May 25, 2024

Dr. Schivel shines in Del Mar Futurity; Big Fish rallies in Juvenile Turf

Dr. Schivel and jockey Flavien Prat win the Del Mar Futurity © BENOIT PHOTO

The stakes were higher, but the outcome was the same. On Aug. 8, Dr. Schivel defeated Spielberg in a fast maiden race at Del Mar. On Monday, the talented colts ran 1-2 again in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1), with Dr. Schivel maintaining superiority over his pricier rival.

It’s safe to say Dr. Schivel has exceeded all early expectations. When offered for sale as a yearling, the son of Violence failed to meet his reserve with a final bid of $37,000. When he first hit the racetrack, Dr. Schivel lost a pair of starts at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos.

But Dr. Schivel has thrived since arriving at Del Mar. Under the care of Luis Mendez, who saddled his first starter in 2018, Dr. Schivel wasn’t supposed to prevail when squaring off against Spielberg in a 6-furlong maiden special weight at Del Mar. To the contrary, Spielberg—a $1 million yearling purchase trained by Bob Baffert—was favored at 4-5. But in the end it was Dr. Schivel who romped by 5 3/4 lengths, setting the stage for a breakthrough stakes triumph in the Del Mar Futurity.

Originally raced by co-breeders William Branch and Arnold Hill, Dr. Schivel campaigned for expanded connections in the Del Mar Futurity, with Red Baron’s Barn, Rancho Temescal, and William Dean Reeves joining Branch on the ownership roster. The weight of expectations was a figurative but clearly not literal weight on Dr. Schivel’s back, as the bay colt—favored this time at 7-5—left no doubt about his supremacy.

Indeed, there was little (if any) drama involved in the outcome of the Del Mar Futurity, the feature race on closing day of the Del Mar summer meet. Breaking cleanly under jockey Flavien Prat, Dr. Schivel was always prominent from an outside draw, pressing Spielberg as the latter carved out splits of :22.49 and :45.14 with Best Pal (G2) winner Weston racing between them.

Rounding the turn, Dr. Schivel casually rolled up alongside Spielberg, and by the top of the stretch the favorite had asserted an advantage. Spielberg gamely tried to battle back, pulling 3 3/4 lengths clear of Weston through the stretch drive, but Dr. Schivel was always moving stronger. Gradually at first, then faster, Dr. Schivel forged clear of his brave but beaten rival to post a 1 3/4-length victory.

“He broke well, then he got a little aggressive on me,” said Prat. “I tried to give him a little breather on the turn, then when I asked him he was a runner. He’s a nice colt.”

The final time for 7 furlongs was 1:24.16, a modest time more of a testament to the slow and tiring track than the quality of the participants. Weston completed the trifecta, while Scooby, Dyn O Mite, and Dixie’s Two Stents trailed throughout.

“I loved the way he was moving (down the backstretch); he looked comfortable,” said Mendez. “And around the turn it looked like he had a lot of horse so I felt really good. And he got it done.”

Produced by the Mining for Money mare Lil Nugget, Dr. Schivel has earned $197,000 while staking his claim as the early leader of California’s 2-year-old crop. His victory was particularly significant to his human connections. For Mendez, the success marked his first win in a graded stakes race. For Prat, it marked his 50th win of the Del Mar summer meet, pushing him past Umberto Rispoli (49 wins) to claim the riding title by a single victory.

For Mendez, the race also marked a bittersweet farewell to his first graded stakes star. With the change in ownership, Dr. Schivel is slated to shift to the stable of Mark Glatt for future starts, with the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland an obvious target.

“I’m very proud of myself and the team for what we’ve done getting him to win this race,” said Mendez. “Now I thank the owners for giving me this horse and I’ve got to go back home and start breaking babies for them.”

The Del Mar Futurity wasn’t the only stakes race for juveniles held on closing day at Del Mar. The $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf S. saw 10 young turf horses square off over a mile in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

A wild finish ensued, as is typical of grass racing. Get Her Number carved out slow fractions of :24.00, :49.32, and 1:14.71 in an effort to steal the race, but down the stretch it was Big Fish who swooped into contention despite weaving around, rallying to score by a length over the deep-closing Ebeko. Noses and necks separated the runner-up from Ambivalent, Get Her Number, and Cotopaxi, while Rombauer, None Above the Law, C’Mon Jenna, Herd Immunity, and Inner Ghost trailed the field.

With Victor Espinoza in the saddle for trainer David Hofmans, Big Fish crossed the wire in 1:38.21 over a firm course.

“I had a good trip,” said Espinoza. “The only problem I had was on the far turn when I dropped my hands just a bit and he took off. He almost ran up on the heels of the horse in front of us. But I checked him and wheeled him out. He swerved just a bit in the stretch, but nothing big. You know the kind he is; if they make the lead they get lonely out there and they want to wait for other ones to come and play.”

A son of Mr. Big out of the Into Mischief mare Perched, Big Fish lost his first two starts on dirt, but is 2-for-2 since transitioning to turf and stretching out to a mile. Bred by George Kirkorian and owned by Legacy Ranch, Big Fish entered his stakes debut off a bullet 5-furlong workout over the Del Mar turf course.

“After his work the other day I was confident,” said Hofmans. “I thought he was coming into this race peak perfect and we had planned for this race a long time ago. I absolutely thought he would do well on the turf. He’s bred for the turf and he showed in his last race he’s a different horse on the turf.”

Future plans for Big Fish have yet to be determined, though the Oct. 4, $100,000 Zuma Beach S. racing a mile on turf at Santa Anita looms as a logical target.