Baffert duo highlight sextet of Runhappy Futurity entrants

September 4, 2021

Myfavoritedaughter steps up to TVG Del Mar Debutante; Helens Wells tabbed as Favorite for Juvenile Fillies Turf; Added distance could help Maxim Rate in John C. Mabee; Mullins goes for La Jolla/Derby Double with Zoffarelli

DEL MAR, Calif.—Six colts were entered Friday for Monday’s 74TH running of the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity, the traditional closing day feature of the summer meeting.

Six appears to be an operative number for the seven-furlong extended sprint for 2-year-olds that determines the 2-year-old champion of the meeting. If all leave the starting gate it will be the third time in the last four years, and the fifth in the last seven, that a six-pack comprised the field.

And the 2021 running may have more Hall of Fame trainers, per horse capita, than ever before.

Steve Asmussen, Hall of Fame Class of 2016, has dispatched a representative, American Xperiment, from Saratoga. The son of 2015 Runhappy Futurity winner Nyquist will have had five days to acclimate to Del Mar surroundings leading up to the race after being supplementally entered at a cost of $10,000.

“He got here Tuesday, he arrived in good order and we’re hoping he runs well,” said Asmussen assistant Sarah Campion, who travelled with American Xperiment. “He broke his maiden impressively at Saratoga, so Steve decided to send him out.”

In his racing debut on July 30, American Xperiment went wire-to-wire over a muddy track in a race taken off the turf and won over six rivals by 5 ¼ lengths. 

Mark Casse, Hall of Fame Class of 2020, has Pappacap, winner of the Best Pal Stakes on August 7 in his second career start and second win.

And Bob Baffert, Hall of Fame Class of 2009 – who has 14 Futurity wins on his resume dating back to 1996 – will send out Murray and Pinehurst.

“They both broke their maidens here and they’ve both trained well since,” Baffert said.

Murray, a son of Street Sense who was a $300,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland last September, was a romping 10 ½-length winner on July 25. Pinehurst, a son of Twirling Candy acquired for $385,000 at the same sale, overcame bumping at the start for half-length victory at five furlongs on August 1.

The fifth entrant is Finneus, a California-bred son of Stay Thirsty who was a $200,000 purchase last year. He has one win in three starts and was the runner-up to Pappacap in the Best Pal last out. Trainer Walther Solis helped in the development of some of Baffert’s earliest Futurity winners while serving as manager for the Golden Eagle Farm of John and Betty Mabee.

The sixth is Olympic Legend, a son of Street Boss owned by Larry Opas and Frank Sinatra and trained by Luis Mendez. Olympic Legend broke his maiden in his second career start on June 27 at Los Alamitos.

Myfavoritedaughter steps up to TVG Del Mar Debutante

Myfavoritedaughter wasn’t the only reason East Coast headquartered trainer Jeff Engler decided to campaign some horses at Del Mar this summer. But she was certainly a contributing factor.

Twenty-five length victories, like the one the 2-year-old daughter of Carpe Diem posted on June 30 at Gulfstream Park in Florida, can be major influencers.

“It was one of the factors,” Engler said Friday morning. “We wanted to come out here for the Ship & Win, we had some horses that we thought could be competitive. But with her breaking her maiden so impressively, we wanted to give her a shot at a bigger race.”

They don’t much bigger than the Grade I, $300,000 TVG Del Mar Debutante on Sunday, the seven-furlong test that annually determines the top juvenile filly of the meeting.

The runaway win in her third start came on a track rated “sloppy” at the TVG Debutante distance in a race moved off of the turf. Engler does consider the surface to have been the major factor.

“I’m not sure if it was the off track, we always knew she needed to go longer,” Engler said. “She’s got a big, long stride and when they finally wrote a seven-furlong race we put here in there, she broke on top and just went on from there.”

The other seven fillies in the TVG Del Mar Debutante certainly represent a step up in competition. Engler is anxious to see what happens.

“She’s going to have to improve,” Engler concedes. “But I’ve watched a lot of 2-year-old races here and that seven furlongs is kind of quirky distance. I see a lot of speed on the inside of her, so I like the post we drew. I think we’ll be able to sit off the pace and if they’re going to go out there like gangbusters, they’re probably going to come back to us.

“I know she’s going to be still running.”

Engler has recorded one second-place finish from seven starters at the meeting, but said he still feels good about things overall.

“I think we had a good experience for our first time out here,” Engler said. “(Racing Secretary) David Jerkens has been excellent. He’s done everything he said he was going to do and we’ve been well taken care of.

“I wouldn’t mind coming back next year.”

The field from the rail for the TVG Del Mar Debutante with jockeys and morning line odds in parentheses. The TVG Del Mar Debutante goes as the 10th on an 11-race program: 

1. At the Spa (Umberto Rispoli, 8-1)

2. Eda (John Velazquez, 3-1)

3. Elm Drive (Juan Hernandez, 5/2)

4. Dance to the Music (Abel Cedillo, 3-1)

5. Myfavoritedaughter (Jose Valdivia, Jr., 8-1)

6. Rock the Belles (Joe Bravo, 20-1)

7. Grace Adler (Flavien Prat, 5-1)

8. Bicameral (Mario Gutierrez, 12-1)

Helens Wells tabbed as Favorite for Juvenile Fillies Turf

Helens Wells, an Irish-bred filly who won her U.S. debut for trainer Phil D’Amato, has been accorded 7/2 favoritism on oddsmaker Jon White’s morning line, issued Friday, for Sunday’s $100,000 Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Described as “one paced” in the chart comments when fourth in her career debut in May at Roscommon in her native Ireland, Helens Wells showed a good turn of foot in the stretch to overcome a slow start and win by 1 ¼ lengths here on August 15 over the same course as the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The field for the Juvenile Fillies Turf with jockeys and morning line odds in parentheses: 

