DEL MAR, Calif.— Sometimes, if you do your homework, put in the time, make a good plan, hire the right people and keep your fingers crossed, things work out just right. There may be a case of all that Friday at Del Mar.
The long-winded chestnut mare Neige Blanche (French for “white snow”) will put her big set of lungs to work once again in the featured affair on the eight-race card – the $100,000 California Thoroughbred Trainers and Thoroughbred Owners of California Stakes, an overnight test that will go with eight runners.
The French-bred mare gives all indications of being the right horse in the right spot for the marathon, which goes at a mile and three-eighths on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Her specialty has become route races, especially those on turf. She won nine of her 19 starts (and more than a half-million dollars), with seven of those scores having come on the green. The other two came on synthetic tracks, which are as close as you can get to turf without being so.
Her last six wins have all been a case of being accompanied by rider Juan Hernandez, who is currently well out front in the riders’ standings in Del Mar’s current race meet. Not surprisingly, he’ll be up again Friday.
Her trainer, Leonard Powell, has been her conditioner all along, knows her well and spots her right. He’ll tighten her girth Friday.
She’s won at a mile and a quarter. She’s won at a mile and one half. She’s also won at a mile and three eights, which happened last year in this same CTT & TOC test where she rallied late and came away a half-length best.
Beat her if you can Friday, but it will take a lot of work. She just seems to have everything in her favor. That is reflected further by the fact that she’s been hung the 4/5 favorite in the lineup.
Here’s the full field for the stakes from the rail out with riders and morning line odds: Calumet Farm’s Scarabea (Declan Cannon up, 6-1); Acker, Brown or Sanford, et al’s Freedom Lass (Tyler Baze, 12-1); Madaket Stables, De Seroux or Naif’s Neige Blanche; Harris Farms or Parker’s Almost a Factor (Joe Bravo, 20-1); R Unicorn Stable’s Macadamia (Ricky Gonzalez, 12-1); Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Sister Otoole (Umberto Rispoli, 5-1); Kaleem Shah’s Bellamore (Matin Garcia, 8-1), and Jane or Burt Bacharach’s Duvet Day (Abel Cedillo, 6-1).
All of the above being said about Neige Blanche is true. But, at the racetrack, it is also true that strange things happen, luck can turn a blind eye and that mortal cinch can turn out to be very mortal in the end.
Which is why the other seven runners in the affair will be hoping to grab the brass ring all for themselves.
The Irish-bred Sister Otoole has been shipped in from the east coast to try her luck here by top class trainer H. Graham Motion. She, too, likes her races the longer the better and is eligible to be a factor in the marathon.
Another “upset” candidate could be the 4-year-old filly Bellamore, a daughter of the Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker who’ll be taking her first turn at a long distance affair. She finished first in her last two outings on turf and if her pedigree proves true, she certainly could be a factor in the stakes.
First post for the Friday card is 3 p.m. In fact, all Friday cards for the balance of the meet will go at that time.
DMTC Press Release
Photo: Neige Blanche capturing last year’s edition of the CTT and TOC Stakes (Benoit Photo)