Horse racing newsletter: A different Del Mar opening day

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will have a different look for opening day.
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will have a different look for opening day. There were be no fans, owners aren’t allowed in and there will be no winner’s circle ceremonies.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter, as we get ready for a major CHRB meeting over the fate of Los Alamitos.

It’s quite a day in Southern California racing: One track opens and another, just maybe, will be temporarily shut down.

The day will start at around 9:30 a.m. when the California Horse Racing Board has called an emergency meeting to see if Los Alamitos should be allowed to continue racing in the wake of horse deaths. Since May 26, nine horses have died as the result of racing and training at the Orange County track, bringing the total to 21 since the season started on Dec. 27.


This will be the first meeting called under expanded powers given to the CHRB by the state legislature last year after the rise in deaths at Santa Anita. Before SB 469, the CHRB would have to give 10 days’ public notice before it could hold a meeting regarding the suspension of a racing license. Now, it can be done on a day’s notice. You can read a lot more about this. Just click here.

Because of this, we are going to delay our weekend Los Alamitos preview by the incomparable Orlando Gutierrez by a day. But we have Chris Wade’s pick.

As for Del Mar, things start there at 2 p.m. We would probably be doing a lot more on the opening, but this is the craziest of years. I won’t be at Del Mar on Friday, but some of our friends at the San Diego Union-Tribune will be, so we’ll be calling on their expertise to carry us through this summer.

Still, we have exciting news for newsletter readers. We are going to have two handicappers this Del Mar meeting. There will be Ciaran Thornton, who has been doing Santa Anita and Los Alamitos for us, but we are also bringing back veteran Bob Ike, who has done Del Mar (and Santa Anita) for us in the past. They will not know what the other is picking, but it will be fun when they both pick the same horse. It will happen. I promise.

Want to know what to expect as far as safety? Check out last week’s column from the U-T’s Bryce Miller . Just click here.

On to the good stuff.

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Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Triple Crown trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the preeminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of


“Swiss Skydiver, coming off a sparkling victory in the Santa Anita Oaks, will try to make history Saturday at Keeneland, when the talented filly takes on the boys in the 96th running of the Blue Grass Stakes.

“The Blue Grass is normally held in the spring, but the 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds has been shifted to the summer this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The first four finishers in the Blue Grass will be rewarded with points toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-20-10 basis. Swiss Skydiver currently does not have any Kentucky Derby points. But if she wins the Blue Grass, her connections will have the option of running her either in the Run for the Roses or the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks.

“Longtime Keeneland oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has pegged Swiss Skydiver as the Blue Grass morning-line favorite at 3-1. Art Collector and Southern California-based Rushie are co-second choices at 5-1.


“Mainly in reaction to Swiss Skydiver’s status as the morning-line favorite in the Blue Grass, she debuts at No. 8 in my Kentucky Derby rankings this week. Whether she stays or goes from the rankings next week will, of course, depend on how she fares Saturday.

“No filly has ever won the Blue Grass. In fact, Swiss Skydiver will be only the second filly to try, the other being Hattie Sue, who finished fifth in the 1944 edition won by Skytracer.

“Swiss Skydiver has reeled off three consecutive victories. She won the Gulfstream Park Oaks by 3¼ lengths on March 28, the Fantasy Stakes by 2½ lengths at Oaklawn Park on May 1, then the Santa Anita Oaks by four lengths on June 6.

Kenny McPeek trains Swiss Skydiver, a Kentucky-bred Daredevil filly. Speaking of Daredevil, Shedaresthedevil, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by that sire, won Wednesday’s Indiana Oaks by four lengths at Indiana Grand.


“McPeek is running Envoutante in the Ashland Stakes, which will also be Saturday at Keeneland and is for 3-year-old fillies. Swiss Skydiver no doubt would have been a heavy favorite in the Ashland. One reason Swiss Skydiver is in the Blue Grass instead of the Ashland is McPeek, who generally does not like to run more than one horse in a race, has Envoutante in the Ashland.

“SoCal-based Venetian Harbor, trained by Richard Baltas, is the Ashland morning-line favorite at 6-5. Speech, who like Rushie is a member of trainer Michael McCarthy’s SoCal stable, is the 2-1 second choice. Bonny South and Envoutante are each 5-1.

“Another reason McPeek decided to go ahead and give Swiss Skydiver a chance to vanquish males in the Blue Grass is the filly’s weight advantage. Swiss Skydiver carries 118 pounds, while the weight for everyone else is 123 pounds.

“As for McPeek boldly seeking to win Saturday’s Blue Grass with a filly, he was quoted by Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee as saying: ‘This already has been one of the weirdest years ever. Might as well add to it.’


