September 26, 2023

Havnameltdown tops Baffert trio in Bob Hope

Havnameltdown and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Bob Baffert is triple-handed in Sunday’s $100,000 Bob Hope (G3) for juveniles, a race that he’s won five times since its transfer to Del Mar. Also a six-time winner when it was staged as the Hollywood Prevue (G3) at old Hollywood Park, Baffert is therefore seeking a 12th trophy overall. Not to be missed on Sunday’s undercard is a graded stakes-quality allowance for sprinters.

Bob Hope (G3) – Race 8 (7 p.m. ET)

Two of the Baffert brigade, Havnameltdown and Hard to Figure, race for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. Havnameltdown was one of the flashy two-year-olds of Del Mar’s summer meet, wiring his July 24 debut and following up in the Best Pal (G3). He suffered his lone loss at the hands of highly-regarded stablemate Cave Rock in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) at this seven-furlong trip, but remained easily second-best. Hard to Figure, third in a pair of Del Mar maidens, scored his first win in the restricted Capote S. at Los Alamitos.

Newgate represents the ownership consortium headed by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables. By far the most expensive of the Baffert trio as an $850,000 Keeneland September yearling, the Into Mischief colt blitzed to a debut win here sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. Then he lost his way on the class hike. Newgate was fourth in the Del Mar Futurity and fifth on the stretch-out in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). Shortening up here, and taking the blinkers off, could prove the right combination.

Reading the tea leaves from the riding assignments might not reveal that much. John Velazquez retains his status as Newgate’s only jockey, and they’re tactically drawn in the outside post 7. Juan Hernandez regains the mount on Havnameltdown, whom he last rode in the Best Pal, and Flavien Prat takes the call on Hard to Figure. They’ll break next to each other, Hard to Figure in tough on the rail and Havnameltdown sure to be quick from post 2.

Practical Move, second to Cave Rock on debut and third to National Treasure next time, appeared to continue his pattern of placing to a Baffert rival in his latest. But the first-past-the-post Fort Bragg was demoted for hampering Practical Move, who officially broke his maiden in that mile test at Santa Anita. Now the Tim Yakteen trainee cuts back in trip while stepping up in class. Highly-tried maiden Mixto, sixth in the Del Mar Futurity, perseveres for Doug O’Neill. In his other two starts, the Calumet runner was narrowly beaten by Practical Move, when fourth to National Treasure and third in that same eventful Santa Anita maiden.

Two stakes winners are facing stiffer competition in this spot. Giver Not a Taker has performed better in the Cal-restricted ranks, capturing the I’m Smokin S. here and most recently finishing second as the 3-10 favorite in the Golden State Juvenile at Santa Anita. But the Peter Miller pupil can’t be judged fairly from his lone venture in open company, a ninth in the Zuma Beach (G3), since that involved the twin variables of a turf route. This is his first graded try in his wheelhouse of a dirt sprint. Lloyds Logic makes his first start away from Emerald Downs, and for Jerry Hollendorfer. The son of The Factor has romped in his past two, notably the Gottstein Futurity, but must drop the Lasix here.

Allowance – Race 4 (5 p.m. ET)

This six-furlong dash has multiple angles of interest, from Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) alumni Howbeit and Forbidden Kingdom to comebackers Ginobili and Risk and Reward along with Grade 1 veteran Get Her Number.

Howbeit could have advanced to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) after his Santa Anita Sprint Championship victory, earned in a desperate photo with C Z Rocket, but trainer Mark Glatt decided to pass. The form was boosted when C Z Rocket came back to finish a bang-up second in the Sprint at Keeneland.

Forbidden Kingdom, a tiring fifth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, could bounce back second off the layoff – and with first-time Lasix. The Richard Mandella sophomore, who was runner-up in the 2021 Bob Hope, had been on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail this spring. Wiring the San Vicente (G2) and the San Felipe (G2), Forbidden Kingdom was sidelined following a sixth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Regrouping around one turn was logical, and he tries again here.

Miller is double-handed with Get Her Number, second in the course-and-distance Bing Crosby (G1) two back, and Ginobili, who resurfaces from a nearly year-long layoff for his new trainer. Last year’s Pat O’Brien (G2) star and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) runner-up has not raced since a subpar sixth in the Cigar Mile (G1). Then trained by Richard Baltas, Ginobili was expected to be a leading player in the Feb. 26 Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) on Saudi Cup Day, only to be scratched. Also on the comeback trail is Baffert’s Risk and Reward, last seen extending his record to 3-for-5 in a mile allowance here on Nov. 4, 2021.