A Fortnight on the Turf Featured at Del Mar

November 20, 2023

Hong Kong Harry winning the City of Hope Oct. 1. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Keeping The Backstretch Workers Warm This Holiday Season

Stable Notes By Jim Charvat

DEL MAR, Calif.—The Turf Festival at Del Mar kicks off next week and many of the races are starting to take shape. Eight grass races make up the event with purses totaling $1.4 million. Horses from the out-of-town barns of Chad Brown, Graham Motion and Michael Maker have been nominated for the races which annually draw horses from around the U.S. 

Grass racing back east is at a premium this time of year, even more so now that Churchill Downs has all but canceled much of its turf racing this fall. That leaves Del Mar the only show in town.

The Turf Festival begins with the 11-panel, G3 Red Carpet on Thanksgiving Day. 

It continues Friday with the 42nd running of the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup, another marathon race, this one for 3-year-olds and up. 14 horses have been nominated for the one-and-a-half-mile grass test including Stone Age from the Chad Brown barn. There’s also Astronaut, who won the 2021 Del Mar Handicap; Order and Law, winner of the G3 Cougar II this past summer; Balladeer, winner of the G2 John Henry Turf Classic at Santa Anita and Salesman, winner of the G2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on the Breeders’ Cup undercard.

The quality racing continues Saturday with the 47th running of the G2 Seabiscuit, which used to be called the Citation when it was run at Hollywood Park. The handicap will be run a mile and a sixteenth on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course. 

Last year’s Seabiscuit winner, Hong Kong Harry, has been nominated to come back to defend his crown as well as a few other former Del Mar winners including Balnikhov, winner of the 2022 Oceanside Stakes; Cabo Spirit, winner of the 2022 G3 La Jolla, and G1 Hollywood Derby winner Speaking Scout.

15 horses were nominated for the Seabiscuit. Entries will be drawn Wednesday.

The Turf Festival takes a pause on Sunday, but the graded stakes continue at Del Mar. The G3 Native Diver is run a mile and an eighth on the main track. It’s arguably the most intriguing race of the long holiday weekend based on the nominations. 

Bob Baffert has nominated both horses who dead-heated in the $125,000 Shared Belief this past summer at Del Mar, Mr. Fisk and Tahoe Sunrise. There’s Skinner, trainer John Shirreffs Kentucky Derby horse who scratched the day before the big race because of a fever. There’s also Reincarnate, who finished 13th in the Derby and Newgrange, an early Derby contender in 2022 who ran third in the Native Diver last year. 

16 horses were nominated for the G3 Native Diver. Entries will be drawn Thursday.

The Turf Festival extends into the final weekend of racing at Del Mar with five more stakes races. The G3 Jimmy Durante for 2-year-old fillies; the G1 Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds, and the $100,000 Stormy Liberal turf sprint will all be run on Saturday, December 2. The next day, closing day of the Bing Crosby Season, the G3 Cecil B. DeMille for 2-year-olds and the G1 Matriarch for fillies and mares will be run. 

Keeping The Backstretch Workers Warm This Holiday Season

Del Mar makes a point to take care of its people. There are the free meals provided every race day to the backstretch workers. Now there’s a chance for you to help out, too.

All meet long, during the Bing Crosby Season, Del Mar is holding a Winter Clothing Drive, a chance for you to clean out your closets and donate gently used coats, jackets, sweaters or sweatshirts for the folks working the backstretch and their families. The grooms, the hot walkers and assistants who are the backbone of horse racing. 

It can get cold on these November mornings. Many workers are in the barns by 4 o’clock when it’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop into the forties. Add the wet weather we’ve had lately, and a nice warm jacket would certainly come in handy. 

Donation boxes are located inside the admission gate and all sizes, adults or children, are needed. And as if donating to a good cause isn’t enough, Del Mar is offering free admission with any donation.

The Bing Crosby Season runs through December 3.


After starting the meet 9-for-9, odds on favorites went 1-for-4 Saturday. The first three on the card failed to win and one was eased out of the race. The Chosen Vron snapped the streak with his win in the Cary Grant…

To The Chosen Vron, who came back in two weeks to win, Book Smart says, “hold my beer.” The 4-year-old gelded son of Stanford returned from a six-day layoff to wire a field of Cal-bred entry level allowance horses in Race 6…

For the second day in a row, training on the main track was limited to jogging and galloping. No official works were recorded due to the rain and the sealing of the track overnight Friday. The turf course was open for training Sunday, however. Notable works: Closing Remarks (4f, :49.00); Hong Kong Harry (4f, 48.60); Tony Ann (4f, :51.20); Turn on the Jets (4f, :49.20), and Planetario, (5f, 1:02.40). In all, 24 horses put in official works on the grass.

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