by Johnny D
November 18, 2021
Below is one man’s humble opinion of how Del Mar’s Saturday Late Pick 4 might shake out. The opening leg looks like another Bob Baffert 2-year-old success story. #3 Adare Manor will be difficult to deny. There are some interesting first-time starters in #9 Empire Gal and #4 Micro Share, and #2 Little Lara had an interesting effort first out at Keeneland. For these races, XBTV workout videos are helpful and Xpressbet Race Replays are invaluable. This player used both to hopefully successfully sort out Del Mar race 6.
The second leg features a sharp pace play with a comfortable inside draw going one mile and one-sixteenth on the Del Mar lawn. There doesn’t seem to be any other speed in the race to challenge #2 Big Coupe early and that should tell the story. Many in the field are ‘win-averse’ with few scores out of many tries. If it’s not #2 on the front end all the way…it could be just about anyone.
Race 8 is a Grade 3 stakes race where trainer Baffert holds all the aces—a set of them, actually. One wonders if he will start all three, especially since two of them have the same front-running style. Look for Baffert to scratch at least one of his runners out of this race. #2 Midcourt has the best credentials on paper, except for that last out dud in the Awesome Again where he was eased. He’s been around the oval with some top runners over the years and been competitive, especially at Del Mar. He’ll be a short price and probably worth playing against. In our experience, eased horses do not bounce back easily to win, especially in graded stakes. If all three Baffert runners stay in the race, the pace could get hot up front. If that happens, #8 Kiss Today Goodbye returns from a layoff with a nice closing style. He’s a real reach, so demand a decent price.
The Pick 4 finale seems to have a couple of obvious plays: #2 Dixie’s Two Stents drops into a likely spot for trainer O’Neill and #6 Fenestra attempts to use his speed to dominate a race that’s a furlong cutback in distance. #5 Warfront Fighter attempts to win his first race in 19 tries and avoid making it 6 second place finishes. #8 Mad Catter reversed form to show speed and finish second last out at 17-1.
As for value in this wager, we don’t see it in the first leg, unless #3 Little Lara can improve, or #9 Empire Gal can fire first time out. The second leg hinges on #2 Big Coupe. If not him, who knows? The Native Diver has #2 Midcourt as best on paper, but his last race isn’t encouraging. Scratches may help clarity this picture. The finale seems a 2 to 5-deep runner event. Saturday’s wager probably won’t pay boxcars, so players might want to consider punching a favored ticket several times.
RACE 6 (6:00PM ET) // MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT // 6 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Peripheral makes a second start for Baltas after a poor turf mile try. Baltas solid 19% second time out. Blinkers go on (13%), turf to dirt (7%) and Cedillo rides (16%) for the trainer. Rail going six and one-half furlongs is no bargain. Would be a surprise in the win position but could improve with route conditioning cutting back to six and one-half furlongs.
#2 Little Lara comes here from Keeneland where she closed ground after a slow start. Outrun early, the first-time starter made a notable middle move and kept trying until the end. She was lugging in a bit and didn’t change leads, so she’s got to improve, but the effort shows she has talent. Six and one-half furlongs should favor her. She was nearly 30-1 in that 12-horse field. Trainer Cerin is just 8% with maiden second-time starters, according to DRF stats. Hernandez has been solid with the trainer 28% overall. Things to like.
#3 Adare Manor makes a second start for trainer Bob Baffert and the trainer’s 26% in that scenario. This Uncle Mo filly finished second by a neck in decent time. She has speed, gets off the rail and clearly is the one to beat in here.
#4 Micro Share has a decent training schedule with a pair of recent solid gate drills and two nice six-furlong breezes. Mandella is solid 18% with first-time starters. The filly is by Upstart and was purchased for $450k as a 2-year-old. She has some early speed.
#5 I Got a Gal has speed and makes a third start for trainer Eurton. Jockey Rispoli understandably stays with #3 Adare Manor instead of here. Fading performances suggest that six and one-half furlongs won’t be a benefit.
#6 Lonely On Top moves from turf to dirt for O’Neill after showing some pace going six furlongs before a fade to better than just one foe. Herrera gets in seven pounds lighter than others and that should help.
#7 Side by Side is a first-time starter for Karen Headley with three consecutive six furlong works. The $35k Keeneland September yearling should be fit enough to give a fair account.
#8 Princess Caterina is a first-out daughter for low-profile 1 for 19 trainer Silverio Martinez. The Cal-bred daughter of Prince of Love will be considered later.
#9 Empire Gal goes first time for Michael McCarthy, a top trainer who’s not known for winning first out. This daughter of Empire Girl has a pair of serious gate drills: 1:00 2/5 and :59 4/5 on her resume and they’re notable. McCarthy doesn’t usually work charges fast, so those moves are doubly impressive. In the latter drill, she broke a step slow and was asked for speed by the rider. She responded and then settled off workmate Macarena until passing her with ease off the turn and galloping home under wraps. Based on video of works available on XBTV, she looks like she can run, and distance won’t be an issue.
#10 Coloratura is a first-time starter for trainer Yakteen, who’s just 3% with first-time starters. Her last work 1:00 3/5 at Santa Anita is interesting and the post is perfect for a debut runner, but she could be overmatched.
