Where the crème de la crème of flat racing's thoroughbreds converge to do battle across fourteen races with total prize money in excess of $30,000,000, this year descending upon Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Southern California... “Where the turf meets the surf”. This will be just the second time the two day extravaganza heads to Del Mar (having first been held here in 2017) with Santa Anita Park and Churchill Downs having historically been the preferred venues.
It's definitely worth noting that as the venue changes year on year, this means that some of the stats/trends (especially those around track/stall bias) should be treated with some level of caution as although the courses look similar on paper, none are exactly the same and each track can ride very differently.
Another point worth noting is that the finish line is around half a furlong closer to the entrance to the straight than at the aforementioned venues, meaning those in the lead coming in to the straight have less of a trip to hold off all challengers. As a very general rule prominent runners who have more emphasis on speed tend to have the edge over those who prefer to sit back and come with a late run.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (credit dmtc.com)
21:50 JUVENILE TURF SPRINT
Only 3 prior renewals & each have been won by the shortest priced American runner
Kaufymaker made up a fair bit of late ground to finish second to stablemate Averly Jane when they met at Keeneland in October, however it was the latter that was very much the eyecatcher, breaking smartly and travelling strongly from the front, opening up a three length lead on the bend before extending the lead to around four lengths under a hands and heels ride. A commanding victory to make it four wins from four career runs, she looks to have a great chance of extending her winning streak here.
Wesley Ward also saddles Twilight Gleaming who has form figures of 2121 including a Listed success in France when last seen and an excellent second in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot in June. She has had a couple of tough races but has also been given plenty of time to recover in-between so could actually benefit from those experiences and looks the biggest danger to the favourite.
One Timer is another who arrives here looking to maintain a 100% winning record, following up a 12 length maiden victory with another commanding display at Woodbine in July, before holding off the late challenge of Time To Party when last seen. Given that One Timer had the better of the draw and Time To Party has a prior course and distance victory to his name, I am surprised to see such a big difference between the two in the markets. I'm not convinced that Time To Party has what it takes to win, but I could certainly see him getting closer and possibly reversing the form with One Timer.
Moving away from the American runners, Armor has won a Group 3 race over this trip and was only a neck away from victory in the Group 2 Flying Childers at Doncaster in September, while Go Bears Go is a Group 2 winner over six furlongs but has also won over the minimum trip and was only a head behind Perfect Power when second in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Both are more than capable on their day and both would need considering for each way purposes.
AVERLY JANE (WIN)
22:30 JUVENILE FILLIES
4x big priced winners in the last 8 years - winners at odds of 66/1, 40/1, 28/1 & 20/1
Look for horses that ran in either the Frizette, the Alcibiades or the Chandelier
Echo Zulu has won three from three, stepping up in distance each time and taking both the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 1 Frizette exactly as you would hope a short priced favourite should. Last time out she kicked on nicely in the home straight to win by an ever increasing margin, however despite two Grade 1 victories hasn't really come up against any rivals with real substance and for this reason she looks a little short in the betting for me.
Hidden Connection streaked clear to win the Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs by around nine lengths, thus cementing her place here. Whilst visually impressive, the time wasn't anything spectacular and to me she didn't look like she would be capable of improving too much on that performance.
Juju's Map was a solid winner of the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in October, stepping up to the highest level and winning with apparent ease. For me this was the most intriguing of runs as rather than going all out to grab the lead she opted to sit in behind the leader before making her move at the bend, showing good speed, intelligence and staying ability to stretch out on the home straight. Of the top three in the market, it was this prior run that impressed me the most and I also think that she had plenty left to be able to kick on again if needed so it is the Brad Cox runner that gets my vote here.
Tarabi was well behind Echo Zulu in the Spinaway while Sequist has finished behind both Echo Zulu and Juju's Map in her last two races and it's difficult to see either stepping forwards enough to reverse the form.
