A field of nine will go postward in Sunday’s $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (GI), Del Mar’s signature race for sprinters named after the famous old Hollywood singer who was a race horse owner and breeder who also is credited with being a member of the group that built the track “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” in the mid-1930s. Now in its 71st year, the six-furlong dash has always drawn some of the best of the Southern California sprint masters — and this year is no exception.
Leading the field to post will be Zayat Stable’s Justin Squared, who returns to action after suffering his first loss in the Woody Stephens Stakes (GII) seven weeks ago and a series of impressive works at Santa Anita and Del Mar. He broke his maiden over the Del Mar main track last summer and had been on the road in his three subsequent starts, so it’ll be nice to see him back “home” as he looks to return to the winner’s circle. He’s a stone-cold frontrunner in a race with a ton of early speed, but Martin Pedroza returns on the gray son of Zensational (who won this race in 2009) and if the 3-year-old Bob Baffert trainee returns to form should be a main contender regardless of how fast they go on the front end.
Baffert also sends out recent Triple Bend Stakes (GI) winner Lord Nelson, who is also looking for his third win in a row. The son of Pulpit hasn’t ever run a bad race in his 11-race career, winning five with a second and third, and no finishes worse than one fifth. He also broke his maiden over the Del Mar main track two years ago and has been training well since his last start. Current leading rider Flavien Prat takes over for regular jockey Rafael Bejarano, who is out of town for the mount on American Freedom in the Haskell Invitational (GI) at Monmouth Park. The best news for Lord Nelson is that he’s a stalker in a race with a ton of speed and should be in prime position to challenge for the win as the speed begins to back up in front of him.
Subtle Indian is the definition of consistent. Whether it be at the smaller tracks like Canterbury Park or the big leagues of Santa Anita Park, this gelding likes to win and, when he doesn’t, he’s a good bet to finish second as he’s won seven of 11 starts, with two seconds. One race he was eased (and was fine) and another he never showed interest and was beaten a whopping 92 lengths. Mike Smith was aboard for his runner-up finish to Lord Nelson in the Triple Bend last out and is back for this event. Another with a ton of early turn of food, expect this son of Indian Charlie up on the engine after the break as well.
Home Run Kitten seems to be better suited to turf racing, but was a decent fourth last out in the Triple Bend. Hard to think this horse will improve enough to best the proven dirt sprinters in here, but he carries some connections who have been upset specialists recently in Terabilla Farms, David Hofmans and Joe Talamo, the trio who teamed for the surprise Santa Anita Handicap (GI) win in March.
Kaabraaj has won four of 14 starts with three seconds and four thirds and, though he’s done most of his best running in Washington at Emerald Downs, trainer Jeff Metz believes the gelded son of Abraaj has earned his shot in here.
Indexical makes his second start since finishing third in last year’s Pat O’Brien Stakes (GII). With a couple of exceptions he has always been consistent, but he will need a career best effort to defeat the better runners in here.
Dream Saturday makes his third start for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and is trying to better his runner-up finish in the Iowa Sprint handicap last time out. He’s Grade I-placed and well-traveled, but he has yet to win at the track or the distance.
Bluegrass Bronco is also a turf performer and picks an awfully ambitious spot to make his stakes debut, but it’s hard to question a trainer of David Hofmans’ caliber in any stakes.