Del Mar, Horse racing

The week that was at Del Mar

Well, opening week has come and gone at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

The Polytrack was inside speed-favoring the first two days and then seemed to play fair over the weekend.

The new Jimmy Durante Turf Course also seemed to play fair despite the fact it looked more like it belongs on a golf course than a race track. Oh, yeah, it was developed by Greg Norman.

And finally if you’re a fan of trainer Gary Sherlock or a member of his barn, you got rich. It’s safe to say Sherlock’s wins with Passing Game on opening day at $62.80 and She’s Flush on Sunday at $108.60 will result in a positive ROI for a couple of years. There was no way I could come up with She’s Flush, even if it was a bad race. Passing Game, on the other hand, had a past win on the Polytrack. Horses that won on it before should be given extra consideration when handicapping.

Surprisingly, jockey Martin Garcia was the star the first week with six wins from 23 starts and only two of them were for his main guy, trainer Bob Baffert. Even more shocking was the fact that Garcia won twice on the turf, a surface he hasn’t excelled at a lot in the past.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was a standout, as usual. When big money is on the line, you want Smith in your corner. Smith was 5-of-19 for the week and his horses earned $455,720.

Elvis Trujillo, the import from Florida who joined the Southern California circuit in May, had a very quiet 4-of-27 week.

Rafael Bejarano returned from injury and scored three victories, all of them on the turf. He seems to be getting more comfortable and stronger every day.

Corey Nakatani (15-1-4-5) and Stewart Elliott (7-1-4-0) bear watching because those seconds and thirds will turn into wins. Elliott, who is riding a lot for Canadian-based trainer Mark Casse, should be watched on the Polytrack, especially. He will notice a bias in a minute and take advantage of it.

On the not so good side, Victor Espinoza, California Chrome’s jockey, went 0-for-23 and Edwin Maldonado was 0-for-18 the first four days.

On the training side, Doug O’Neill leads after one week after going 4-for-21.He led with Polytrack victories with three.

Following O’Neill in the standings, John Sadler, Peter Miller and Jerry Hollendorfer all recorded three victories. Miller led the way with two wins on the turf.

It looks like Casse has brought a strong group from Canada and will be a force to watch at the meet.

I’m still trying to get a handle on Midwest trainer Michael Stidham. It’s looking to me like his turf horses are taking better to the Del Mar grass than his Polytrack horses are in going from Arlington Park to the seaside oval, but it could all change.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 1 (Luminance $3, eighth race)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 3 (Thermal Nermal $9.80, third; Tom’s Tribute $6.60, fifth; Poshsky $11.40, seventh)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 4 (Tigah $6.60, second; Tara’s Tango $4.60, fourth; Shysheisnot $5, sixth; Secret Command $19.60, 10th)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 0 


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