The theme of Del Mar’s Turf Festival has been the dominance of shippers from the East. On Saturday, the trainer/jockey tandem of Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz took two of three graded stakes, capped by Domestic Spending in the $303,000 Hollywood Derby (G1), and almost made it a clean sweep.
Klaravich Stables’ Domestic Spending, the least experienced member of the Hollywood Derby field, was also spotting his opponents recency. Neither mattered as the royally-bred son of Kingman followed up on his prior victory in the Aug. 15 Saratoga Derby Invitational, and again beat Gufo to the punch.
As expected, the speedy Get Smokin went forward stalked by 2.80-1 favorite Smooth Like Strait. The pace was not as taxing, though, as might have been forecast with fractions of :23.87, :48.23, and 1:12.38 on the firm turf. The two leaders had plenty of energy left down the stretch, and Smooth Like Strait eventually got past Get Smokin.
While the 4-1 Domestic Spending raced further back after a somewhat hesitant start, the 3-1 Gufo also broke slowly from post 11, and bided his time in last. That disparity proved crucial, especially since the handier Domestic Spending was able to improve more effectively around the far turn, and put himself into realistic range upon straightening.
Three lengths back in midstretch, the British-bred summoned an outstanding turn of foot to collar Smooth Like Strait in 1:47.15 for 1 1/8 miles. Gufo rocketed into the picture to make it a line of three abreast, but a fraction late, to miss by a grand total of a head and a neck.
Get Smokin was another half-length astern in fourth, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Decorated Invader. Next came Scarto, Storm the Court, Lane Way, Taishan, Kanderei, and Strongconstitution. Ever Dangerous was scratched along with California Kook, who was seventh in the Red Carpet on Thanksgiving.
“I thought I was going to be closer with him,” Ortiz said of Domestic Spending, “but he came out of there a little slow and we were in the back. I worked my way up on the backside and he was running perfect. When I asked him for his run at the three eighths (pole), he was ready. He really put in a nice kick. He’s been a little green in his earlier races but he’s getting better all the time.”
Now 4-for-5 with $520,900 in earnings, Domestic Spending endured his only loss in his stakes debut, when third to Decorated Invader and Get Smokin in the July 18 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) at the Spa. The gelding had lagged too far back that day, but he’s gotten savvier.
Bred by Rabbah Bloodstock Ltd., the 300,000 guineas Tattersalls October yearling is the first and only foal from the English stakes-winning Urban Castle. The Street Cry mare is a half to Group 3 heroine Queen’s Best, dam of Queen’s Trust who denied Brown’s champion Lady Eli in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). This is the black type-rich family of Warrsan, Luso, Avenir Certain, current Royal Lodge (G2) winner New Mandate, and top European freshman sire Mehmas.
Jimmy Durante Stakes
Brown and Ortiz withstood a stewards’ inquiry into Orglandes’ win in Thursday’s Red Carpet (G3), and they might have had a sense of déjà vu when Fluffy Socks had to pass scrutiny after the $102,500 Jimmy Durante (G3).
While Orglandes retained her victory by a unanimous ruling, the case of Fluffy Socks was more ambiguous. According to track announcer Larry Collmus, it was a split decision to let the Jimmy Durante result stand.
Fluffy Socks, the 17-10 favorite, saved ground in the latter part of the field as Plum Sexy dictated fractions of :22.71, :47.00, and 1:11.69. Ortiz shifted out on the far turn to prepare a better launching position into the stretch, but he wasn’t clear of the other two in the rear. His maneuver hampered Consternation, who in turn appeared to affect Quattroelle.
Although Pizzazz was the first to strike into the lane, Fluffy Socks mowed her down. Javanica rattled home once finding room belatedly, but could get no closer than a half-length. Quattroelle rallied boldly to grab third, another neck back, with Pizzazz relegated to fourth.
Consternation, despite being handled considerately after the incident, regrouped well enough to take fifth. Thus in addition to the inquiry, a claim of foul was lodged by connections – initially announced as an objection by her owner, then according to the chart, by jockey Drayden van Dyke. Two of the three stewards determined that there would be no change, deeming that Consternation was not denied a better placing. Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Charles Winner’s filly is worth following next time.
