DEL MAR, Calif.— The spotlight shines on the Cal-bred 2-year-olds Friday when nine enter the gate in the five and a half furlong $125,000 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar.
Two of them have already won at Del Mar. Reddam Racing’s Hacking It Up came into his Del Mar debut off of a third-place finish behind Whobeterthantiger at Santa Anita in June. He promptly broke his maiden as the favorite for trainer Doug O’Neill on July 24.
Bartlett or Michael Bello’s The Big Wam also won at Del Mar last out. Trained by Luis Mendez, the son of Mr. Big has made three starts in his career, two in Kentucky. He debuted with a runner-up finish at Keeneland followed by another second-place finish in the $200,000 Kentucky Juvenile at Churchill Downs. The Washington-bred was brought out west and placed in the Mendez’ barn. He beat a group of maiden special weight types on July 24.
“He’s a good horse,” Mendez says. “We didn’t do much with him other than just take him out everyday. He does the rest on his own.”
Mendez believes his horse will handle the step up in class.
“We always play it by ear after every race,” Mendez said. “But after winning, after he broke his maiden, we wanted to try the Graduation.”
Trainer Brian Koriner brings Whobeterthantiger, a first-out winner for owners Brown, Klein, and Lebherz.
“We always knew he had good talent,” Koriner says. “We thought he might win a little easier than he did but it looked like he ran green, kind of waited on horses. He ran as far has he had to.”
The son of Smiling Tiger will be ridden by Tyler Baze.
Other first-time winners in the race are KMN Racing’s Straighten Up from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn. He romped in a $30,000 maiden claimer at Los Alamitos last out. Early Release also won at first asking. The son of Stanford is one of two entries in the Graduation by trainer Jonathan Wong for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. He’ll be joined by stablemate and Northern California invader Man Oh Man.
“The race came up tough but we drew better this time, “ Wong says of Man Oh Man. “Last time we drew inside so our hand was kind of forced and we had to go to the lead. He worked here the other day and sat off of horses so, ideally, a couple of horses will hook-up and we’ll be sitting third or fourth and get a nice stalking trip.”
The Graduation goes off as Race #6 on the eight-race Friday program
Here is the field from the rail with jockeys: Whobeterthantiger; The Big Wam (Juan Hernandez); Strength of Autism (Francisco Monroy); Smokem For You (Edgar Payeras); Man Oh Man (Umberto Rispoli); Hacking It Up (Mario Gutierrez); Early Release (Kyle Frey); Good N Thirsty (Hector Berrios) and Straighten Up (Mike Smith).
DMTC Press Release
Photo: Del Mar (Benoit Photo)