UPSET FIRST-TIME STARTER: #9
OTHER CHANCES: #2, #4
RACE 7 (6:30PM ET) // STARTER ALLOWANCE // 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
#1 Jack Sprout has two career wins and they both came at Del Mar at this distance. His last two tries haven’t been great and trainer Mendez mostly is known for success with 2-year-olds.
#2 Big Coupe has speed and showed it to win last out going one mile on turf at Santa Anita. His second consecutive victory—both by more than 3 lengths. Such winning margins are notable, particularly on turf. Inside speed always is dangerous going a route on turf and this 3-year-old is in top form. Catch him to win.
#3 Liar Liar has no speed and has just about split fields in three recent tries at this level—twice with top jock Prat calling the shots. Hernandez takes over in the saddle for trainer Miller, who’s having a relatively slow meeting with just 2 wins in 27 starts. 10 additional in-the-money finishes for the trainer suggests that Miller has been a bit unlucky.
#4 Secret Club also had the services of top jock Prat in his last two turf starts without success for Miller. Bravo is the new pilot. This guy was claimed for $40k out of a third-place finish and has been third twice since for current connections. Blinkers go ‘on’ and Miller is 19% with the move.
#5 Ronamo is a 5-year-old with just 2 wins in 22 starts. He starts for hot trainer D’Amato and jockey Rispoli—a 23% combo. He’s only zero for 2 on turf, so there’s obviously hope the surface makes a winning diference. Like many of these, he has no early speed.
#6 East Rand is a 6-year-old with just 2 wins in 28 starts. One of those wins came over this course and at this distance. He has little early speed in a race without much of that commodity.
#7 Foothill is a 4-year-old with 2 wins in 16 starts, one of those at Del Mar. Trainer O’Neill and jockey Cedillo are just 11% together. Gelding doesn’t have much early speed, has mostly been running at one mile on grass and also has a win going one mile and one-eighth on turf at Santa Anita.
#8 Epimythium is a new face, fifth at this distance over a ‘good’ Keeneland turf course last out. He’s a 3-year-old gelding with one win and 5 seconds from 12 starts. Only score came at Ellis Park going on mile on turf at the maiden $16k level. He’s another that prefers to run from off the pace.
#9 Best Chance is a 4-year-old colt from the Sadler barn. Seven-pound apprentice Herrera takes over from Bravo, who moves to #4 Secret Club. This colt closed ground to miss by just a neck two races back going one mile on turf at Del Mar, so he fits with these and likes the lawn. He’s been no worse than fourth in three recent tries at the level. Again, he has no early speed in a field lacking pace.
#10 Sly comes out of a recent turf sprint and has just 2 wins in 15 starts. His best effort came going one mile and one-eighth on turf immediately after being claimed by Metz from Mandella. He was a close fourth that afternoon.
#11 Midnight Jostar is a second entrant from the hot D’Amato barn (24% at Del Mar) and was second last out at this level going one mile on grass at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old is 2 for 17 with a win at this distance over this layout. A nice :59 3/5 bullet move suggests fitness. A deep closer breaking from this far outside post, he’ll need to get very lucky under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.
CATCH HIM TO WIN: #2
CHANCES: #4, #5, 11
RACE 8 (7:00PM ET) // G3 NATIVE DIVER S. // 1 1/8 MILES (DIRT)
#1 Established comes off a pair of upset wins sprinting against lesser and is in sharp form. This is a big step up in class but trainer Baltas doesn’t mind taking a shot with a sharp horse. This 4-year-old has a win over this track at seven furlongs and is making just a second try at the one mile and one-eighth distance. Speed and the rail help, but there’s other speed in here.
#2 Midcourt has the most impressive resume in here, according to Beyer Speed Figs. The 6-year-old gelding is a Gr. 2 winner, has never been off the board in 5 starts at Del Mar and has 2 wins and a second in 5 starts at the distance. His last race—eased in the Awesome Again--was the worst of a long and fruitful career. If players can swallow that poor effort, he’s a definite ‘fit.’ Trainer Shirreffs is conservative so you know nothing is seriously wrong with the gelding but that last out is tough to take. Before that race, Shirreffs was quoted as saying he probably would only run barnmate Xpress Train in the Awesome Again. Turns out he was right.
#3 Wicked Trick is fit off a recent one mile Del Mar try. He was second in an $80k allowance/optional claimer. The 6-year-old probably will need more than that to win in here. Rispoli replaces Maldonado (latter returns aboard #3 Midcourt) in the saddle for trainer Hess. This guy has raced mostly in New York and was claimed for $100k at Saratoga three races back.
#4 Bal Harbour invades from the east coast for this and hasn’t won a race since 2019. The 6-year-old would be surprise.
#5 Azul Coast is one of 3 Baffert runners entered in this race. The 4-year-old colt has 3 wins in 9 starts and is 1 for 2 at Del Mar and 1 for 3 at the distance. He won two of his first three starts—one at Los Alamitos and one at Golden Gate, including the El Camino Real Stakes. Three subsequent graded-stakes tries were unsuccessful before a nearly 10-month layoff. He won an $80k optional claiming race at Del Mar going one mile in August before, similar to Midcourt, faring poorly in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita. Top jock Prat takes over and he was aboard for the seaside optional claiming/allowance victory. He races from off the early pace.