1. Sea Breezing (Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1)
2. Dolly May (Juan Hernandez, 10-1)
3. Urban (Kent Desormeax, 6-1)
4. La Deuxieme Etoile (Mario Gutierrez, 10-1)
5. Distorted Diva (Jose Valdivia, Jr., 20-1)
6. Dendera (John Velazquez, 5-1)
7. Into Touring (Umberto Rispoli, 4-1)
8. Miss Bellatrix (Abel Cedillo, 12-1)
9. Sax (Joe Bravo, 15-1)
10. Liam’s Dove (Kyle Frey, 12-1)
11. Helens Well (Flavien Prat)

Added distance could help Maxim Rate in John C. Mabee

The third-place finish by 5-year-old mare Maxim Rate in the Grade II, $200,000, 1 1/16-mile Yellow Ribbon Handicap on August 7, beaten 2 ¾ lengths by Princess Grace, was hardly a disappointment for the Slam Dunk Racing and partners ownership and trainer Simon Callaghan.

But they’re all hoping that slight changes in circumstance will get the daughter of Exchange Rate – victorious in the Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita on May 31 – back into the stakes winner’s circle following Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000, 1 1/8-mile John C. Mabee Stakes.

“She’s training well and it’s back to a mile and an eighth, which I think is a better distance for her,” Callaghan said. “I think she ran well (in the Yellow Ribbon); maybe just the distance and the track being a little speed-favoring worked against her.

“She was maybe a little farther back than we wanted. It wasn’t a disappointing effort by her. I just think the circumstances weren’t ideal. I think with the little bit more distance we can be a bit more forwardly placed, which is going to be a big help.”

The field for the John C. Mabee from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds in parentheses. The John C. Mabee goes as the ninth, on the 11-race card:  

1. Maxim Rate (Hernandez, 7/2)
2. Quiet Secretary (Cedillo, 15-1)
3. Dogtag (Rispoli, 3-1)
4. Nasty (Ricky Gonzalez, 20-1)
5. She’s Our Charm (Giovanni Franco, 10-1)
6. Bodhicitta (Desormeaux, 6-1)
7. Tapwater (Bravo, 6-1); Going to Vegas (Prat, 4-1)
8. Fast Jet Court (Van Dyke, 6-1).

Mullins goes for La Jolla/Derby Double with Zoffarelli

Prior to this year, trainer Jeff Mullins had won the La Jolla Handicap (River Boyne, 2018) and the Del Mar Derby (Gabriel Charles, 1st division, 2013).

He has not, however, swept the final two legs of the summer turf stakes series for 3-year-olds in the same year. That could change Saturday when Mullins sends out La Jolla Handicap winner Zoffarelli in the Grade II, $250,000 Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby.

Zoffarelli had only been in Mullins’ barn a few days off the plane from England when he was awarded the victory by disqualification in the La Jolla on August 8. Zoffarelli was a nose short of Sword Zorro crossing under the wire, but stewards ruled that a bumping incident in the stretch, initiated by Sword Zorro, was enough to  affect the placing and Sword Zorro was dropped to third.

A rematch of the La Jolla is possible, although 12 other 3-year-olds in a capacity field of 14 will have a big say in the matter.

Zoffarelli and Sword Zorro were posted next to each other, in the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, respectively, in the La Jolla. They’re not so close for the Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby with Zoffarelli at No. 9 and Sword Zero No. 13.

“He’s training well and the post position … nothing you can do about it,” Mullins said.

The field for the Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby from the rail with jockeys and morning line odds in parentheses. The Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby goes as the finale on an 11-race card: 

1. Hudson Ridge (Flavien Prat, 9/2)
2. Barraza (Kent Desormeaux, 12-1)
3. Hockey Dad (Mario Gutierrez, 8-1)
4. None Above the Law (Joe Bravo, 12-1)
5. No Foolery Here (Giovanni Franco, 8-1)
6. Optimistic Valor (Edwin Maldonado, 30-1)
7. Petruchio (Mike Smith, 20-1)
8. Cathkin Peak (Jose Valdivia, Jr., 12-1)
9. Zoffarelli (Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1)
10. Jimmy Blue Jeans (Kyle Frey, 12-1)
11. Lincoln Hawk (Tiago Pereira, 20-1)
12. Crew Dragon (Juan Hernandez, 8-1)
13. Sword Zorro (Umberto Rispoli, 5-1)
14. Flashiest (Abel Cedillo, 6-1)

CLOSERS — A pair of $1 million auction purchases, 3-year-old Flightline and 4-year-old Notre Dame, are entered in the same race, Sunday’s eighth. Flightline, a son of Tapit acquired at the Fasig-Tipton August sale in 2019 by Hronis Racing and partners, debuted for trainer John Sadler with a 13 ¼-length victory at Santa Anita in April. This will be his first start since that performance. Notre Dame, a now-gelded son of Into Mischief, was purchased at a Fasig-Tipton sale in March of  2019, has three wins in nine starts and earnings of $87,180 for trainer Doug O’Neill.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Stable Notes

Photo: Murray (Benoit)

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