JUJU'S MAP (WIN)
23:10 JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
5/12 winners won last time out
Only 3 winning faves, although all 3 have come in the last 5 years
3 of Chad Brown’s winners had won the Miss Grillo prior to winning here
C Brown 5/2/20 (has won 4 of the last 7 renewals)
Irad Ortiz Jr 2/7
R Moore 0/11
Pizza Bianca was a shade unlucky when second in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes when last seen, getting squeezed by a couple of rivals and losing some momentum at a crucial time in the race. Given the way Wild Beauty won, I doubt Cristophe Clement's runner would have been able to reverse the result with a clear run but she would without doubt have finished closer and was still staying on strongly passing the winning post so its no surprise to see her close to the head of the early markets.
Koala Princess is unbeaten in two, yet both races have been in lesser company than she will encounter here so despite looking to have a decent amount of potential I am a little surprised to see her at such a short price. She may surprise me but at the price I would have to look elsewhere as this looks a competitive race with a few rivals who are more up to the task given experience to date.
Mise En Scene wasn't disgraced when fourth in the Group 1 B365 Fillies Mile at Newmarket when last seen, finishing a short head behind the re-opposing Catchet while running on strongly on what was her first attempt over a mile, having previously won twice over seven furlongs. She is reunited with Oisin Murphy for this race and looks more than capable of playing a part at the finish.
Haughty is one of two represented by Chad Brown and was last seen winning as a 4/11 shot should at Keeneland last month, easing clear on the bend and extending away under a confident hands and heels ride under Tyler Gaffalione who is retained in the saddle today.
The other Chad Brown runner is Consumer Spending who actually looked to be in a spot of bother at Laurel Park last month, coming off the bend in second last and having to switch to the outside having found nowhere to go up the rail. That said, as soon as she saw daylight she lengthened out and found herself in the lead in a matter of strides, winning with what looked to be plenty in hand. Although the race lacked depth and she was chased home by two 100/1 shots, it was hard not to be impressed with how quickly she turned a tough situation in to a winning one and given her trainers record in the race she is given the nod in what looks to be a competitive affair.
CONSUMER SPENDING (E/W)
8/10 winners have been drawn in stalls 4-7
Only 4 winning faves in the last 20 years
B Baffert has trained 4 winners of this race
Jack Christopher looked in complete command when holding off the late challenge of Commandperformance in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park when last seen, however the runner-up had to come from way off the pace and had to go wide on the bend so I would be happy to mark that performance up. Neither have fantastic draws, with the favourite in danger of getting boxed in right on the rail and Todd Pletchers runner drawn in ten (update: Jack Christopher now NR).
Bob Baffert runs Barossa, Corniche and Pinehurst, and although the first two are proven over this trip it is big step up for Barossa, while Corniche has drawn stall 12 so it is the latter who looks the most likely of the trio to play a part. A winner on debut over the minimum trip here at Del Mar, Pinehurst returned to Del Mar and stepped up to seven furlongs, putting in a taking performance to win the Grade 1 Futurity Stakes when last seen. The way he stretched out and ran right through the line suggests the extra distance he encounters here won't be an issue and he looks a live contender for a trainer who excels in this race.
Pappacap and Oviatt Class both finished behind Corniche last time out and would both need to improve to figure here.
00:30 JUVENILE TURF
11/14 winners went off at single figure odds
9/14 winners were trained in Europe, 5 of which raced on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket last time out
9/14 winners came from stalls 1-5
only 2/14 winning favourites
A O’Brien 4 wins since 2011
M Casse 0 wins from 10 runners, J Velasquez 0/11, J Rosario 0/10
R Moore 4/11, F Dettori 3/9, Jose Ortiz 2/3/5
This looks to be a cracking finale to day 1, with European trained runners having excelled in this race in recent years and as such having a strong foothold the head of the market. Charlie Appleby has had another excellent season and has two runners in the mix, Modern Games and Albahr. The former has impressed in his last two runs, forging clear at Doncaster over seven furlongs in September before another commanding performance to win the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket two weeks later. He is yet to race over a mile but given the way he finishes his races I would not expect the step up in trip to cause issue. Albahr is unbeaten over seven and eight furlongs and was last seen clearing away nicely to beat subsequent winner Grafton Street in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine when last seen. He is two from two under Frankie Dettori and although can look like he needs a little encouragement mid-race he shows plenty for pressure and always finishes his race off really strongly. Both have a little bit of class about them and for me are tough to split.
