While the East Coast has representatives throughout Saturday’s trio of graded turf stakes at Del Mar, the raiding party for the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) is particularly robust.
Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) winner Gufo ships in for Christophe Clement, along with stablemate Decorated Invader, and both are spoiling for revenge upon Chad Brown’s Domestic Spending, who upended them in the Saratoga Derby Invitational. Brown also has runners in the $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) and $100,000 Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3) on the undercard.
- Quick Story Overview:
- Hollywood Derby
- Seabiscuit H.
- Jimmy Durante S.
Gufo has won five of his past six, and only the head of Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby interrupted the sequence. Hero of the Kent (G3) in course-record time at Delaware Park for this 1 1/8-mile distance, Gufo earned a free berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) last out in the Belmont Derby. But Clement preferred to stick to fellow 3-year-olds rather than get ambitious at this stage. Although Gufo has drawn widest of all in post 13 at Del Mar, Flavien Prat figures to work out a trip aboard the classy closer.
Clement’s other marquee contender, Decorated Invader, was the stable star before Gufo got into the act. At times reminding the trainer of his three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, Decorated Invader captured last year’s Summer (G1), finished fourth from a tactically improbable position in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and opened 2020 with a three-race winning spree with new rider Joel Rosario. After dominating the Pennine Ridge (G2), and running down Get Smokin in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), he was a flat fifth at 4-5 on the step up to 1 3/16 miles in the Saratoga Derby. Reverting to a mile in the Oct. 18 Hill Prince (G2) was the right idea, but he gave Get Smokin too much rope on a yielding course and missed by a head. Rosario should get a more competitive pace scenario here.
Unlike his familiar foes, Domestic Spending has not raced since the Aug. 15 Saratoga Derby. The British-bred was expected to renew rivalry with Gufo in the Belmont Derby, until reportedly ruled out by a fever. Brown’s 29% strike rate in the “90+ days away” category alleviates any concern about his readiness. The lightly raced Domestic Spending was just putting it all together, however, at the Spa. Two back in the Hall of Fame, he was a belated third to Decorated Invader. Regular rider Irad Ortiz will have to help him pick up where he left off with a decent early position.
The George Weaver-trained Ever Dangerous, fifth in the Hall of Fame, has improved in the interim. Most recently springing a 74-1 shock in the Bryan Station at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup Friday, he picks up Victor Espinoza.
Leading the home defense is Smooth Like Strait, who’s 2-for-2 over the course with victories in the 2019 Cecil B. DeMille (G3) and the Aug. 9 La Jolla (G3). The Michael McCarthy trainee added the Oct. 18 Twilight Derby (G2) handily over the troubled Scarto, and his tactical speed will be useful for Umberto Rispoli from post 2. Thus Smooth Like Strait is eligible to keep Get Smokin (and Mike Smith) honest early.
Storm the Court, last year’s unlikely Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion, was runner-up in the La Jolla in his turf debut, and he returns to the grass following a sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Another erstwhile competitor on the Derby trail, Taishan, likewise responded to a surface switch when a fine second in the American Turf (G2). His subsequent seventh in the Bryan Station came on good going, and he’ll get a firmer course here.
The filly California Kook has run well over this course and distance when second in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) and fourth in the Del Mar Derby (G2). Fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland in her latest, the Peter Miller pupil is cross-entered to Thursday’s Red Carpet (G3) versus older distaffers. Richard Mandella is double-handed with Kanderel, gelded after his sixth in the Del Mar Derby, and Lane Way, a close third in the Let It Ride to Strongconstitution.
Brown has two chances in the 1 1/16-mile Seabiscuit. Tourist Mile winner Flavius didn’t have the cleanest passage when fifth in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), and now gets the services of Irad Ortiz. Post 12 implies he’ll be wide but clear. Stablemate Spirit Animal, drawn in post 3 with Manny Franco, takes a class hike off a decisive allowance score at Belmont. Paulo Lobo sends multiple Argentine Group 1 hero Imperador, a close second in a Churchill allowance in his U.S. premiere.
Defending Seabiscuit champion Next Shares hasn’t won since, but the Grade 1 veteran placed twice earlier this term in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and Shoemaker Mile (G1). His trainer, Richard Baltas, also calls upon One Bad Boy, last year’s Queen’s Plate winner, who just scored in the Oct. 25 Lure over Majestic Eagle. D’Amato likewise has a pair of runners at different career phases – multiple Grade 1 victor Bowies Hero, seventh in his Shadwell Mile title defense, and the up-and-coming Count Again, a newcomer to the barn after bursting onto the Woodbine turf scene going longer.
Anothertwistafate is a fascinating addition to the Miller barn. A rising star on the Golden Gate Tapeta last season for Blaine Wright, the Scat Daddy colt was sidelined following a 10th in the 2019 Preakness (G1). He resurfaced in the Sept. 10 Longacres Mile (G3) and made light of the nearly 16-month absence with a 4 1/2-length decision. Anothertwistafate shapes like a triple-surface threat, and Rosario can place the tactically adept 4-year-old as he likes.
Rounding out the 13-strong cast are American (G3) scorer Blitzkrieg, fourth in the City of Hope Mile (G2); blueblood Tartini (cross-entered to Friday’s Hollywood Turf Cup [G2]); Camino del Paraiso, winner of two straight stakes on the Golden Gate turf; and comebacker My Boy Jack.
Jimmy Durante Stakes
The first stakes on Saturday, the Jimmy Durante for 2-year-old fillies, also attracted a big field of 13. Brown’s Fluffy Socks had defeated Graham Motion’s Invincible Gal in the Oct. 3 Selima at a soggy Pimlico, but the tables could be turned in these conditions. Invincible Gal lowers her sights after a slow-starting 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Fluffy Socks was under Breeders’ Cup consideration but instead stayed home at Belmont for the Nov. 1 Chelsea Flower, where she had the lead in midstretch only to lose the photo.
Javanica was best of the rest behind the exciting Souper Sensational in the Glorious Song on Woodbine’s Tapeta. Trained by Eoin Harty, the Godolphin homebred broke her maiden on the Arlington turf in her prior start. Bay Storm, a Belmont turf sprint maiden winner, stretches out to a mile for Jonathan Thomas.
Their California-based rivals include several from the Surfer Girl — third Pizzazz; fourth Closing Remarks; seventh Consternation, subsequently second in Golden Gate’s Pike Place Dancer; and eighth Nimbostratus, who regressed from a placing in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. Inner Beauty, fourth in the Balanchine (G2) in her Irish finale, could move forward from her sixth in her American bow in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. Fellow import Quattroelle (and Jeff Mullins trainee) steps up from a Santa Anita maiden victory, whence the fifth-placer Polished Lady went on to graduate on the Golden Gate Tapeta. Magical Thought was third to Astute before breaking through in a turf sprint for Miller, and Doug O’Neill’s Plum Sexy outperformed her 20-1 odds by swooping in her turf sprint debut.