Five talented distaffers — all already graded stakes winners — seeking a secured spot in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) gate in just more than three months will square off in Sunday’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar, the seaside oval’s second “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge event of the summer. The Clement L. Hirsch will again be contested over the distance of 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
The Del Mar weather continues to be beautiful and the afternoon high is expected to reach the low-80s, guaranteeing another day with a fast track.
The Clement L. Hirsch was once known as the Chula Vista Handicap, renamed in 2000 to honor Clement Hirsch, the popular horse owner and breeder who founded California’s prestigious Oak Tree Racing Association. A superstar list of distance fillies and mares have graced the Del Mar winner’s circle after capturing this stakes fixture, including champions Princess Rooney, Bayakoa, Paseana, Sharp Cat, Azeri (twice) and Zenyatta (three times). All but Sharp Cat are in the Hall of Fame. Champion Stellar Wind won this race six years ago for the second time and the fan-favored Eclipse Award winner Unique Bella ran her final career race in this event five years ago. Last year Blue Stripe (Arg) won this race before her gallant second to Malathaat in the Breeders’ Cup.
Top Contenders and Exciting Matchups: A Preview of the Star-Studded Lineup in the Clement Hirsch Race
Trainer John Sadler has saddled a record five winners, one more than the legendary Charlie Whittingham, to lead all others as the race’s leading conditioner, while retired Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron earned seven Hirsch trophies and is still top jockey, more than 23 years after he retired from the saddle.
This year’s Hirsch is not short on talent and it’s hard to pinpoint who carries the most star power in the bunch, but the Bob Baffert-trained Adare Manor seeks a fourth straight win after capturing the Santa Margarita Stakes (GII) and Santa Maria Stakes (GII) in her last two after winning an allowance optional claiming event back in March. The Uncle Mo filly has yet to win a Grade I but is in the best form of her career and will be tough to run down.
Baffert also saddles his wife Jill’s homebred Fun To Dream, who is the reigning California-bred Horse of the Year and coming off a narrow defeat in the Beholder Mile (GI) back in March. She also won last year’s La Brea Stakes (GI) and the Santa Monica S. (GI) back in the winter. The daughter of newest Hall of Famer Arrogate will have Ramon Vazquez aboard.
Monrovia Stakes (GIII) winner Elm Drive, who is trained by Phil D’Amato, ran third in the Great Lady M. last out after back-to-back wins in the Monrovia Stakes and Mizdirection Stakes. She stretches out today after having only has outed two turns once before, producing a seventh in the Chandelier Stakes (GI) as a juvenile. Ricky Gonzalez rides.
D’Amato also sends out Desert Dawn, who was second behind Blue Stripe in this race a year ago. The daughter of Cupid has placed in five graded stakes and most recently was third in the Santa Margarita. Regular rider Umberto Rispoli will be back aboard.
Kirstenbosch won La Canada Stakes (G3) for trainer Sadler back in January and is coming off a second last out in the Santa Margarita. Hector Berrios will ride.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.