“Art Collector, like Swiss Skydiver, is taking a three-race winning streak into the Blue Grass, though they were all allowance/optional claiming contests. Trained by Tom Drury Jr., the Kentucky-bred Bernardini colt is coming off a 6½-length victory June 13 at Churchill Downs at 1 1/16 miles in a splendid 1:41.35.

“Rushie has won two of five career starts. In his most recent appearance under silks, the Florida-bred Liam’s Map colt finished third behind Honor A.P. and Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby on June 6. Honor A.P. and Authentic are No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in my Kentucky Derby rankings.

“Honor A.P., trained by John Shirreffs, makes his next start in Del Mar’s 1 1/16-mile Shared Belief Stakes on Aug. 1. The Shared Belief offers 50-20-10-5 points toward the Kentucky Derby.

“The Bob Baffert-trained Authentic is headed to the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 18. The Haskell is worth 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby points.


“Monmouth has nine listed at this time as ‘probable’ for the Haskell. In addition to Authentic and Belmont Stakes runner-up Dr Post, they are Ancient Warrior, Ete Indien, Fame to Famous, Jesus’ Team, Lebda, Ny Traffic and Sonneman. Modernist and Mystic Guide are considered possibilities.

“Tiz the Law, No. 2 in my Kentucky Derby rankings, runs next in the Saratoga’s Runhappy Travers Stakes at 1¼ miles Aug. 8 for trainer Barclay Tagg. A New York-bred Constitution colt, Tiz the Law is three for three this year, highlighted by victories in the Florida Derby on March 28 and Belmont Stakes on June 20.

“Uncle Chuck, No. 5 in my rankings, is now two for two after he won last Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Los Alamitos Derby by four lengths. That performance netted him 20 Kentucky Derby points.

“A Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt, Uncle Chuck won a one-mile maiden race by seven lengths when unveiled at Santa Anita on June 12. Uncle Chuck provided Baffert with his fourth straight and 10th overall victory in the Los Alamitos Derby, a race previously known as the Swaps Stakes when run at Hollywood Park.


“Also earning 20 Kentucky Derby points Wednesday was Shared Sense for his four-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand. Brad Cox trains the Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt. Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

“Godolphin races Shared Sense, who is not Triple Crown-nominated at this time. Shared Sense can be made eligible to the Kentucky Derby with a $45,000 supplementary payment at the time of entry. Godolphin had a leading Kentucky Derby contender earlier this year in Matt Winn Stakes winner Maxfield. However, Maxfield is on the shelf after emerging from a four-furlong workout in :49.00 on June 10 at Keeneland with a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone.

“In another race Wednesday with possible Kentucky Derby ramifications, favored Cafe Pharoah finished seventh in the Japan Dirt Derby at Tokyo Racecourse. The Japan Dirt Derby was the final race in that country’s Kentucky Derby qualifying-points series.

“Despite the loss, Cafe Pharoah’s first in four career starts, he still leads the Japan leaderboard for the Kentucky Derby with 70 points. A Kentucky-bred colt whose sire is 2015 American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Cafe Pharoah could have had excuses for his defeat Wednesday in that the track was muddy and the race was run under lights. He still might go to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. Nevertheless, now that his bubble of invincibility has been burst, Cafe Pharoah exits my Kentucky Derby rankings this week after being No. 7 last week.


“It turned out to be a different American Pharoah colt, Danon Pharoah, who won the Japan Dirt Derby by 1¾ lengths and collected 40 Kentucky Derby points in the process. This was Danon Pharoah’s third win in eight lifetime starts. If Cafe Pharoah does not go to the Kentucky Derby, Danon Pharoah now is next on the Japan leaderboard with 40 points.

“Here are this week’s rankings for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Honor A.P. (1)

2. Tiz the Law (2)


3. Authentic (3)

4. Dr Post (4)

5. Uncle Chuck (5)

6. Cezanne (6)


7. Max Player (8)

8. Swiss Skydiver (NR)

9. Art Director (9)

10. Rushie (10)


NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Del Mar preview

This summer, Del Mar will race Friday through Sunday starting at 2 p.m. There will be extra races every day. If things go as planned, Del Mar will only lose a handful of races compared to last year when it ran five days a week. Friday’s opener has 10 races with four of them on the turf.

If it’s opening day, I don’t have to tell you what the featured stakes race is — the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds going a mile on the turf. Hit the Road is the 7-2 morning-line favorite for trainer Dan Blacker and jockey Umberto Rispoli. He is three-of-six lifetime and coming off an allowance win at Santa Anita. He won the Zuma Beach last year before finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

The second favorite, at 4-1, is El Tigre Terrible for Peter Miller and Flavien Prat. He is coming off a second in the Desert Code after winning the Speakeasy, both ungraded stakes. He, also, has won three-of-six lifetime. Picking up Prat is always a positive.


