The turf meets the surf for the 78th summer meeting at Del Mar, beginning Wednesday and running through Labor Day, September 4. For the fourth straight year, the traditional opening-day feature, the $100,000 Oceanside S., will not be split into two divisions. But the one-mile turf affair for three-year-olds was still oversubscribed, with a total of 16 entered, including two also-eligibles.
Bowies Hero sets the standard on form. Successful in last year’s Del Mar Juvenile Turf at this course and distance, the Phil D’Amato trainee was only 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The Artie Schiller colt returned in the May 6 Singletary at Santa Anita, overcoming a stumble at the start and a wide passage into the stretch to beat Bird Is the Word and Vending Machine. Bowies Hero then shipped to Belmont Park for the Pennine Ridge (G3) and finished fourth to Oscar Performance, a formline further boosted in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). Tiago Pereira, who rode him in the Singletary, regains the mount aboard the 124-pound highweight.
Trainer Peter Miller, who took the 2016 Oceanside with Monster Bea, is triple-handed with the Rockingham Ranch duo of Arms Runner and Allaboutmike as well as the aforementioned Vending Machine. Arms Runner, a $525,000 OBS April two-year-old, brings a perfect two-for-two record sprinting over Santa Anita’s downhill course. After breaking his maiden April 20, he was more authoritative in the May 13 Desert Code. The Overdriven half-brother to Grade 3 winner and multiple Grade 1-placed Calculator (also his stablemate) will make his two-turn debut here and keeps Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard. Vending Machine, a half-brother to past Miller millionaire Comma to the Top, is proven at this trip, having won twice at a mile on dirt and most significantly taking last December’s Eddie Logan on the lawn. The Hard Spun gelding picks up Rafael Bejarano. Allaboutmike has scored both of his wins in Santa Anita turf sprints, although at a lower level in a $75,000 maiden claimer and a starter allowance.
Caribou Club is an intriguing contender from the Tom Proctor barn. By City Zip and out of multiple Grade 3 vixen Broken Dreams, the Glen Hill Farm homebred broke his maiden in the Laurel Futurity. Caribou Club wasn’t seen again until an April 20 turf sprint allowance at Keeneland, where he was best of the rest behind Wesley Ward’s Bound for Nowhere. Best known as Lady Aurelia’s workmate, Bound for Nowhere began to emerge from her shadow when fourth to Caravaggio and Harry Angel in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (G1). Caribou Club stretched out to a mile for the James W. Murphy on Preakness Day and tired for fourth, but missing second in a photo.
Monster Man, unplaced in the Pasadena and Singletary at a mile, improved going up a furlong to land an allowance and place third in the Rainbow. Now the Scott Hansen sophomore tries his luck back down in trip. Conversely, Grecian Fire, who captured the Alcatraz at Golden Gate Fields for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, was fifth in the 1 1/8-mile Rainbow and may prefer reverting to a mile. You could argue that’s what transpired with Bird Is the Word, a fine second to Bowies Hero in the Singletary who was a one-paced fourth in the Rainbow, but roared back in a mile allowance to miss by a half-length. Now he gets Hall of Famer Gary Stevens in the saddle.
Other contenders include Richard Baltas’ Pioneer Lad, who may appreciate the surface switch to turf; recent maiden winners Placido, Fortune of War, and Lucky Bode, a Bodemeister half-brother to Lucky Pulpit (California Chrome’s sire) trained by Steve Sherman for Perry and Denise Martin of “Chrome” fame; the Doug O’Neill trio of Rockin Rudy (whose best efforts this term were two seconds on turf), My Man Chuckles, and Reign On (the first also-eligible); and Harbour Master, who’s unfortunately second on the AE list. Improving throughout his juvenile campaign in England, Harbour Master was an eye-catching fourth in his American premiere in last October’s Zuma Beach. The mad dash of the Juvenile Turf Sprint didn’t figure to suit him, so his eighth is excusable, and this would mark his first start since. His half-sister, multiple Grade 2 heroine Prize Exhibit, has been a successful import for the same owner/trainer tandem of DP Racing and Jim Cassidy, and Harbour Master can also furnish a return on investment over time.
Also not to be missed on Wednesday is the 5TH race, a potentially key maiden for two-year-old fillies. No fewer than eight Del Mar Debutante (G1) nominees are entered, led by O’Neill’s Tyfosha, a clear second to next-out Landaluce romper Surrender Now in her lone start. Richard Mandella unveils Varanasi, a Jimmy Creed half-sister to 2014 Spinaway (G1) queen Condo Commando, while Bob Baffert sends out a $485,000 Into Mischief filly named Just a Smidge. Fracas, third at even-money in her first try, is entitled to do better second time out for Simon Callaghan. Hollendorfer fields two hopefuls in Don Alberto’s Mapit (by Tapit) and Our Slick Chick, and Miller relies on Broome and My Princess Taylor.