There are no guaranteed winners in the unpredictable science of thoroughbred horse breeding, but when a stallion mates with 21-year-old Blending Element, it's almost an odds-on bet that a winner will be produced.
She has produced eight winners out of eight offspring that have made it to the races, including five stakes winners. One of her most promising prospects is the 3-year-old Texas Ryano, a son of Curlin who makes his stakes debut Thursday in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes at one mile on the turf on opening day of Del Mar's summer meeting.
The 10-race Del Mar card is expected to produce a crowd of more than 40,000 for the 10th consecutive year, continuing a tradition of creating a party atmosphere that brings out college students en masse and features patrons wearing colorful hats of all shapes and sizes.
Del Mar is unveiling a new turf course that will allow maximum fields of 12 horses. This is also the final year of its synthetic main track surface, with Del Mar switching to dirt in 2015 in preparation for hosting the Breeders' Cup in 2017.
The featured race during the summer meeting is the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 24.
Opening day also marks the return of jockey Rafael Bejarano, who has been sidelined since May after breaking his collarbone and suffering rib and shoulder injuries in a spill at Santa Anita.
The Oceanside Stakes offers a chance to watch Texas Ryano, who has won two of his three starts while charging from behind and unleashing a powerful stretch kick. Trained by Carla Gaines, Texas Ryano is showing signs of a bright future.
"He's a very nice horse," Gaines said. "He won at a mile in softer company, but that was his first experience in racing. He was so far out of it, 15, 20 lengths. We were genuinely lucky getting a good pace up front. It's his style to take a while to unwind and he has a furious kick.
"I'm hoping the addition of the new turf course that appears to be more banked with wider, broader turns is going to assist a horse like him going a mile so he can get going at the appropriate time."
Gaines has been the beneficiary of Blending Element's sons and daughters. She helped purchase Blending Element in Ireland for owner Warren Williamson. Blending Element won eight of 20 starts, but her real success has been as a broodmare.
This year alone, three of Blending Element's sons — Texas Ryano, the 4-year-old Arcane and the 6-year-old American Blend — have won races. And there's more to come. She has a 2-year-old colt by Smart Strike, a weanling by Awesome Again and is in foal to Tiznow, the horse of the year in 2000. Among her offspring were the stakes-winning mares Tiz Elemental and Tiz A Blend and stakes winners Holladay Road and War Element.
"She has been an amazing broodmare for our family," said Henry Williamson, Warren's son.
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