Dubawi Legend got to within two lengths of 122 rated Native Trail in the Group 1 Dewhurst at Newmarket when last seen, and although headed inside the final furlong he was still staying on at the finish so should be more than capable of seeing out the mile here, although has been a little unfortunate being drawn in stall 14.
Of the home contingent, it is Tiz The Bomb who makes most appeal on the back of a gutsy performance when last seen, where just about everything went wrong yet he still managed to prevail with victory in the Grade 1 Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes. He managed to break through the stalls before the start, had to be reloaded and then sit in behind the leaders having been drawn in stall 12, before making his move late on and battling through to win going away. His sire won this race with a similarly tenacious performance in 2015 so it would be somewhat of a fairytale, and also entirely plausible to see Tiz The Bomb follow up with victory here.
TIZ THE BOMB (E/W)
19:05 FILLY & MARES SPRINT
Look out for previous winners of the TCA Stakes at Keeneland
Gamine won this race last year at Keeneland and hasn't looked back since, defying short odds on four occasions to remain unbeaten for 2021. She looked more workmanlike than impressive when finishing around three lengths clear of Ce Ce in the Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga when last seen, however was still in command at the line and as the market suggests could prove difficult to beat.
Edgeway has winning form at the course although like Ce Ce was beaten by Gamine when they last met so the one most likely to put up a challenge to the favourite is three-year-old Bella Sofia who was an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes at Saratoga and followed up with another commanding victory at Belmont Park when last seen. She doesn't yet look to have reached her peak and actually looks a decent enough price for me to want to take on the hot favourite.
BELLA SOFIA (WIN)
19:40 TURF SPRINT
10/13 winners arrived here on the back of a loss last time out
Only 3 winning faves to date
P Miller has won 3 of the last 4 renewals (3 wins & 4 placed from 12)
J Rosario 2 wins & 2 placed from 11
Golden Pal is a top class sprinter and probably deserves his place at the head of the market, however I am a little surprised there is such a big gap between him and his nearest rival in terms of early odds, and for that reason I am sure there is value to be had here especially when considering all of Golden Pal's victories have come over a half furlong further than he will encounter here.
Kevin Ryan's Glass Slippers won this race last season and returns to defend his crown. He hasn't managed to win again since but has posted three placed efforts and will likely be primed for a big run, while stablemate Emeraaty Ana was a Group 1 winner over six furlongs when last seen and is also effective over this shorter trip so shouldn't be discounted.
A Case Of You has improved for each run this season, posting results of 321 with the victory coming in the Group 1 Prix De L'Abbaye where he finished five lengths clear of Glass Slippers. That came in testing conditions and the majority of his best performances have come on slower ground than he will encounter today, however there is no doubt he comes here with a solid each way chance.
Of the remainder, Kimari is more than capable if arriving on a going day, while Lieutenant Dan is a multiple course and distance winner and arrives here in excellent form having won his last three. A final mention goes to trainer Peter Miller who has won three of the last four renewals, however in truth it would be somewhat of a shock if he were to have the winner this time around as his sole runner is the outsider of the field Commander who has looked better over further.