#6 Eight Rings is a front runner and all three of his wins have been wire-to-wire efforts—one of those at Del Mar, first-out, going five and one-half furlongs. Most recently, he was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after forcing a torrid early pace. He’s plenty fit off that. Before that he went wire-to-wire to win an $80k optional claiming race—his third win in 11 starts. It will be interesting to see if Baffert runs all three entrants since this guy and barnmate #7 Ax Man both have speed.
#7 Ax Man is a 6-year-old gelding with 7 wins out of 17 starts and a fading fourth (and last) finish in the six and one-half Gr. 3 Kona Gold in April. Before that he went wire-to-wire to win the Santana Mile at Santa Anita. Mike Smith will ride the speedy steed that has 3 of 4 wins in wire-to-wire fashion. Baffert won’t have #6 Eight Rings and #7 Ax Man fighting for the lead, so let’s see if he runs both horses. This gelding seems to have more early speed than the others.
#8 Kiss Today Goodbye hasn’t raced since July when last of 8 in the Gr. 2 San Diego Handicap. Blinkers will be added to the 4-year-old colt’s equipment by trainer Kruljac who is 20% off 61-180 days layoffs. He’s worked every 7 days with a pair of bullets in his holster. He got good last fall when he won an allowance/optional claiming race going one mile at Del Mar. He parlayed that into a December Gr. 2 San Antonio victory at Santa Anita. He doesn’t have any early speed, so he’s always up against things late. If all 3 Baffert runners start, there should be a strong early pace. That will help this guy’s chances of success. In a field of foes who have seen better days, perhaps this steadily training soph can make some noise.
BAFFERT'S CHOICE: #5, #6, #7
POSSIBLE PACE PLAY: #8
BEST ON PAPER: #2 (but that last one…)
NOTE: Check Scratches. If Baffert scratches either #6 Eight Rings or #7 Ax Man the chances of the one that remains are enhanced. If Baffert’s three runners all start, give #8 Kiss Today Goodbye a shot at exotics at a price.
RACE 9 (7:30PM ET) // MAIDEN CLAIMING // 5 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Rocketcent hasn’t impressed in three starts at this level.
#2 Dixie’s Two Stents figures to be live at this level on the drop from M50k and a return to dirt for trainer Doug O’Neill. Connections actually tried this one in two stakes races at 2 and almost got the maiden broken in September at Del Mar against allowance-level maidens when fourth, beaten less than 2 lengths.
#3 Annie’s Chief has been working steadily at Los Alamitos—every 7 days—for low profile trainer Milton Pineda. A 1:00 1/5 work from the gate is notable. Los Al works do clock a bit faster than those at other tracks.
#4 Misawa takes a drop from a good try in a state-bred maiden $50k going five and one-half furlongs at Los Alamitos. Two previous state-bred maiden allowance tries didn’t turn out well in the end, although he did show some speed before fading. There is a gap in the workout pattern from Oct. to Nov.
#5 Warfront Fighter, three back, was claimed for $20k after 15 maiden race misfires. He was claimed out of his last start, but that transaction was voided, and trainer Hess will reload with jockey Maldanado returning in the saddle. While this 4-year-old is missing a win in 18 starts, he has 5 seconds and 3 thirds. Exotics possible.
#6 Fenestra is fit off a Nov. 4 speed and fade effort at this level as the odds-on choice. That try matches a first out speed and fade effort at Oaklawn Park in maiden allowance company. A cut back in distance from six and one-half furlongs to five and one-half ought to help this one’s cause. Cerin/Desormeaux team is 22%. #8 Mad Catter may offer a slight early challenge, but Fenestra seems quicker than that one.
#7 Wiskey Vision has yet to impress in 6 starts—beaten double digits in last 4. This will be the 3-year-old gelding’s first since May and at the lowest level ever. The latter angle always is worth a second look. Still, this one’s form is difficult to digest…and that’s where bombs live.
#8 Mad Catter turned things around last out just over a month ago when second at this level at 17-1. The 4-year-old showed improved speed (second time blinkers) and just missed. It should be noted that in that race he also blew a 4-length lead going six furlongs. Cut back to five and one-half will help. Seven-pound bug Herrera in the saddle for Leonard Powell.
#9 Drew Big makes first start for 3% angle trainer Yakteen. Seven-pound apprentice Ellingwood handles the reins. A :48 1/5 gate blowout is best credential.
#10 Lantern Prince starts for 0-57 trainer Dunham. Don’t see a lot in San Luis Rey work resume.
MOST LIKELY: #2, #6
EXOTICS: #5, #4, #8
COMPLETE REACH: #7
SUGGESTED LATE PICK 4 TICKET
Race 6: #3
Race 7: #2
Race 8: #2, #5, #6, #7, #8 (Could be reduced by scratches)
Race 9: #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8
Cost: $15.00 for 50-cents