March 27, 2023

Hollywood Derby tops quartet of Del Mar grass stakes

Digital Age and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. rally to victory in the American Turf Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 5, 2019 (c) Gustavsson

Trainer Chad Brown has won two of the last three editions of the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) and will take a stab at a third in Saturday’s renewal at Del Mar with Digital Age and Standard Deviation.

The 1 1/8-mile Derby is the highlight of a quartet of graded turf stakes on the penultimate day of the Del Mar fall meet. With the San Diego area receiving rain this week, the ground figures to be less than firm.

Neither of the Brown colts could be categorized as standouts. Digital Age is the more accomplished of the two having won the American Turf (G2) in May and placing in the $1 million Saratoga Derby in August, but he’s failed to hit the board in his last two, most recently finishing fifth to Neptune’s Storm in the Hill Prince (G3). Standard Deviation was a close third in the Hill Prince, by far the best finish at graded level for the son of Curlin, who won a pair of minor stakes at Monmouth over the summer.

Neptune’s Storm was subsequently third in the Twilight Derby (G2) to stakes newcomers Mo Forza and Succeedandsurpass. Indeed, Mo Forza was exiting a maiden victory when taking the Breeders’ Cup undercard feature at odds of 18-1. Succeedandsurpass’ recent form can’t be faulted, but he’ll have to overcome post 13 on Saturday.

Henley’s Joy has been unplaced four times since posting a 20-1 upset of the Belmont Derby (G1), while Del Mar Derby (G2) one-two Nolde and Originaire both disappointed in the Twilight Derby. La Jolla (G3) scorer Kingly figures to be on or near the lead, but nine furlongs could be stretching it for the experienced son of Tapit.

Others of note include Mr Dumas, recent winner of the Commonwealth Turf (G3) at Churchill Downs on testing ground, and Moody Jim, who rebounded from a well-supported sixth in the Del Mar Derby to win a first-level allowance at Santa Anita in a photo on October 12.

Seabiscuit Handicap

Prince Earl, with Geovanni Franco up, wins the Del Mar Mile (G2) for trainer Phil D’Amato at Del Mar on Sunday, August 18, 2019 (c) Benoit Photo

The four leading contenders in the $200,000 Seabiscuit H. (G2), for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, appear to be Del Mar Mile (G2) winner Prince Earl, the Chad Brown-trained Sacred Life, last-out John Henry Turf Championship (G2) winner Cleopatra’s Strike, and the veteran Om.

The lightly-raced Prince Earl has just six starts under his belt, winning the Mile two back prior to a photo-finish loss in the City of Hope Mile (G2). Sacred Life, second in his first two U.S. outings at Saratoga including the Bernard Baruch H. (G2), broke through with a cozy allowance win at Keeneland last out. Cleopatra’s Strike has one win and two photo-finish losses since joining the Phil D’Amato barn, while Om comes in off a second-place finish to stablemate Belvoir Bay in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

Also among the field are River Boyne, Ritzy A. P., Next Shares, Ronald R, and Majestic Eagle, all long-time mainstays of the local grass division.

Jimmy Durante Stakes

Chad Brown might have the horse to beat in the $100,000 Jimmy Durante (G3) for two-year-old fillies, namely Princesa Caroline. The daughter of American Pharoah makes her stakes debut in the one-mile grass test following an impressive 3 1/2-length debut score at Belmont two months ago. Also shipping from the east is Matron (G3) scorer Alms, who stretches out after taking the historic, six-furlong Belmont fixture for owner-breeder Godolphin and trainer Mike Stidham.

Locally-based fillies not to sleep on include the multiple stakes-place Croughavouke, sixth beaten 4 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1); Applecross, third in the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf in her U.S. debut back in September; and Guitty, who is two-for-two over the Del Mar lawn following an allowance score three weeks ago.

Red Carpet Handicap

The $100,000 Red Carpet H. (G3), originally scheduled for the Thanksgiving program that was canceled due to wet weather, drew a field of eight fillies and mares to go 1 3/8 miles on the turf. Siberian Iris, a course-and-distance stakes winner during the main summer meet, exits a fourth in the Rodeo Drive (G1). Also lining up are the three-year-olds Keeper Ofthe Stars, last out winner of the Autumn Miss (G3), and Vibrance, who placed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Chandelier (G1) last season.