In the minds of Wallace Dollase and Russell Baze, justice was served in the $300,000 Del Mar Derby.
Although he crossed the wire second, three lengths behind Tight Spot, Itsallgreektome was moved up to first after a lengthy stewards’ inquiry in the meeting’s top race for 3-year-olds.
Breaking inside only entrymate Silver Ending in the 10-horse field, Tight Spot, ridden by Laffit Pincay, came in shortly after the start, tightening up those behind him and causing severe interference. However, some observers felt Pro For Sure, who finished fourth and was later moved up to third, might have been more responsible for the problems. Tight Spot, who was seeking his third win in as many grass starts, was placed last.
Getting the worst of the whole mess were Super Abound, who was in from Chicago, and Itsallgreektome.
“It was every bit as bad as it looked,” said Russell Baze, who took over on Itsallgreektome after it was determined Corey Nakatani’s broken hand wasn’t strong enough for him to ride.
“I was in terrible trouble. I don’t know how my horse and (Super Abound) stayed up. I was very surprised to see him finish the way he did after that. He’s got more heart than any other horse I’ve ever ridden.
“He grabbed himself high on the right leg during the crowding. Plus, he bobbled again at the quarter pole for no reason.”
Dollase, who had seen Itsallgreektome fall a nose short of Tight Spot in the mishap-free La Jolla Handicap two weeks before, couldn’t believe the sophomore was able to overcome so much.
“I don’t want to say I ran the best horse in here,” he said. “I don’t want to do that. Oh, heck, Yes, I do. Did you see what this horse went through? And then to come on and run like that?
“Russell told me he couldn’t believe how he came back and started running again after what had happened to him. He almost went down. I’ll tell you we’ve had our fair share of bad luck with this horse. But, he’s all racehorse. He runs and runs.”
The 4-1 second choice, Itsallgreektome now has three wins in five outings on the turf and he’s never been worse than third. He finished almost two lengths in front of Predecessor, the longest shot in the field at 35-1 who wound up with second money.
Even though he was unbeaten on the grass, Tight Spot was the lesser-regarded half of the Ron McAnally-trained entry, which went off favored at 11-10. Silver Ending was considered the stronger of the two colts, but he never threatened and finished fifth (moved up to fourth by the disqualification).
Narrowly able to hold in the shorter La Jolla, Tight Spot controlled things on the lead, which lately has been the place to be on the Del Mar grass, and he came away in the final furlong.
Although he was surprised when he heard there was an inquiry, Laffit Pincay wasn’t ready to quarrel with the decision.
“He was coming in, but I thought I was clear,” he said. “I was coming in, but I was coming in very slow. I was following Alex (Solis, Pro For Sure’s rider). Usually, nothing happens, but I guess there were too many horses inside. It wasn’t anything careless.
“When I heard Solis holler, I went out, but I guess it was too late.”
Silver Ending, who had worked well over the course Thursday, didn’t seem to care for it Sunday, according to Eddie Delahoussaye, who opted for the son of Silver Hawk over Tight Spot.
“He was trying to get out all the way,” he said. “The turf was a little soft for him. It was too moist. It didn’t seem as soft the other day. He was bobbling and never actually got into the race. He wants something a little firmer. I think he would have run better if the turf was like it was early in the meeting.”
Randy Romero, who flew in to ride Super Abound, was delighted to be going home in one piece.
“I don’t know how I didn’t go over the fence,” he said. “My whole body was over the other side of the fence. It happened so fast, I was ready to kiss my ass goodby. It’s a shame he didn’t get a chance to run, because he is the best horse in the Midwest.”
Before he rides again, Pat Valenzuela will have to meet with the Del Mar stewards.
Scheduled to ride Sunny Blossom in Saturday’s $350,000 Frank DeFrancis at Pimlico, Valenzuela called in sick, forcing trainer Ed Gregson to scramble for a jockey.
In light of Valenzuela’s history, the immediate suspicion is that the absence was somehow related to drugs. The 27-year-old rider, who led the standings at Hollywood Park and is well on his way to the title here, was suspended for 60 days late last year after testing positive for cocaine.
Valenzuela’s agent, Bob Meldahl, said the jockey was due to arrive from Maryland Sunday. “He had a viral infection and will see a doctor as soon as he gets back,” he said. “I took him off all his mounts today because I figured if he was too sick to ride in a $350,000 race Saturday, he wouldn’t be able to ride yet today.
“Patrick had been feeling very tired the last few days. He took a nap in his hotel Saturday morning and was sick and throwing up when he woke up. He did the right things and called the stewards there to tell them he was sick.
“Right away, everybody wants to think the worst, and (with Valenzuela’s past), that’s bound to happen.”
David Samuel said Sunday afternoon that he and fellow stewards Hubert Jones and Mort Lipton hadn’t been contacted by Valenzuela. “His agent told us Patrick’s going to see his doctor tomorrow, he’s going to get a letter from him, then he’s going to talk to us,” said Samuel. “We have our concerns and the stewards in Maryland also expressed theirs.”
Samuel also said the rider, who won four races Friday before he left for Maryland, will be required to take a drug test before he can ride again. Named on eight horses today, Valenzuela was taken off his mounts Sunday. He is scheduled to ride four on Wednesday.
Proving once again her fondness for Del Mar, Hot Novel dominated her eight rivals in the $107,875 Rancho Bernardo Breeders’ Cup Handicap Sunday.
With Kent Desormeaux aboard, the 4-year-old Mari’s Book filly was outrun early, made a powerful move around the turn and drew off through the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
Covering the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 3/5, Hot Novel has now won three of her four starts locally and she paid $9.40 as the 7-2 third choice.
Sexy Slew, a 7-1 shot, was second, a little more than a length ahead of Down Again, the longest shot in the field at 21-1. Wayne Lukas’ three-horse entry of Saratoga Chill, Plume Poppy and San Rama was favored at 7-5, but they ran sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Unbeaten in three previous outings, Saratoga Chill was pulled up just past the wire by Gary Stevens and had to be vanned off the track.
“The race came up just the way we hoped it would,” said Desormeaux. “I was passing those horses one by one and every time she went past one, it pumped her up more. She ran great.”
Any doubts about Cee’s Tizzy strictly being a sprinter were laid to rest Sunday.
Thirteen days after missing Del Mar’s track record for six furlongs by a fifth of a second, the 3-year-old Relaunch colt barely missed equaling the mile mark.
Winning for the third time in five starts, the 4-5 favorite completed the mile in 1:33 2/5, a fifth off Precisionist’s two-year-old record. En route, he set very fast fractions--21 2/5, 44 flat and 1:08 3/5 for six furlongs.
Horse Racing Notes
Bill Shoemaker turned 59 Sunday. . . . Double Wedge and Reluctant Guest, who finished 1-2 in Saturday’s Ramona Handicap, will probably meet again in the $500,000 Beverly D. Sept. 1 at Arlington Park. The future of Brown Bess, who finished fifth as the 2-1 favorite in the Ramona, is uncertain, but she’ll go back to Bay Meadows Tuesday. “My gut feeling is that a combination of weight and age is catching up with her,” trainer Chuck Jenda said. “Weight’s a little more significant with her because she’s such a small mare. She never had a chance to save much ground (Saturday) and was beaten by five lengths. . . . “