Del Mar Trends
by Michael Jay Kipness, a.k.a. The Wizard
Del Marís main track superintendent, Steve Wood, also handles the main track at Santa
Anita. Therefore, barns that were based at Santa Anita may skip the entire Hollywood
Park meet with some horses to avoid the main track at Inglewood.
Also, horses that ran poorly at Hollywood Park may really turn it around at Del Mar
meet. If you see a poor last race running line at Hollywood Park, I suggest digging deeper
in the horse's past performances to see the horse's true form.
Prior to the 1999 Del Mar meet, handicappers approached Del Mar with the idea that late-
running sprinters dominated while horses with early speed would often quit. However,
the track surface was replaced after the 1999 meet and that assumption is nonexistent
when you consider the track profiles for distances of 5 1/2, six, 6 1/2 and 7 furlongs. Here
are some noticeable trends from the 2002 Del Mar Meet that were evident at these
5 1/2 furlongs: The majority, if not all, of the races at this distance are for maiden or
allowance two-year-olds. There were 28 races at the distance last year and 22 were won
by horses either on the lead or within a head of it at the first pace call (opening quarter-
mile). As far as horses breaking from the three inside post positions, 13 of 28 races were
won from the inside. One can assume that with early speed dominating, it is difficult to get value. However,
Humorous Lady (Distorted Humor) at $82.20, Ionia (Indian Charlie) at $91, Sky's Snow
(Benchmark) at $26.20 and My Stars (Flying Victor) at $15.40 all displayed the right
profile before paying a good price for a front-running score at this distance.
Six furlongs: No distance is more prevalent to early speed than this distance. Last year,
Del Mar carded an amazing 107 races at six furlongs and 77 were won by horses either
on or within two lengths of the lead at the first call. That's a 72 percent win clip. In 2001,
horses breaking from the rail at the distance were pitiful, winning only three of 98 races,
but that changed last year as 26 of 107 races were won by horses breaking from the two
inside post positions.
6 1/2 furlongs: Though early speed is an advantage, with 31 of 46 races run at this
distance being won by horses either on or within two lengths of the lead at the first call,
the noticeable trend at this distance is with post positions. Inside posts were terrible. Only
eight horses came from the first two gates to win at this distance in 2002.
Seven furlongs: As with the previous sprint distances, early speed is an advantage as 12
of 18 races at seven furlongs were taken by horses either on or within two lengths of the
lead at the first call. Unlike at 6 1/2 furlongs, the first two posts won six of 18.
One interesting trend that occurred last year at this distance was the strength of the route-
to-sprint angle. Seven of 18 winners were turning back in distance, many at a price.
Horses such as Martinis at Midnite (Dynaformer) at $66.20, Runninwithscissors (Sir Cat)
at $46.60, and Holy Mackerel (Holy Land) at $21 were examples of an angle that the
One mile: Tactical speed was vital for success here. Thirty-one of the 53 races were won
by horses either on the lead or within two lengths of the lead at the first call (half-mile
pole). The three inside posts produced 25 wins.
1 1/16 miles: Last year's meet featured a strong bias against wire-to-wire winners. From
25 races at the distance, only five were won wire-to-wire and three of those were favored,
including Azeri (Jade Hunter) at a $2.20 mutuel.
Five furlongs on turf: This is a new distance for this year's meet. The Jimmy Durante
Turf Course at Del Mar is seven furlongs in length with a short stretch run. With only a
quarter-mile run to the far turn, horses breaking from inside posts with early speed have
an advantage. Horses breaking from an outside post run the risk of losing serious ground
into the far turn.
One mile on turf: The mile distance is fair to all running styles. Whether on the lead,
near the pace or from well off the pace, the key principle is pace. Last year, the Del Mar
turf course was extremely fast with track performances recorded by Special Ring
(Nureyev) in 1:32.72 and a front-end score by Golden Arrow (Rahy) with torrid early
fractions of :21.69 and :44.93. Seventeen of 30 races at the distance were won by horses on or within two lengths of the
lead after the first half-mile. The first three posts produced 12 winners.
1 1/16 miles on turf: Horses coming from well off the pace or sitting in midpack enjoyed
success last year. Only 13 of 40 races at the distance were won by horses either on or
within two lengths of the lead at the first call (half-mile pole). Despite that profile, it does
not mean to bet against horses that figure to grab an uncontested lead because there were
plenty of examples of horses who were able to grab the lead and win. If a horse you like
figures to make the lead at a generous price, then take the odds.
Note: This feature consists of excerpts from the complete article in the Handicapperís
Edge. For the complete articles as well as handicapping advice for Saratoga, click on the
Wizardís Crystal Ball link on the side bar of the