BEST BET: RACE 9, OPERANDI
GIRL DOWNSTAIRS returns from a two-month respite to the turf course/class level on which she won by more than six lengths in summer. The only entrant in this field with a win at Del Mar turf (two wins), she runs well fresh and enters as the best mare in the lineup. The pace scenario is murky; ‘DOWNSTAIRS has enough tactical speed to be forwardly placed. BELIEVE INDEED wheels back in eight days, while turning to her preferred twoturn trip. She finished fifth last week racing five furlongs at Santa Anita; her win two back in a $20k claiming turf mile similar to this $25k claiming turf mile puts her in the hunt with the top choice. AWARD IT, an anatomical hermaphrodite, was claimed for $20k one week ago and has run races fast enough to compete with these.
DANCING BELLE, a 10-start maiden, gets the nod in a maiden route that sets up for her closing style. Five of her six rivals are stretching out from sprints, including two confirmed front-runners. This race is likely to unfold at a strong pace, which flatters the closing rally of ‘BELLE. Can you trust a maiden in the 11th start of her career? Of course not. Front-runner CREATIVE CONTESSA merits respect on the stretchout. She set a fast pace last out, shook off her pace rivals, was no match for the winner, but finished more than five lengths clear of third. ‘CONTESSA stretches out for the first time in the third start of her career; she could steal it if able to shake away from her pace rivals again. Her pedigree is fine for two turns. WAZE READY has a closing style that suits the pace. She ran well in a sprint on this track in summer; she returns to dirt after a spin-aroundthe-course comeback prep on turf. TIVAT is the main pace rival for the top choice; GIVEHERDALUTE stretches out with an even-paced running style that suggests two turns might be to her liking.
TRAPALANDA figures for a great trip positioned behind the speed in this $8k claiming starter allowance route. The gelding was claimed in August by Jeff Mullins, he returns from the layoff in a starter allowance from which he cannot be claimed away. The placement is optimistic, the gelding’s works are solid and he should fire his best shot first start back. EXOTIC GHOST can win if he returns to his summer form that included two big efforts (win, second) over this racetrack. The knock is a complete misfire last out at Fresno. Favored at even-money in a $6,250 claiming starter, he finished third by more than seven lengths. If that race was an aberration, he can win. If that race is race signals declining form, he is a toss. Tough call. BANZE NO OESTE finished a solid third last out against tougher; he should get a more favorable pace scenario this time around. He exits a race won by SENSE OF GLORY, who faces more speed this time. ABOVE BOARD might be the speed of the speed. He daylight win last out was partly due to a speed bias.
NEIGHBORHOOD BULLY returns to his favorite surface in a race that sets up for his closing style. Both career wins came over the Del Mar dirt, he was only prepping last out on turf and is now back at the level of his most recent win. ITALIANO finished in front of the top choice last out in a turf sprint at Santa Anita; he also benefits from a return to dirt and a drop in class. He has more speed than ‘BULLY, and will get first run. TREASURE HUNTER misfired last out at Fresno, he finished close to the top choice twice during the Del Mar summer meet. Front-runners WILD VERSE and ROYAL BAR will keep the pace honest.
RUMPUS CAT, a maiden claimed for $50k from a runner-up finish last out in a downhill sprint at Santa Anita, stretches back to a route and gets a beneficial rider switch to Flavien Prat. The class hike from maiden-50 to this maiden-62.5 level is okay. SHAKY ALIBI drops for the first time to maiden-claiming; his third on this course last fall in a maiden special-weight would probably
be fast enough. With a prep under his belt, and easier company. SHAKY ALIBI looms a contender with a front-running trip. FALCONE, runner-up four straight, will roll late. AUSSIE FOX, claimed for $20k in summer, ran the best races of his career in three previous Del Mar turf routes. One more chance, at a price?
FAST COTTON is the speed of the field, and most likely winner of this maiden-20 if he reproduces his runner-up finish here in summer. Come catch him. OPTIMUM improved second out, but was unable to get past Kopitar, who was finally winning a race in the 12th start of his career. HARLEY’S PRIDE returns from a layoff of nearly a year. He showed speed and tired in his debut last fall; he returns at rock bottom.
SOUTER and WORTHY TURK traded decisions in August and October; they are tough to separate in this starter allowance turf mile. The call goes to SOUTER, whose runner-up finish last out was validated when winner Starting Bloc returned to win a N1X. WORTHY TURK won at this level in summer when he jumped a condition and won as a maiden. In the money three subsequent starts, he will roll late. SNAZZY DRESSER is the speed of the field, taking off blinkers and a front-end threat if they leave him alone.
JUST GRAZED ME benefits from a return to one turn, and a pace scenario that favors her closing style. Her first two starts were blowout sprint wins from off the pace, followed by a pair of modest runner-up routes. No doubt she prefers one turn, she won a Cal-bred stakes over the Del Mar track in July, and is back doing what she does best. Off the pace and into the winner’s circle. SPICED PERFECTION is a Del Mar horse for course; she has won 3 of her 5 starts here. She outran her 27-1 odds last out when third in a turf stakes; dirt seems her preferred surface. Like the top choice, ‘PERFECTION benefits from the pace scenario and return to dirt. LOVE A HONEYBADGER ran the race of her career last out when she wired an off-turf stakes at five furlongs on a “good” surface. The challenge is to reproduce that race while stretching from five furlongs to seven, moving to “fast,” and coping with a quick rival with a similar style. That is GORGEOUS GINNY, a three-time stakes winner last winter at Turf Paradise making her second start back from a layoff. She dueled and faded in her comeback three weeks ago; with that race under her belt she is likely to improve. At very least, she will keep ‘HONEYBADGER honest on the front end. S Y SKY, stablemate of the top choice, needed her comeback effort. She also can improve.
OPERANDI returns to Del Mar at the top of her game, with proven sprint form on the Del Mar turf and a highly rated win last out in a N3L turf sprint at Santa Anita. OPERANDI won a five-furlong turf sprint here in summer at this Cal-bred N1X/condition; she is eligible because she entered for the optional $20k claim tag. She has speed to establish position from the inside, and she can finish. Looks obvious. SHYLOCK EDDIE might offer value; her sixth-place finish last out at Santa Anita was better than it looks. She had to wait for room at the dirt crossing, waited longer at the top of the stretch, angled to the outside and finished with run. It was too late, but she ran well. Her thirdplace finish two starts back racing five furlongs on turf at Golden Gate puts her squarely in the hunt. She is a late threat. BAKO SWEETS will take a curious class drop, from a runner-up finish for $40k at Golden Gate, to $20k optional here. Her best recent race was the last time she ran on tur, runner-up by a neck. Also-eligible POWDER has been running fast on dirt, but now tries turf and is stuck on the far outside.