Hunt, Isotherm circle stakes on calendar
DEL MAR, Calif. – Hunt didn’t make it to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup. Isotherm did but might as well have stayed home, as he was no factor in the Dirt Mile. It was not a particularly memorable Breeders’ Cup for trainer Phil D’Amato, but he’s ready to regroup with both of those runners at Del Mar, as both are among those he expects to run in graded stakes at the end of the season here.
Hunt was intended for the Mile on turf but did not travel to Kentucky when he spiked a temperature.
He has since recovered and is pointing to the Grade 2, $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap going 1 1/16 miles on turf Nov. 24, a race he won last year.
Hunt has won nine times in 29 starts and is less than $100,000 shy of earning $1 million. He has raced just three times this year, his biggest win coming in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita in May in his first start of the year.
Isotherm finished last of nine in the Dirt Mile. He came out of the race fine and will be pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver going 1 1/8 miles on the main track Nov. 25.
“A lot of the California horses either loved or hated the surface at Churchill Downs,” D’Amato said Friday. “He hated it. He kept running in place in that sand.”
Isotherm, 5, has now lost 10 straight since his victory in the Grade 2 San Marcos at Santa Anita in February 2017. He was third behind Accelerate – the subsequent winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and West Coast in the Grade 1 Awesome Again in his race prior to the Dirt Mile.
Elliott out with appendectomy
Veteran jockey Stewart Elliott will have surgery to remove his appendix in the coming days and will not ride the Del Mar fall meeting, his agent, Nelson Arroyo, said Friday, opening day of the meet.
Arroyo said Elliott has been told he will sidelined for a month and thus will not be returning before the Del Mar meet ends Dec. 2.
Elliott, 53, is best known for winning the Kentucky Derby on Smarty Jones in 2004. He has won 4,827 races. He rode through the end of the Santa Anita meeting last Sunday but took ill this week.
Del Mar to host veterans
Two military veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder who are using retired racehorses to help them cope will be hosted at Del Mar on Sunday and Monday through the generosity of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who along with his wife, Janet, provided a major portion of the seed money for Down the Stretch Ranch, which is based in Washington state.
Down the Stretch Ranch is overseen by Boone McCanna, the brother of trainer Tim McCanna and a former jockey agent for the likes of Vann Belvoir and Dennis Carr. Down the Stretch, now four years in operation, has 26 off-thetrack racehorses who interact with the veterans. The facility was announced on Monday as having been accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
“The veterans are coming in Saturday night. They’ll be at the races Sunday and Monday. They haven’t been to the races before,” Boone McCanna said. “Both are Iraqi war vets.”
In addition to Hollendorfer, McCanna said he has received support from such Southern California horsemen as ownerbreeder Nick Alexander, who donated a truck to be used at the ranch.
Down the Stretch is located about 50 miles west of Spokane in Creston, Wash. McCanna has living quarters on the property so that veterans can stay overnight.
“They usually want to come for two nights, and they’ll end up staying two weeks,” he said.
Among the horses on the property are such familiar names as Hollendorfer-trained retirees Exit Stage Left, Oligarch, and Trumpet Player Jay. Oligarch, a 10-year-old gelding, won nine times in 45 starts – including the 2011 Tropical Park Derby at Calder – and earned $332,761 in a career that ended in December 2016 at Golden Gate Fields.
“Oligarch is so good with these guys. He’s one of the smartest horses around,” McCanna said.
More information is available at downthestretch.org.
◗ Fans who are members of Del Mar’s Diamond Club get free admission, a free reserved seat, and a free program on Sundays this season and are entitled to half-priced admission and special discounts the other days of the meet. For instance, $30 worth of foodand-beverage vouchers can be purchased for $20.
◗ Veterans with identification will be admitted free to Del Mar both Sunday and Monday.
◗ There is Monday racing this opening weekend, owing to the Veterans Day holiday. The track will be dark next week on Tuesday and Wednesday, then resume racing on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule through closing day, Dec. 2.
◗ The major stakes at the end of the meet, such as the Grade 1 Matriarch and Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, are among those closing on Thursday. David Jerkens, Del Mar’s racing secretary, said he expects another major influx of East Coast-based runners for the stakes-filled turf festival.