like to race here (at Del Mar) and this (opening day) is pretty exciting.”

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Attendance was down some 4,000 from last year’s record-setter (47,339 to 43,030), but track president Joe Harper was happy just the same. The on-track handle was up 2.5 percent and overall handle was up 4 percent. On top of that food and beverage sales were up.

“It was a very profitable day,” said Harper after the 10-race card. “If you get anything more than 40,000, you can’t complain. I’m delighted with the attendance numbers. We had very few security issues with the crowd.

“Would be like 50,000? I don’t think so.

“I think the big crowds in recent years have had a negative effect on our regular customers.”

@Jeff_Nahill

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