A CASE OF YOU (E/W)
20:19 DIRT MILE
3 winning faves, two of which were odds on
0/31 – winners of this race having won a Gp3 last time out
It's difficult to get away from Life Is Good here. A winner of four of his five starts, his only loss came when going down by a neck after an almighty tussle with current Sprint favourite Jackie's Warrior in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes, his first run in five months and over a trip shorter than optimum. Returning the following month, this time over a mile at Belmont Park, he eased clear to win by five lengths without looking to be fully extended and his form and profile looks to be a cut above his rivals here.
Silver State was no match for Knicks Go in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes when last seen and looks booked for second, with prior course winner Ginobili best of the remainder.
LIFE IS GOOD (WIN)
20:59 FILLY & MARE TURF
Look for runners that had previously won a G1
Only 1 winning fave from the last 10 renewals
A win last time out is not essential
C Brown 4 wins since 2012, Sir M Stoute 3 wins from 8, A O'Brien 0 wins from 15
J Velasquez 3/6/15 last 20 years
0/39 – winners that raced at Santa Anita LTO
I have been following War Like Goddess for the majority of the season and have been extremely impressed with her progression. She is quite happy to let others take the lead but has a high cruising speed and usually passes the majority of her rivals on the turn in to the straight before stepping up her own pace and putting each race to bed in a matter of strides. This will likely be her toughest race to date but she has improved with each run and looks more than capable of continuing that progression with another victory here.
Love had an excellent season as a three year old, winning three Group 1's in a row including the 1000 Guineas and The Oaks, and returned this season with a victory over Audarya (the winner of this race last season) in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales Stakes. She hasn't quite hit top gear in three subsequent runs but the fast ground should suit and it would be dangerous to underestimate her here – If returning to her best she won't be too far away.
WAR LIKE GODDESS (WIN)
9/13 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
P Miller 2/4 last 20 years
look for a runner who is partnered with the same jockey as when last won
Given everything we have seen from Jackie's Warrior I am actually a little surprised he can be backed at odds against for this race, and would expect he will be a pretty short price especially in the American markets come race time. Whether the 6/5 currently on offer proves to be value will obviously depend on the SP and whether or not he wins the race, but if he puts in a performance anywhere close to his last couple of runs then I simply can't see him being beaten.
A solid run from Eight Rings in the Dirt Mile earlier in the card would boost the form of prior course winner Dr Schivel, who beat both Eight Rings and the re-opposing C Z Rocket over course and distance in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes in August. He arrives here having won his last five and looks the most likely to capitalise should the favourite fail to fire.
JACKIE'S WARRIOR (WIN)
Big priced winners in the last 10 years – 50/1, 40/1, 33/1, 16/1
Only one prior winner in the history of the race to have not won over a mile before winning here (Expert Eye in 2018)
M Casse 2/2/6 last 20 years
Space Blues has mainly been campaigned over shorter trips than he encounters today, winning multiple Group 1 & 2 races over seven furlongs, however was a winner over the extended mile at Nottingham on racecourse debut so should be capable of seeing out the trip and looked better than ever when beating the re-opposing Pearls Galore in the Prix Del La Foret when last seen. Well drawn to attack from stall 3, he looks the one to beat.
Mo Forza also arrives here in excellent form having won eight of his last nine, including three here at Del Mar, beating Smooth Like Strait in to second the last twice. This is a step up from Grade 2 level but his course form is a huge plus and his trainer knows what it takes to win at the Breeders Cup so he rates a live danger to the favourite.
Aidan O'Brien won this race last season with Oder Of Australia and runs Mother Earth who has been the model of consistency this season, racing in eight Group 1 races and only failing to make the top three at Ascot on soft ground when last season. Given how many tough races she has already endured I think it would take a monumental effort to gain victory here, however it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see another solid effort and to be rewarded with some place money.
MO FORZA (E/W)
Look for runners that had previously won a G1 race
A race where the winner tends to come from towards the head of the market (9/1 biggest price winner in the last 10 years)
Look for horses that have had 1 run in the last 30 days
William Mott 3 wins & 2 placed from 10 – last 20 years
Dunbar Road makes her third appearance in this race but has never got nearer than third has had to chase home favourite Letruska the last twice so looks to have it all to do given she has also been drawn widest of all this time around.
