Del Mar, Horse racing

Elliott could flourish on Del Mar Polytrack

Here’s the first betting hint of the upcoming Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s summer meet, which opens on Thursday: Give horses ridden by Stewart Elliott extra consideration on the Polytrack.

Elliott is the veteran jockey who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Smarty Jones a decade ago. He has kicked around the sport over that time, but rose to prominence again this spring at the Keeneland meet in Lexington, Ky.

Elliott rode a lot for Canadian-based Mark Casse.

Elliott finished second in the jockey standings with 15 wins from 73 mounts good for $557,650 in purses. The veteran rider showed a propensity for getting to the winner’s circle on the Polytrack as he tied for most synthetic winners (14). Elliott was just 1-for-16 on the grass.

So when Casse decided to bring a string this summer to Del Mar for the first time, Elliott was asked if he wanted to come west, too.

“We were trying to decide whether to go to Saratoga or Del Mar,” said Nelson Arroyo, Elliott’s agent, on Monday. “We have a good relationship with Mark and didn’t put any pressure on him. He just said if we wanted to come to Del Mar, come.”

There is no agreement for Elliott to ride first string for all of Casse’s horses, which number at least 36 so far at the seaside oval.

“We’re going to ride a lot of them,” said Casse. “Mark is really fair. If she’s another jockey fits a horse better, he will ride them.”

Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form reporter via Twitter Monday that Victor Espinoza will ride Casse’s Conquestadory in Saturday’s San Clemente on the new turf course.

But Arroyo isn’t worried.

“I didn’t know anyone here two days ago,” said Arroyo, who is a former jockey himself, “but business is picking up quickly. We’ve working horses for John Sadler and Peter Miller.”

Arroyo booked mounts with trainer Barry Abrams for Thursday and Friday.

Arroyo said Elliott loves riding the Polytrack, the synthetic surface that will be making its final appearance this year before a return to dirt next year.

“He gets along with the Polytrack well,” said Arroyo. “He can put a horse on the lead or he can come from off the pace. It’s very easy to ride for him.”

Del Mar’s has rarely been called easy to ride since it seems sensitive to the weather, whether it’s warm or cooler due to the coastal overcast.

“I asked John Sadler how it plays,” said Arroyo, “and he said, ‘That’s a trick question.’

“Stewart likes to play it by ear. That’s why he’s so good on it. He gets a feeling for the horse and how he’s handling it and a feel for the track. He adapts each race.

“At Keeneland this spring, he won the first race on the lead on the fence, but by the third race he went to the outside. He told me during the second race, he could tell the rail was dying and getting deeper.”

Elliott will face similar conditions at Del Mar.

Hope he figures it out. Quickly.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter



Del Mar, Horse racing, Los Alamitos

Derby, Preakness winning jockey Elliott heads to Del Mar

Jockey Stewart Elliott, who rode Smarty Jones to wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes a decade ago, will be coming to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, starting with opening day on Thursday.

The news was first reported by Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form.

Elliott is coming west to ride a lot for trainer Mark Casse, who has sent a string to the seaside oval for the first time in the final year of Del Mar’s use of Polytrack. Del Mar will replace its Polytrack main surface with dirt after its inaugural fall meet.

Casse promised Del Mar officials he would send 30 to 40 horses this meet.

Elliott rode a lot for Casse at this spring’s Keeneland meet and finished second in the jockey standings with 15 wins from 73 mounts good for $557,650 in purses. The veteran rider showed a propensity for getting to the winner’s circle on the Polytrack as he tied for most synthetic winners (14). Elliott was just 1-for-16 on the grass.

Casse’s main stable in the summer is at Toronto’s Woodbine Race Course, which also features Polytrack.

When asked this spring if Elliott might come to Del Mar to ride for the barn, Casse was noncommittal.

“I mean there’s plenty of good riders in California,” said Casse.  “I don’t think I really have to bring anybody.  You know, (Hall of Fame jockey) Mike Smith and we go back probably 25 or 30 years, and so there are a lot of good riders.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

“So far we’ve been very lucky recently at Keeneland with Stewart Elliott, and, you know, we’ll just have to see how things are going. I like the way he rides, and him and I have a good relationship, but we may or may not bring somebody.  That just remains to be seen.  But like I said, I’m not concerned.  There’s a lot of good riders in California.”

Casse supposedly has brought a barn full of stakes and allowance runners so he might opt for a rider like Smith, or others, who know the circuit better at times.

Elliott has one mount (Know Plans) on opening day for trainer Barry Abrams in Thursday’s seventh race and another mount for Abrams on Friday.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Los Alamitos thoroughbred results

Saturday’s top choice winners: 3 (Sacred Ovation $3.40, first race; Stracciatella $7, third; Rowdy Dylan $2.80, fifth)

Saturday’s second choice winners: 0

Saturday’s third choice winners: 1 (Smogcutter $22.60, second)

Saturday’s long shot winners: 1 (Doinghardtimeagain $9.80, seventh)


Sunday’s top choice winners: 4 (Swiss Heart $3.40, second race; Story to Tell $5.20, third; Sharla Rae $9, seventh; La Grange $10.60, eighth)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 1 (Patriotic Lion $6.60, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 1 (Melanistic $5.80, fifth)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 2 (Wicked City Woman $8.20, first; I’ve Had Enough $7.80, fourth)


Horse racing, Santa Anita

Santa Anita picks for Thursday, May 22

In case you missed it, Joe Ferrer, injured jockey Rafael Bejarano’s agent, told Steve Andersen of the Daily Racing Form that Bejarano was targeting a return to action for the final weekend of the Santa Anita meet (June 27-29).

Bejarano suffered rib, collarbone and clavicle injuries. He had surgery last week and is finally home.