I mentioned the morning line twice, and it should be noted that longtime oddsmaker Russ Hudak has retired. Russ is a gem of a guy, and I will miss him educating me on racing whenever we would chat. The L.A. Times press box space was right next to the clockers, where Russ hung out during racing. All the best to Russ in his well-deserved retirement. The new guy is John Lies, who is no lightweight himself, and, after he gets the hang of it, should be top shelf.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 8, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 8, 12, 11.

Bob Ike’s DM pick

SEVENTH RACE: No. 3 Tonahutu (8-1)

In a race loaded with early speed, I look for a late-runner to win this one-mile turf race for allowance/optional claimers. Claimed out of a winning effort for $32,000 last time by Doug O’Neill, this older mare gets a confident class hike, can pack a wicked late kick and has run very well over the Del Mar course in the past.


Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here’s a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Ciaran Thornton’s DM pick

RACE FOUR: No. 1 Jungle Roar (12-1)

Jungle Roar is 12-1 for trainer Jeff Mullins who is winning 40% second-time grass. This trainer is also winning 23% second time routing. My point here is this is when, and the type of race, that Mullins shines with his horses. ‘Roar has as much speed as the top choices in this race, a race where I feel the favorite is very beatable.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full-card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day. (Of course, that’s when there is racing.)


Chris Wade’s LA pick

RACE FOUR: No. 1 No Bullying (7-2)

He improved immensely on my charts against tougher competition in his second career start 40 nights ago while earning a figure that compares favorably in this event Friday. In that race, the gelding broke a tad slow and inward to lose ground and his early racing momentum. After the tough start, No Bullying finished better than looked for fourth while under a slight hold nearing the wire. He matches nicely with this group and runs for a solid jockey/trainer (17%) combo.

A final thought

I love getting new readers of this newsletter, and you certainly can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, you’re probably not reading this.

Either way, send this along to a friend, and just have them click here to sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email address, nothing more.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.


Del Mar Entries for Friday, July 10.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar, California. $2 Win, Place and Show; $1 Exacta, $2 Quinella, 50-cent Trifecta, $2 Rolling Double, 50-cent rolling Pick 3; 10-cent Superfecta; 50-cent Pick 4 last 4 races; 50-cent Players Pick 5 first 5 races; $2 Pick 6 last 6 races; $1 Place Pick All; $1 Super High Five last race. Trifecta needs 4 betting interests; Superfecta needs 6. 1st day of a 28-day meet.


1 Mile. Purse: $23,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Camino de EstrellaJorge Velez123Steve Knapp5-116,000
2Spanish HombreEdwin Maldonado121Craig Dollase10-116,000
3Treasure HunterAlexis Centeno111Craig Dollase15-116,000
4Secret TouchUmberto Rispoli121Peter Eurton7-216,000
5Fire When ReadyJose Valdivia, Jr.121Robert B. Hess, Jr.9-216,000
6Wilshire DudeRuben Fuentes121Kristin Mulhall8-116,000
7El HuerfanoAbel Cedillo121Vladimir Cerin3-116,000
8Blame It On KittyFlavien Prat121Doug F. O'Neill5-116,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Seaside DancerAbel Cedillo122Peter Miller9-2
2Aqua Seaform ShameRuben Fuentes120Richard Baltas3-1
3Rakassah Flavien Prat120Philip D'Amato5-2
4Road RagerUmberto Rispoli124Brian J. Koriner7-2
5Mean SophiaRicardo Gonzalez120Peter Miller8-1
6Samskara Drayden Van Dyke124Neil D. Drysdale4-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Candy FuryJorge Velez121Victor L. Garcia12-1
2GarthFlavien Prat121Bob Baffert2-1
3Midnight MysteryDrayden Van Dyke124Bob Baffert3-1
4CharlitoUmberto Rispoli124Richard E. Mandella5-2
5RayrayAbel Cedillo124Mark Glatt4-1
6Dynamic DuoJerick Ello114Daniel Franko20-1
7Notre DameHeriberto Figueroa121Doug F. O'Neill15-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Jungle RoarEswan Flores121Jeff Mullins12-1
2Table for TenAbel Cedillo125Philip D'Amato3-1
3FravelJorge Velez125Richard E. Mandella5-1
4Hammering LemonMario Gutierrez121Doug F. O'Neill15-1
5Cali CalienteRuben Fuentes125J. Eric Kruljac6-1
6El Diablo RojoHeriberto Figueroa121Craig Anthony Lewis15-1
7Tropical TerrorTiago Pereira121James M. Cassidy9-5
8GambiniAgapito Delgadillo121Jeff Mullins6-1