Malathaat has been in excellent form this year, winning three times including the Kentucky Oaks. She's an exciting filly who could yet improve further so warrants plenty of respect in receipt of 3lbs from the favourite, however its worth noting that three-year-olds don't have a great record in the race.
Shedaresthedevil is a prior Grade 1 winner here at Del Mar and races for a trainer who has won two of the last three renewals of this race, however was beaten almost four lengths by Letruska when they last met.
Private Mission has improved for each run this season, winning at Grade 3 and then at Grade 2 level when last seen. This will be her toughest test to date, however with prior course form and plenty of potential she deserves to take her chance at the top table and could make the frame.
A race that has been kind to older horses and ones towards the top of the market, its difficult to get away from Letruska's chances especially when you consider she has already beaten her main rivals in various races over the course of the season.
Look for runners that have previously won a Grade 1
Look for runners that have raced within the last 6 weeks
European-trained horses do well in this race
5/20 winners went off as favourite, the fave has finished in the top 3 in 10 of the last 12 renewals
0 winners aged 6+
Strong G1 form is a distinct positive, although a win last time out is not essential
A O’Brien 6 wins & 7 placed from 27 – last 20 years
R Moore 4/6/11 last 20 years
F Dettori 4/2/13 last 20 years
I have always been a huge fan of Tarnawa and was firmly in her corner when she won this race last season. I would love to see her defend her crown before another tilt at the Arc De Triomphe next season, however this looks to be another high class renewal and being drawn in stall 13 isn't ideal so at odds of 11/8 at the time of writing if she is to win it won't be carrying my money.
Teona is another who has been part of our horses to follow list and it was great to see her regain the winning thread with victory at Windsor in August, before following up with a superb victory over Snowfall in the Prix Vermeille a couple of weeks later. She gets weight from all her rivals and as a result looks set for another big race here.
Charlie Appleby has two live contenders with Walton Street and Yibir, the former putting in a terrific performance to win the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International Stakes by around six lengths at Woodbine in September, and the latter putting in a similarly visually impressive performance at Belmont Park when last seen. I found it difficult to split the two and if both turn up in the same form as last time out we could easily see a trainer one-two. I couldn't put anyone off backing either at the prices, however have ultimately sided with Walton Street.
WALTON STREET (E/W)
Look for runners who won over at least 9f before
Look for runners who are USA-trained
Look for runners who previously won a G1
Look for runners who won last time out
Look for runners who had previously raced in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park
Only 2/20 winning faves
Low drawn runners (stalls 1-3) seem to struggle in this race
B Baffert won the race in 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2020
Mike Smith 3 wins & 4 placed from 15 rides in the last 20 years
Knicks Go is already a Breeders Cup winner having won the Dirt Mile last season, and after a couple of disappointing runs earlier in the season he has taken another step forwards, in-particular when obliterating rivals in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga in August. All his career runs have come over shorter trips that he encounters today and that would have to be a little concern, however he arrives here in excellent form and does look like he should stay the extra distance so looks to hold a solid chance.
Medina Spirit got the better of Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby and was also super impressive when winning the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes, although there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the Bob Baffert runner given he tested positive for an anti-inflammatory steroid and as such was not allowed to compete in the Belmont Stakes. His trainer has an excellent record in the race and his runner once again looks a live danger.
Last seasons' Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Essential Quality has only suffered one career defeat to date and that came at the hands of Medina Spirit, however he had to come from stall 14 on that occasion and had a somewhat troubled passage throughout the race, yet was still only beaten around a length. He has since won two grade 1 races and has a perfect draw in stall 4 to be able to dictate on his own terms this time around.
ESSENTIAL QUALITY (WIN)
written by Dean Kilbryde