Magical Thought wound up sixth, followed by Inner Beauty, Plum Sexy, Nimbostratus, and Closing Remarks. Bay Storm was a late scratch by the veterinarian, and early withdrawals were Polished Lady and Invincible Gal (cross-entered to Sunday’s Tepin at Aqueduct).
A homebred for Head of Plains Partners, Fluffy Socks clocked the mile in a stakes-record 1:35.35 (hand-timed) and advanced her record to 5-3-1-0, $226,880. The bay broke her maiden at Kentucky Downs second time out, promptly made it two in a row in the Oct. 3 Selima at Pimlico, and nearly added the Nov. 1 Chelsea Flower at Belmont but got outfinished late. Both of those came on rain-softened going, so the Jimmy Durante established her stakes credentials on firm.
“She felt like a winner all the way around,” Ortiz said. “We had some traffic on the turn, but I got through and got her to where I wanted to be. She’s a nice filly. Big kick.”
Fluffy Socks is the first stakes winner for freshman sire Slumber. Her dam, Breakfast Time, is a daughter of Kitten’s Joy and stakes scorer Costume Designer.
The Brown/Ortiz juggernaut appeared to be rolling again with Flavius in the $203,500 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2), until the 8-1 Count Again arrived late on the scene. The only West Coast-based winner so far at the Turf Festival, the Ontario-bred in fact is a recent arrival from Woodbine trainer Gail Cox, so his coup just reinforced the strength of the Eastern form.
Count Again was switched to Phil D’Amato after Agave Racing Stable acquired an interest from breeder Sam-Son Farm. The lightly-raced 5-year-old is in the form of his life, having captured his stakes debut in the Sept. 19 Singspiel (G3) and finished fourth in the Oct. 18 Northern Dancer Turf (G1). The question here was the cutback in trip to 1 1/16 miles at this level, but he answered it decisively while lowering the stakes record to 1:40.84.
Unhurried by Juan Hernandez, Count Again was anchored behind a pace that was steady but contested. Anothertwistafate, the 2.20-1 favorite in his turf debut for new trainer Peter Miller, led the way through an opening quarter in :24.03. One Bad Boy wrested control by the half in :48.27, only to be eased out of the race as they approached the far turn. The stalking Blitzkrieg decided to surge forward through 6 furlongs in 1:12.02, but he appeared vulnerable entering the stretch.
Flavius swept past him inside the final furlong, then found Count Again erupting wider out. Driving three-quarters of a length clear, the son of Awesome Again paid $18.80.
Defending Seabiscuit champion Next Shares split foes to take third, and Anothertwistafate checked in fourth. Bowies Hero, Brown’s second-stringer Spirit Animal, Majestic Eagle, Blitzkrieg, Imperador, My Boy Jack, and Camino del Paraiso rounded out the order under the wire. One Bad Boy walked off, and Tartini was scratched after trailing in Friday’s Hollywood Turf Cup (G2).
“Gail Cox delivered this horse to me in excellent condition and I was really glad to have him,” D’Amato said. “She got him going really good and his confidence up as well and I just kind of trained on from that. I’m just fortunate to have him. Juan (jockey Hernandez) followed our plan. I just told him to save all the ground and come with one run. If the race sets up for us, great, if not we’ll stretch him out next time. He followed those instructions to a ‘T’ and he came with a monstrous run.”
“He’d been running longer races (10 and 12 furlongs),” Hernandez noted, “and when he broke a little slow today I didn’t rush him. We were in a good spot on the backside and I could feel I had plenty of horse. When we hit the three-eighths (pole) I wheeled him outside and we started to pick them up. He ran hard through the stretch and we got it done.”
Count Again’s scorecard stands at 8-4-1-2, $271,165. The gelding is a half-brother to a past Del Mar notable, two-time Bing Crosby (G1) victor Ransom the Moon. They were produced by the stakes-winning Red Ransom mare Count to Three, who is herself out of 1990 Matriarch (G1) queen Countus In.