By Richard Rosenblatt
Del Mar’s Turf Festival closes out the track’s fall meeting over this holiday weekend, ending a successful run that began with the 36th Breeders’ Cup in early November.
The other turf stakes at Del Mar are the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) on Friday, the Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) and the Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3) on Saturday, and the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) on Sunday.
Trainer Chad Brown sent an eight-horse contingent from New York to California and has a bunch of big chances to add to his West Coast victory total.
Brown, already a three-time winner of the Hollywood Derby, sends out Public Sector and Sifting Sands in the ninth running of the 1 1/8-mile event.
In the 1 ½-mile Turf Cup, Brown sends out 8-5 favorite Rockemperor, who ran eighth in the BC Turf on Nov. 6. He won the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic prior to the BC Turf and has raced mostly in New York.
Brown is looking for his first win in the Seabiscuit and entered Sacred Life (second by a neck in this one in 2019) and Flop Shot.
In the past seven seasons of the Turf Festival at Del Mar, Brown has a win in the Red Carpet, the Jimmy Durante, and the Cecil B. DeMille, and three wins in both the Hollywood Derby and the Matriarch.
Del Mar isn’t the only track with a large menu of stakes:
Aqueduct’s weekend features the Comely Stakes (G3) on Friday, the Long Island Stakes (G3) on Saturday, and the Fall Highweight Handicap (G3) on Sunday.
Perhaps the main event is at Churchill Downs, when Maxfield closes out his career against the likes of Midnight Bourbon, Dr Post and Happy Saver in the Clark Stakes on Friday. On Saturday, Tiz the Bomb tops the field in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), with Derby-qualifying points on the line.
NYRA’s “America’s Day at the Races” on Fox Sports will have live coverage from Aqueduct all weekend – FS2 from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, FS2 from 11:30-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, and FS1 from 11:30-12 p.m., FS2 12-4 p.m., and FS1 4-6:30 p.m.
TVG will televise races from around the country, including Del Mar.
The stakes action kicked off Thursday at Del Mar, with 11-1 longshot Neige Blanche ($24.80) holding off Luck by a head and winning the $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap (G3).
$250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), 1 ½ miles, turf, 3 and up
A disappointing eighth in the BC Turf at Del Mar earlier in the month, trainer Chad Brown’s Rockemperor is the 8-5 favorite in a field of seven. Also entered are 3-1 Friar’s Road and 4-1 choices Acclimate and Say the Word.
Rockemperor will be ridden by Flavien Prat leaving from post seven. The 5-year-old Ireland bred has a career record of 21-4-5-6 for earnings of $954,404.
$250,000 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2), 1 1/16 miles, turf, 3 and up
Sacred Life (8-5), a close second to Next Shares in this one in 2019, is back for another try for trainer Chad Brown. The 6-year-old bred in France will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from the far outside post 7. Flop Shot, also trained by Brown, is the 4-1 third choice. Field Pass, trained by Mike Maker, is 5-2. Sacred Life won the Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont on Oct. 10 in his last start.
$100,000 Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3), 1 mile, turf, 2-year-old fillies
California-based Helens Well is the slight 7-2 favorite in a field of 11, which includes the usual slew of East Coast invaders, who have won the previous seven runnings of this race. Umberto Rispoli has the call leaving from post 7 as Helens Well comes into the race off an eighth-place finish in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
Also entered are 4-1 co-second choices Sparkle Blue and Tezzaray.
$400,000 Hollywood Derby (G1), 1 1/8 miles, turf, 3-year-olds
A full field of 14 is expected with trainer Chad Brown’s Public Sector the 5-2 favorite over the likes of Subconscious at 4-1 and Camp Hope at 5-1. Brown also saddles 15-1 longshot Sifting Sands as he seeks a fourth win the ninth running of this race.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., has the call on Public Sector; brother Jose rides Sifting Sands.
$100,000 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3), 1 mile, turf, 2-year-olds
Post time: 4:30 p.m. (race 3)
Verbal represents trainer Chad Brown in this one, The colt won by four lengths in his debut at Belmont on Oct. 10. A field of 11 was entered.
$400,000 Matriarch Stakes (G1), 1 mile, turf, 3 and up fillies and mares
Post time: 6:30 p.m. (race 7)
The 5-year-old Viadera returns for trainer Chad Brown seeking to win this race for the second year in a row. Brown also sends out Regal Glory in the field of six.
Viadera was sixth in the First Lady Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last month, but previously won the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on Aug. 28. She has a record of 16-7-1-1 and will be ridden by Flavien Prat.
$200,000 Comely Stakes (G3) 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-old fillies
Crazy Beautiful could be the one to beat as the Ken McPeek-trainee comes into the race off a runner-up finish in the Rubicon Valley View Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on Oct. 29. She was beaten a length last out by 25-1 longshot Navratilova.
Others entered include Played Hard and Shalimar Gardens.
$400,000 Long Island Stakes (G3), 1½ miles, turf, 3 and up fillies and mares
Christophe Clement sends out three of the eight contenders, including last year’s winner Mutamakina, the 3-1 favorite. His other runners are La Dragontea (7-2) and Sorrel (9-2).
$200,000 Fall Highweight Handicap (G3), 6 furlongs, 3 and up
A field of eight was entered, with Chateau carrying a co-highweight of 131 pounds in the 108th edition of this race. While the 6-year-old gelding ran seventh in a Parx allowance last time out for trainer Rob Atras, he excels at the Big A with a record of 10-5-2-2.
Kendrick Carmouche has the call leaving from post 1.
Also carrying 131 pounds is Sir Alfred James, trained and co-owned by Norman Cash. The 5-year-old has fared well in 2021 with a record of 9-3-2-2.
$750,000 Clark Stakes (G1), 1 1/8 miles, 3 and up
Also entered are a pair of Todd Pletcher-trainees, Happy Saver and Dr Post, as well as King Fury and Night Ops.
Maxfield has won seven of 10 career starts, with a second and a third for trainer Brendan Walsh. Winner of the Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill in June, the 4-year-old colt ran second in his last two starts the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga and the Woodward (G1) at Belmont.
Midnight Bourbon, sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and second in the Preakness (G1), was second in his previous two starts, the Travers (G1) and the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) for trainer Steve Asmussen.
$400,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2), 1 1/16 miles, 2-year-old fillies
Sandstone is the 8-5 favorite in a field of eight, which also includes 2-1 choice Famed and 3-1 choice Yuugiri.
Trained by Ken McPeek, Sandstone is 2-for-3 with a win in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill on Oct. 31. Famed, trained by Brad Cox for Godolphin, is 2-1-1-0.
The race is a Kentucky Oaks (G1) points qualifiers, with points of 10-4-2-1 awarded to the first four finishers.
$400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), 1 1/16 miles, 2-year-olds
A Derby-points qualifiers (10-4-2-1 to the first four finishers), a full field of 14 was entered. Trainer Ken McPeek’s Tiz the Bomb is the 3-1 favorite over the likes of 7-2 choice Howling Time and Classic Causeway.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.