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Del Mar Doubles as Breeders' Cup Launching Pad

by Jeremy Plonk

July 19, 2017

With the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar this fall, the start of the summer meet where the turf meets the surf kicks off this week with added intrigue. Not only do we get the west coast’s most anticipated social racing season, but also the chance to see a handful of additional stakes horses of the highest order.

Getting a race over the track used to be an old school training tactic, but hasn’t been as essential in modern training. But the Breeders’ Cup on the calendar this year makes for an awfully good excuse for an owner to sample the sights, sounds and styles that are Del Mar. If you own a top-class Thoroughbred in nearly any division, a summer Del Mar tune-up would seem to be more than justified in 2017.

We saw a massive influx in stakes talent at Keeneland two Fall Meets ago when that venue first hosted the Breeders’ Cup. Don’t be surprised if Del Mar sees a similar spike, although travel to the west coast will make for a bigger geographical hurdle than Keeneland.

The juvenile and turf stakes races at Del Mar may be the place where we see the most Breeders’ Cup lead-up influence. The babies have the most to learn by getting a race over a surface and getting acclimated to surroundings. Rather than build habits elsewhere, it makes sense for the fresh faces to be introduced to the process and get some affinity for Del Mar.

The 2-year-old dirt fillies’ stakes lineup includes the G2 Sorrento Aug. 5 and the G1 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 2. The 2-year-old dirt colts/geldings will be featured in the G2 Best Pal Aug. 12 and G1 Del Mar Futurity on Labor Day Sept. 4. The Del Mar Juvenile Turf on Sept. 3 and Juvenile Fillies Turf on Sept. 4 also figure to be key races for the grass division of 2-year-olds.

Among the Del Mar turf stakes, the Win & You’re In G2 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 19 may lure a distinctly better field than it typically does, as could the next-day Del Mar Mile in the BC Turf and Mile divisions, respectively. Also the G2 Yellow Ribbon in the F&M Turf ranks could return to its once-lofty standards on Aug. 5, as could the G2 John C. Mabee on Sept. 2. Both of these races once boasted G1 distaffers on the green. And speaking of green, the Aug. 18 Green Flash for turf sprinters may be the saltiest group we see for $75,000 anywhere in the country this year if BC Turf Sprint hopefuls are sent westward for a spin over the course.

And, of course, there’s Arrogate tuning up at Del Mar for the Classic and the usual bevvy of west coast Sprint and Filly & Mare Sprint heavyweights to consider. With trainers opting for more time between starts in the modern era, we’ve seen the Del Mar summer meet to Breeders’ Cup layoff become more common. It all adds up to what should be a memorable 2017 at Del Mar, and it gets underway in earnest Wednesday.