You gotta love the quote Ferrer told Andersen.

“The rib will heal before the collarbone, which will take the longest to heal,” Ferrer said. “These guys recover fast; they’re in such good shape.”

Hey, Joe, just let Rafael return when he is ready, not when you are ready to start collecting a paycheck, again.


FIRST RACE: 1. Seduire, 2. Enchanting Lady, 3. Yes She’s a Dancer. LONG SHOT: No Maybe Baby.

The high-priced 2-year-olds are beginning to enter the starting gate. This daughter of Elusive Quality cost $130,000 and has some works on the tab for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Jockey Corey Nakatani takes the ride. ENCHANTING LADY cost $650,000 and is trained by Bob Baffert. She has some big works and looks ready to go from the outside post as Martin Garcia will ride.


SECOND RACE: 1. Lakota Road, Euroclydon, 3. Quay Factor. LONG SHOT: Hansarella.


THIRD RACE: 1. Gladding, 2. Kate’s Event, 3. Giant Ego. LONG SHOT: 1. Sheer Talent.


FOURTH RACE: 1. Jack Diz, 2. Stadtpark, 3. This Cat’s Awesome. LONG SHOT: Broadcaster.


FIFTH RACE: 1. Charissa, 2. Tough Business, 3. Chain Lightning. LONG SHOT: Here Comes Bobbie.


SIXTH RACE: 1. Julio’s Gold (best bet), 2. Secret Genius, 3. Addendum. LONG SHOT: Woebegone.


SEVENTH RACE: 1. Prayer Be Mine, 2. Sea John’s Spirit, 3. Queen of the Hill. LONG SHOT: Little But Lucky.


EIGHTH RACE: 1. Kadesha, 2. Star Act, 3. Burning Arch. LONG SHOT: Nero’s Pleasure.

This 4-year-old filly KADESHA makes her career debut going long on the grass. She was bred in France and her mother and father were both Irish. That screams grass. Trainer Bob Hess Jr. and jockey Kent Desormeaux hit with a first-timer last weekend and try to do the same here.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Horse racing, Santa Anita

Updated Santa Anita picks for Thursday, Feb. 27 (OFF THE TURF)

According to Steve Andersen of the Daily Racing Form, Santa Anita began sealing the track after training hours in anticipation of rain beginning late Wednesday/early Thursday so I think you can pretty much forget about turf racing this week at the Great Race Place. Just pretend they are racing at Los Alamitos this week (no grass).

Be careful in your handicapping with rain in the forecast and get those mud ratings out. We handicapped the grass races as is and will make changes on Thursday morning, if and when they are taken off the turf.

FIRST RACE: 1. Belonging, 2. Silk in Silver, 3. Sheza Eyeopener. LONG SHOT: Perfect Tango.


SECOND RACE: 1. Pray Hard, 2. Oh Daddy Oh, 3. Well Measured. LONG SHOT: Image of Joplin.


THIRD RACE: 1. Arctic Code, 2. Zackos My Man, 3. Sudden Rumor. LONG SHOT: This Cat’s Awesome.

THIS RACE IS OFF THE TURF. Up grade the chances of Sudden Rumor and This Cat’s Awesome.


FOURTH RACE:  1. Change of Plan, 2. Londinium, 3. Anabaa Premium. LONG SHOT: Tuckers Point.

This gelding, CHANGE OF PLAN, is dropping in class for red-hot trainer Peter Miller and apprentice jockey Drayden Van Dyke. He has speed and Van Dyke used that speed to win one back. The 4-year-old tries two turns for the first time in a year, but broke his maiden going a distance of ground. Plus if it rains, he has decent mud breeding.


FIFTH RACE: 1. Readyforhercloseup (SCRATCHED), 2. Love Tale (SCRATCHED), 3. Hard Buns. LONG SHOT: Lilly’s Perfect.


New selections: 1. Fiesta Express, 2. Lilly’s Perfect, 3. Four Better. LONG SHOT: Gittel.


SIXTH RACE: 1. Onna Bugeisha, 2. Sheza Dish, 3. Dreamy Blues (SCRATCHED). LONG SHOT: Fleet Causeway.


SEVENTH RACE: 1. American Act, 2. El Commodore (SCRATCHED), 3. Stoney Fleece (SCRATCHED). LONG SHOT: Jonny’s Choice (SCRATCHED).


New picks: 1. Batti Man, 2. American Act, 3. County Lineman. LONG SHOT: Royal F J.


EIGHTH RACE: 1. New Nature (best bet), 2. Divine Way, 3. Very Thankful. LONG SHOT: Tiz But a Dream.

That old long shot team of jockey Omar Berrio and trainer A C Avila might not get big a price here, but this 3-year-old filly NEW NATURE has a big shot. After a two-month layoff, she ran a decent third at this level and depending on the first-time starters could be the speed of the race. She has a nice cozy outside post plus she has good mud breeding, if it rains.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 2 (Key Vista $3.80, third race; Indygo Andy $5, ninth)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 2 (Hog’s Hollow $5.20, second; Pathway to Yes $12, sixth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 1 (Buckingham Bull $30.60, fifth)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 3 (Jetbird $5.80, first; Presiding Justice $11.80, seventh; Street Swap $8.60, eighth)

Horse racing

From the beginning

This is the first summer in 26 years, I haven’t been employed full time by a newspaper while covering the annual Del Mar Thoroughbred Club meeting, but hopefully we will give you some of the same coverage we’ve given you in the past.

I will be handicapping daily with my top three appearing in the UT San Diego consensus box. I will also be covering Del Mar at least once a week for UT San Diego and hopefully pick up a few other outlets around Southern California.

Any questions, feel free to ask, and hopefully I’ll figure out how to answer.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Jeff_Nahill