July 24, 2024

Conclude, Maltese Falcon meet in Del Mar Derby

Conclude and jockey Hector Berrios win the Oceanside at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Sunday’s $300,000 Del Mar Derby (G2) offers a showdown between the winners of the seaside track’s stepping-stone stakes, Oceanside S. hero Conclude and La Jolla H. (G3) victor Maltese Falcon. But La Jolla runner-up Panic Alarm and the streaking Almendares could thwart them both in the 1 1/8-mile contest.

Conclude and Almendares give trainer Phil D’Amato a one-two punch. Kentucky-bred Conclude, a son of Collected and 2012 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Believe You Can, competed exclusively in turf sprints before stretching out to a mile in the Oceanside. Between his pedigree and the way he punched home last time, the extra furlong should be within his compass. Hector Berrios retains the mount.

European recruit Almendares had been plying his trade over Dundalk’s Polytrack, where he won a pair of sprints. He made it a hat trick in his U.S. debut in a July 23 Del Mar allowance, rallying to a convincing victory in his first try on turf, and over a route. By hot young sire Havana Grey, Almendares picks up hot-riding Antonio Fresu in his black-type bow.

Trainer Leonard Powell, who won the Del Mar Oaks (G1) with the electrifying Anisette, will try to turn the double with the more prosaic Maltese Falcon. The Irish-bred finally broke his maiden in the La Jolla after being consistently thereabouts, beating his countryman Panic Alarm, and he keeps Juan Hernandez aboard.

Panic Alarm is eligible to move forward, though, in this second stateside appearance for John Sadler. A useful performer with Jessica Harrington in Ireland, he placed third to future star Paddington as well as to eventual Group 3 winner Lord Massusus earlier this season. His close fourth versus elders in the Owenstown S. is a better reflection of his ability than his no-show in the Britannia H. at Royal Ascot. Subsequently transferred to Southern California, the Hronis Racing runner was entered in the Oceanside, but scratched to give him more time. Although ready to start in the La Jolla, he could be primed for this main event with Umberto Rispoli.

Also exiting the La Jolla are fourth-placer Justin’s Legacy and fifth Kid Azteca, while Doug O’Neill’s well-traveled Ah Jeez was most recently third in the Oceanside. Reiquist and Smart Code were just promoted to first and second, respectively, via disqualification in an allowance.

The Del Mar Derby is carded as the 10th race with a post time of 9 p.m. (ET). Three races earlier at 7:30 p.m. (ET), the $125,000 Shared Belief S. is an opportunity for sophomores on the main track. A few are reverting to dirt after failing to land a blow in the local turf stakes, including Mr Fisk and Henry Q.

Two starts back, the Bob Baffert-trained Mr Fisk was second in the Affirmed S. to Geaux Rocket Ride, the next-out Haskell (G1) winner and morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Pacific Classic (G1). Henry Q has gone winless since his rout of the Mine That Bird Derby, but new blinkers could help as he represents the O’Neill/Fresu tandem. Smart Mo hopes that going back to a mile will get him back in the winner’s circle for John Shirreffs.

Other contenders include Baffert’s Tahoe Sunrise, who tries two turns for the first time; multiple California-bred stakes-placed Clouseau; and Low Expectations, off form since his runner-up effort at 21-1 in the Sunland Park Derby (G1).