Friday’s 4 p.m. racing consisted of a blatant inside speed bias that only one jockey seemed to understand until late in the card and another weird non-disqualification by track stewards on the Southern California circuit.
There might be a third item about a Twitter snit, but that will wait for tomorrow.
First, the speed bias.
On Thursday, there seemed to be an inside speed bias developing but only veteran jockey Rafael Bejarano noticed it.
He won four races on Thursday and vaulted into the jockey lead 5-4 over Joel Rosario, who is riding at Saratoga but made a cameo appearance on the seaside oval’s opening day.
The last few years the Friday twilight cards have been speed-favoring on the Polytrack. Whenever the water truck would go by between the races, it would be noted and more often than not a speed horse would win the race. Theories are many but the main one is the sun isn’t drying out the surface like at 2 p.m. and it plays tighter.
Today was mainly overcast, leading to optimal conditions for a speed bias and it showed up, especially along the rail.
Bejarano saw it and pounced.
The first was on grass, but in the second Rafael rode Space Runner ($8) to the front and never looked back.
After another turf event, Bejarano did the same thing with Hard Buns ($6). Give extra credit to Proud Bok for finishing second at long odds and bucking the trend, by making up ground in the stretch, albeit along the rail.
In the fifth, Martin Garcia finally caught on and scored with Bob Baffert first-time starter Hot Bride ($9.40).
Mario Gutierrez got in on the fun in the featured CTBA Stakes, riding overwhelming favorite Sprouts ($2.80) to a front-running victory. The impressive part of this race was just when Sprouts seemingly might get caught in the stretch, she re-broke along the rail and pulled away.
Finally in the eighth race, Garcia was at it again with another Baffert horse, Brannaman ($7.60), who went to the front and was gone.
The moral of the story is it took 1½ race cards for other jockeys to take advantage of Bejarano’s thievery. Really?
Sure, you can say no long shots won, but there was a definite bias and let’s hope Del Mar figures out a way to make the track fair for all runners by Saturday afternoon’s card. Otherwise, just bet speed.
The afternoon’s other most talked about moment came in the CTBA Stakes when Eddies Curl came out of the starting gate and caused a chain reaction bumping incident with Evening News and Pay the Debt, who were to her inside.
Track stewards Tom Ward, Scott Chaney and Kim Sawyer rightfully called for an inquiry.
However, after a long discussion, they wrongly decided not to penalize Eddies Curl and allowed her to remain in second place.
The reason given was it came at a point in the race that didn’t affect the final order of finish.
I can tell you this conversation happened in the Del Mar press box during the inquiry.
“How are the stewards not going to disqualify this horse?” said someone.
“There’s no way they can do that,” said the other.
It’s been a bad last month or so for the stewards, who have had a couple of controversial calls, but you would have a hard time finding anyone outside of the stewards’ booth who didn’t think Eddies Curl deserved to be disqualified.
Evening News and Pay the Debt lost all chance at the start so how can anyone say it didn’t have an effect on their placing?
If Eddies Curl wasn’t disqualified, there can never be a DQ coming out of the gate in Southern California again.
But there will. Just wait.