Del Mar’s Turf Festival swings into high gear with Friday’s $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2). While Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) alumni Arklow and Red King will attract attention in the overflow 14-horse field, others flaunting recent Grade 1 form include Canadian shipper Say the Word and German import Laccario.
The Brad Cox-trained Arklow, whose signature win came in the 2019 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1), recovered his old spark with the addition of blinkers in the Sept. 12 Kentucky Turf Cup (G3). Unfortunately, his zeal worked against him last time out in the Breeders’ Cup, where he pulled early and as a result flattened out late in sixth. Nevertheless, Arklow was beaten only 3 3/4 lengths by European star Tarnawa at Keeneland. If able to ration out his energy better for new pilot Joel Rosario, the $2.5 million-earner will make his presence felt.
Arklow, drawn in post 5, is literally surrounded by a four-strong phalanx from the Phil D’Amato barn. To his inside are Red King (post 3 with Umberto Rispoli) and Say the Word (post 4 with Flavien Prat). Red King was only ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but a return to Southern California should help. He’d previously scored in the San Juan Capistrano (G3) and upset United in the “Win and You’re In” Del Mar H. (G2). Say the Word, a new recruit for D’Amato, arrives off his new career high in the Northern Dancer Turf (G1) at Woodbine.
D’Amato’s other two runners flank Arklow on the outside. Gregorian Chant (post 6 with Ricardo Gonzalez) experiments at the 1 1/2-mile trip after a third in the Oct. 25 Lure over a mile. Acclimate (post 7 with Tyler Baze) has no stamina questions as the hero of last year’s San Juan Capistrano and Del Mar ‘Cap. But he hasn’t raced in more than a year, since his ninth in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
German highweight Laccario has appeal in his first start for Graham Motion. Previously based with Andreas Wohler, the 2019 Deutsches Derby (G1) winner was a fine second to Channel Maker in his U.S. premiere in the Oct. 3 Joe Hirsch. Manny Franco takes the reins aboard Laccario, the 126-pound co-highweight with Arklow and Say the Word.
Defending Hollywood Turf Cup champion Oscar Dominguez hasn’t won since toppling United here a year ago. In better form earlier in the season, the Richard Baltas charge exits a fifth to the same foe in the Sept. 26 John Henry Turf Championship (G2). Baltas could have as many as three chances, with last-out allowance winners North County Guy and Fivestar Lynch (an also-eligible) both pace factors. Fivestar Lynch needs a couple of defections to get in, though, as the second on the also-eligible list.
Former Baltas trainee Marckie’s Water makes his second start back from a nearly 14-month layoff for Peter Eurton. Eighth in his comeback in North County Guy’s allowance, the Cal-bred scored his signature win in last summer’s Charles Whittingham (G2).
Another Mystery, third in the John Henry, enters on the upswing for Michael McCarthy. The 4-year-old homebred is out of Team Block’s prolific mare Ioya Two, the dam of four stakes winners including multiple Grade 3 turfiste Ioya Bigtime (a three-quarter brother to millionaire Mystery Giver, both by Dynaformer). Another Mystery is bred on similar lines, being a son of the Dynaformer stallion Temple City. His name could be a clue to his talent, and Mike Smith takes the call.
French-bred Proud Pedro was a closer fourth in the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar ‘Cap than in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry, suggesting that he’ll appreciate the extra ground. Ward ‘n Jerry excels at this trip, having missed by a neck here last year at 23-1 and won the San Luis Rey (G3) back in March. His ensuing form at other distances isn’t as encouraging, but the 1 1/2 miles could be key.
The first also-eligible, Tartini, makes his debut for Mark Glatt. (Note that he is cross-entered to the Seabiscuit H. [G2] on Saturday.) The winner of his last pair for Jack Carava, the George Strawbridge-bred had shown a bit of form early on when third in the 2017 Lingfield Derby Trial before losing his way. As a Giant’s Causeway half-brother to such major performers as Lucarno, Flying Officer, and Thought Worthy, Tartini could still make good. Another half-brother, Corelli, was third in the July 18 United Nations (G1).