Every summer, the start of racing at Del Mar and Saratoga ushers in another season of top-notch two-year-old racing, where the possibility exists to see future champions make their debuts. In 2012, racing fans attuned to the action at Saratoga saw all three of the 2013 Triple Crown race winners (Orb, Oxbow, and Palace Malice) make their first starts, and in 2014, those that kept their eyes on Del Mar saw a colt named American Pharoah finish fifth in a maiden race… the following year, he swept the Triple Crown.
With these maiden races at Del Mar and Saratoga carrying so much importance, The Turf Board is proud to present our “Diamonds in the Rough” column for the second straight year. Diamonds in the Rough will detail the results of the most notable maiden races at each of the prestigious summer meets, and who knows? Perhaps we’ll uncover another future Triple Crown winner!
We’ll start the first column of 2016 by recapping four maiden special weights that were held at Del Mar on opening weekend, including a sensational performance from a colt that looks like a budding star…
July 15th, Del Mar Race 2
5 Furlong Maiden Special Weight for California-Breds Fillies
Radish and I’ll Be Around were the favorites after finishing second and third in a similar race on June 16th at Santa Anita, but while they were separated by a head that day, I’ll Be Around took a big step forward at Del Mar to leave Radish far behind. Visually, I’ll Be Around looked terrific–she was quick out of the gate, opened up a 3 1/2-length rounding the turn, and extended it to four lengths in the homestretch before cruising home an uncontested winner by 3 1/4 lengths. From a time perspective, she ran a bit slowly, stopping the clock in :59.46 seconds while earning a 58 Beyer speed figure. But the way that she completely dominated the race suggests that she could have more to offer down the road. Runner-up Veiled Heat could also be one to watch, for after a slow start left her well off the pace, she produced an eye-catching late rally to gain 5 1/4 lengths on I’ll Be Around in the final furlong and finish a clear second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Radish. It was a very solid effort for a first-time starter, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she fares in her next start.
July 16th, Del Mar Race 6
5 Furlong Maiden Special Weight for California-Breds
The Doug O’Neill-trained Rinse and Repeat entered this race having already run twice, finishing third in a maiden race at Santa Anita and the Everett Nevin Stakes during the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet. With those credentials, he started as the narrow favorite and rewarded his backers with another strong performance. Reserved just off the pace through fractions of :22.50 and :45.88, Rinse and Repeat was still 2 1/2 lengths behind pace-setting Rim Ditch entering the final furlong, but rallied with speed in reserve to turn the deficit into his margin of victory. Owned by Reddam Racing and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, the same team that won the 2016 Kentucky Derby with Nyquist, Rinse and Repeat stopped the clock in :58.55 seconds and earned a Beyer speed figure of 66. His pedigree is geared toward sprinting, being by Square Eddie out of a mare by Gilded Time, but Rinse and Repeat looks like a promising colt that could be, at the very least, a force to reckon with in state-bred sprint stakes races.
July 16th, Del Mar Race 8
5 Furlong Maiden Special Weight for Fillies
The first non-state-restricted maiden race of the meet yielded an impressive performance from the John Sadler-trained filly Morganite, a first-time starter that defeated a very deep field of nine other promising young fillies. Overlooked at odds of 8-1 despite a solid work tab and auction history (she sold for $360,000 earlier this year), Morganite got off to a slightly slow start but recovered to race in second through an opening quarter-mile in :22.41. But this proved to be no obstacle, as she smoothly progressed to take command through a half-mile in :46.04 and stayed on with power in the homestretch, running the final furlong in :12.09 seconds (substantially faster than the final furlong fractions posted by I’ll Be Around and Rinse and Repeat) en route to a 1 1/2-length victory. Her final time was :58.13 seconds, good for a Beyer speed figure of 74, and off this promising debut, the August 6th Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) and the September 3rd Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) are both possible targets. On a side note, Morganite is the first winner for freshman sire Gemologist, who won the Wood Memorial (gr. I) in 2012.
Champagne Room (trained by Peter Eurton), Ruby Trust (Howard Zucker), and Noted and Quoted (Bob Baffert) all ran well to finish second, third, and fourth, and none were beaten more than 3 1/2 lengths by Morganite. It would not be a surprise to see all three of these fillies come back to break their maidens later in the meet, and Noted and Quoted in particular could be one to watch, given that she broke slowly in this race and produced a nice late run in the homestretch. A sharper start could be all she needs to rebound with a winning effort.
July 17th, Del Mar Race 8
5 Furlong Maiden Special Weight
When Chasing Aces finished a solid second in his debut at Santa Anita on June 25th, he looked like a promising colt that would have a strong chance to win his next race. But despite his credentials, I don’t think anyone could have guessed how sensational Chasing Aces would run on July 17th at Del Mar.
After a fast start, the son of Flatter hooked up in a duel for the lead with the first-time starter Straight Fire and carved out a blazing first quarter-mile in :21.84 seconds. They continued to duel for another furlong before Chasing Aces began to draw off, and after posting a half-mile in :44.49–a blazing pace for any horse, let alone a two-year-old!–Chasing Aces flew home the final furlong in :11.72 to win by 5 1/2 lengths, good for a blazing final time of :56.21 seconds. That time marks the fastest five furlongs ever run on dirt in the history of Del Mar, eclipsing the track record set in 1964.
To put it simply, this was an epic performance from such a lightly-raced colt, and the time wasn’t the result of a very fast track–Chasing Aces received a Beyer speed figure of 101, the highest earned by any two-year-old this year and the highest since American Pharoah earned the same figure as a two-year-old in 2014. Time will tell if Chasing Aces can replicate American Pharoah’s success, but at the very least, he has shown significant potential and has become one of the most exciting horses in training right now. The August 13th Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) and the September 5th Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) are both options for his next start.
I would also keep a close eye on Straight Fire, who held on well to finish second, 5 1/2 lengths in front of the third-place finisher. Trained by Keith Desormeaux of Exaggerator and Texas Red fame, Straight Fire should only get better with experience and longer distances, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up becoming a graded stakes winner.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board!