1 Mile. Purse: $31,000. Starter Allowance. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Claim of PassionAbel Cedillo123Philip D'Amato6-1
2Polar WindEvin Roman119Clifford W. Sise, Jr.8-1
3Mongolian HeroJuan Hernandez123Juan Leyva10-1
4Bud KnightGeovanni Franco125Leonard Powell4-1
5Mongolian LegendRuben Fuentes125Enebish Ganbat8-1
6Dia de PagoJose Valdivia, Jr.123Vladimir Cerin8-1
7ZorichUmberto Rispoli123Mark Glatt5-1
8RonamoFlavien Prat125Philip D'Amato5-2
9Show BusinessTiago Pereira119Steve Knapp20-1


5 Furlongs. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Taming the TigressFlavien Prat121Peter Miller3-1
2Super GameJuan Hernandez121Brian J. Koriner4-1
3Miz Lola La DareAaron Gryder121Patricia Harrington8-1
4Valentine GhostTiago Pereira121Daniel Dunham12-1
5SmoothlikebuttahAbel Cedillo121Steve Knapp7-2
6Big AndyAgapito Delgadillo121Blake R. Heap5-1
7Jerseys Big GirlJerick Ello111Daniel Franko30-1
8Luxury LinerRicardo Gonzalez121Steven Miyadi10-1
9RighteouslyMario Gutierrez121Edward R. Freeman15-1
10Warrens Candy GirlJorge Velez121Craig Anthony Lewis20-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $53,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Ellie ArrowayVictor Espinoza123Juan Leyva6-1
2She's Our CharmBrice Blanc121Ronald L. McAnally12-1
3Tonahutu Geovanni Franco121Doug F. O'Neill8-162,500
4Pulpit RiderJuan Hernandez121Mike Puype7-2
5Maxim RateUmberto Rispoli121Simon Callaghan5-1
6Zee DropAbel Cedillo121Philip D'Amato8-1
7Great ReturnDrayden Van Dyke121Richard E. Mandella5-2
8Strike At DawnFlavien Prat121Richard Baltas6-1


7 Furlongs. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1AppreciatedTiago Pereira124Rafael Becerra12-1
2Dreams of ValorEdwin Maldonado124Craig Dollase5-1
3Silken PrinceGeovanni Franco124Matthew Chew6-1
4Sash Flavien Prat124Mark Glatt8-5
5AllevaAbel Cedillo124Doug F. O'Neill12-1
6Lightning FastAgapito Delgadillo120William Spawr15-1
7St. Joe BayVictor Espinoza124Juan Leyva3-140,000
8Make It a TripleJuan Hernandez124Daniel Azcarate8-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $100,000. 'Runhappy Oceanside Stakes'. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Rookie MistakeMario Gutierrez120Doug F. O'Neill15-1
2El Tigre TerribleFlavien Prat120Peter Miller4-1
3HowbeitEvin Roman120Doug F. O'Neill30-1
4I'm Leaving YouGeovanni Franco120Vann Belvoir30-1
5KanderelJuan Hernandez122Richard E. Mandella12-1
6K P All Systems GoAbel Cedillo122Jeff Mullins6-1
7Hit the RoadUmberto Rispoli124Dan Blacker7-2
8TizamagicianVictor Espinoza118Richard E. Mandella6-1
9AjourneytofreedomRicardo Gonzalez120Blaine D. Wright15-1
10SilardiRuben Fuentes120Peter Miller8-1
11Heywoods BeachJose Valdivia, Jr.120Juan Leyva12-1
12Margot's BoyDrayden Van Dyke122Craig Anthony Lewis8-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $20,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tobacco RoadRicardo Gonzalez125Kristin Mulhall15-120,000
2Seven OxenEswan Flores125Cesar DeAlba20-120,000
3Unbridled's SkyeAaron Gryder125Mike Puype12-120,000
4Artie B GoodJorge Velez125Steve Knapp20-120,000
5JuliusHeriberto Figueroa125Doug F. O'Neill3-120,000
6Red ValorDrayden Van Dyke125Val Brinkerhoff12-120,000
7Little No WayJuan Hernandez125Alfredo Marqu Casillas6-120,000
8Dark HedgesUmberto Rispoli125Mark Glatt9-220,000
9Knifes EdgeMario Gutierrez122George Papaprodromou15-120,000
10Castle GateAbel Cedillo125Jeff Mullins7-220,000
11Jen Go UnchainedEvin Roman125Rafael Becerra8-120,000