Express Train captures San Diego in Three-way battle

July 19, 2021

Maker leaves a mark on meet; Nine to go Friday in $175K Fleet Treat; Newcomers Bravo, McCarthy score

DEL MAR, Calif.—The top three finishers in Saturday’s Grade II, $251,500 San Diego Handicap all came out the race in good shape, their trainers reported, with all indications pointing to a rematch in the $750,000 TVG Pacific Classic on August 21.

Express Train got a stalking trip just off front-running Rushie in the 1 1/16 mile San Diego then took over in the stretch and won by a half-length under jockey Juan Hernandez for trainer John Shirreffs. Tripoli was second, three-quarters of a length in front of favored Royal Ship.

Shirreffs said that Express Train “looked good, looked bright this morning” after covering the distance in 1:43.37 and providing the veteran trainer with his second San Diego Handicap victory (Giacomo, 2006) and the 18th of his Del Mar career. Shirreffs will go by his proven horseman’s instincts regarding a program for the son of Union Rags owned by the C R K Stable of Lee and Susan Searing of Arcadia.

“This is a good time to vary whatever you usually do,” Shirreffs said.

A Pacific Classic appearance would complete participation in the three major Grade I handicap division races in Southern California for Express Train. He was second, a half-length behind Idol, in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and third to Country Grammer in the Gold Cup there on May 3.

Conversely, Tripoli made his stakes debut in the San Diego. And the way the 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt acquitted himself in only his second dirt experience in 13  career starts was encouraging to trainer John Sadler.

“He came out of it well and we’re very happy,” Sadler said. “You want to win, sure, but he ran a very good race for his first time at that level.”

A question about the Pacific Classic for Tripoli, owned by two-time Classic winning Hronis Racing, brought a moment’s hesitation from Sadler. Then: “Yeah, we’ll see how the summer goes, but he’s certainly an improving horse on dirt.”

Royal Ship, the 8-5 favorite coming off a runner-up finish in the Gold Cup, also appeared fine on Sunday morning, trainer Richard Mandella said. “He ran a good race, just not good enough. We’ll try to do better next time … the Pacific Classic.”

San Diego Handicap Replay

Express Train wins San Diego Handicap(GrII) race 10 at Del Mar 7/17/21

Maker leaves a mark in only meet’s second day

Midwest-based trainer Mike Maker has a string of horses at Del Mar for the summer meeting for the first time. And after posting wins with Bye Bye Birdie ($17.20) in Saturday’s fourth race, and Stage Ready ($22.20) in the seventh, Maker’s name can be found tied for second with John Shirreffs, with two wins each, in the trainer standings. Richard Baltas, who saddled two winners Saturday, has three wins from 11 starters while Shirreffs has gone 2-for-5 and Maker 2-for-4.

Nolan Ramsey, in charge of Maker’s Del Mar contingent, has been in regular touch with Maker and the conclusion is, understandably, “so far, so good.”

“It’s no easy task to ship all the way out here and win,” Ramsey said. “We tried to be a little aggressive with our placement and the horses showed up and everybody was where they needed to be.”

“It’s a good start. We’ll probably have a few more sent out and then at the end of the meet we’ll decided whether we’re going back to Kentucky or on to Santa Anita.”

Maker-trained Mo Mosa was in second, a length off the lead in the San Diego Handicap entering the stretch but came home fourth.

“He came out of it well,” Ramsey said. “He ran a good race in a tough spot, stepping up in competition from Lone Star (Park in Texas) to Del Mar. But I thought he held his own and never gave up. So I’ve got no complaints there.”

Nine to go Friday in $175,000 Fleet Treat

Nine California-bred 3-year-old fillies were entered Sunday for the $175,000 Fleet Treat Stakes, a 7-furlong main track sprint, when racing resumes Friday for the second week of the meeting.

Closing Remarks, a daughter of Vronsky out of the Unusual Heat mare Orange Cove, figures to draw considerable attention in the dash. The Carla Gaines trainee, owned and bred by Harris Farms, has been graded stakes-placed in her last two outings at Santa Anita. The most recent was a third to Madone in the Grade III Senorita on May 1.

The post position draw was scheduled later this afternoon. The entrants, in alphabetical order: Amazen Grazen (Abel Cedillo); Closing Remarks (Juan Hernandez); Eddie’s New Dream (Mario Gutierrez); Fi Fi Pharoah (Umberto Rispoli); I’m So Anna (Kyle Frey); Joymaker (Victor Espinoza); Respectfully (Mike Smith); Teddy’s Barino (Flavien Prat) and Wishtheyallcouldbe (Trevor McCarthy).

Newcomers Bravo and McCarthy get on the rider scoreboard

Jockeys Joe Bravo and Trevor McCarthy, in from New Jersey and New York, respectively, for an initial summertime campaign at Del Mar, rode winners on Saturday.

McCarthy, 27, is riding at Del Mar for the first time. He notched his first win here aboard Stage Ready ($22.20) in the seventh race for trainer Mike Maker.

Bravo, 49, accepted occasional stakes assignments at Del Mar over the course of a 33-year career, but prior to this season had always spent summers at Monmouth Park earning the nickname “Jersey Joe” for racking up victories there. Bravo recorded back-to-back wins Saturday with Ginobili ($15.20) in the eighth and Ippodamia’s Girl ($14.80) in the Osunitas Stakes.

The Osunitas was Bravo’s third stakes victory here. He took the 2017 Jimmy Durante with Daddy Is A Legend and 2018 edition of the same race with Elsa.

Equibase statistics show Bravo with 5,498 career wins from 30,463 mounts through Saturday. McCarthy has 1,633 wins from 9,259 mounts.

CLOSERS – Selected works from 222 on dirt and 40 on turf officially timed Sunday morning. Dirt: Restrainedvengeance (3f, :36.80); Law Abidin Citizen (4f, :48.60); Brickyard Ride (5f, 1:00.00); United (5f, :58.80); Warren’s Showtime (5f, 1:00.80); Keeper Ofthe Stars (6f, 1:13.80); Mirasol (6f, 1:12.80). Turf: Gregorian Chant (4f, :51.60); Red Lark (4f, :50.20); Rock Your World (4f, :50.40); Whisper Not (4f, :49.00); Award Winner (5f, 1:02.20); Going Global (5f, 1:40.60); Masteroffoxhounds (5f, 1:02.60).   

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Press Release

Photo: Express Train (Benoit Photos)

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