by Umberto Rispoli
Saturday 31st July – Bing Crosby Stakes, Del Mar
It was such a shame to be touched off aboard Smooth Like Strait in last weekend’s feature race, where we had to give best inside the final furlong to a powerful late run from a rejuvenated United who was recording back-to-back victories in the Eddie Reed. Although his front-running style will always leave him potentially vulnerable to a fast-finisher, I feel we got the tactics and pace about right, we just couldn’t quite give the weight away to United.
Of course, I would be very confident of reversing positions, considering we were conceding 4lbs to the winner over an unfavoured nine furlongs. Eight furlongs is definitely Smooth’s optimum trip, and we’ll see him put to that effect next time out, whether his trainer Mike McCarthy keeps him local for the Del Mar Mile, or we journey to contest another huge pot in Kentucky.
In any case, I can happily report that Smooth has come out of the race well and continues to thrive at home, ahead of bigger battles and the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in November. We can’t wait. As for United, while we flagged him as last week’s Danger, I must admit I was slightly surprised at how quickly he bounced back to top form. At least until connections revealed post-race that there was an issue with his feed and a twisted shoe previously. That’s just the peaks and valleys of racing, of course, and we can’t ask for much more than two fantastic horses giving their all down the stretch. Therefore, as Mike says, we’ll simply pick up the pieces and move on to the next assignment.
Speaking of the next challenge, and just before we get stuck into this weekend’s corking double-bill in the shape of the Bing Crosby & Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, both Grade 1 tent-poles, some more thoughts on the Del Mar track itself. I’ve now ridden here over this summer’s opening two weekends, and the dirt course is bedding in nicely for this season’s schedule. As with virtually all dirt tracks stateside, outside draws are preferred, as you can pick your spot and quickly get a handle on the speed. As a result, I’m not too disappointed that my plum ride in the Bing Crosby, Quick Tempo, has drawn the five gate out of nine contenders. We’ll still look to break sharpish mind you.
Over on the turf course, as I mentioned last week, the Del Mar groundskeepers have done superb job creating a lush covering of grass which gives everyone a fair shot, even if you can already hear the hooves rattle! And with the weather set fair for clear blue skies in the mid 20s, I’m expecting few surprises from the elements. So, make no mistake, this turf is on the firm side and will only quicken up as the weekend unfolds with the culmination of this four-day meet.
Right, now on to this weekend’s main event…
Umberto’s Bing Crosby Big Race 1-2-3:
Winner: Brickyard Ride
Danger: Quick Tempo
Place: Dr Schivel
Quick Tempo – Just the one start this term, and still relatively inexperienced overall, However, be advised this is a flashy horse who is in a hurry, both on the course and powering up the sprinting ranks. Connections have given Big Tempo time to mature and progress at home and his latest piece of work was explosive. In short, I’m very happy to have secured the ride here and he could surprise many observers. Big Tempo is a pacey and consistent horse who can effortlessly adjust from his middle-draw if I can time the break correctly. His latest effort may’ve only yielding a runners-up berth, but the form of that race has worked out brilliantly in the interim. I wouldn’t put you for the places at least.
Shooters Shoot – My old pal whom I’ve deserted here in favour of Quick Tempo. While that shows the regard in which I clearly hold the latter, Shooters Shoot will run his usual game race, I just sense that he’ll be running on too late at the death here.
C Z Rocket – As I’ve already alluded, I reckon they’ll go helter-skelter from the off in this one, so the key will be making sure we don’t cut each other’s throats up front. C Z Rocket won’t probably do much to help me in that regard, and he’s my joker for the race. True, you might respond that he’s not much of a wildcard considering a wonderful-yet-tough campaign so far this year, but remember that he won’t be allowed to run on Lasix here and therein lies the rub. He seems to really appreciate that assistance so far, which is why I’ve just left him out of the frame – if a demanding campaign catches up with him it might be now, but few have better form credentials.
Brickyard Ride – it’s tough to pick a favourite in this open-looking contest. Yet, if pressed, I’d opt for Brickyard Ride who looks pretty bombproof in a race where getting on the lead could be pivotal. This horse has excellent tactical pace and great gate, not to mention all the best sectionals in recent history. I have to give him the edge.
Dr Schivel – Flavien Prat is a top-quality jockey who lets his riding to the talking, but he might as well have given us a strong recommendation himself, after jumping off Collusion Illusion in favour of Dr Schivel here. It’s a tip in itself, as I thought the former horse was not without a chance. Dr Schivel has won his last three starts and is clearly thriving around our fair local circuits at Del Mar and Santa Anita. Naturally, this represents his biggest Grade 1 task to date, and his rapid progression might be halted here. However, with Mr Prat in the plate, I expect him to be there or thereabouts at the wire.
Del Mar – Weekend Ones To Watch
The Chosen Vron (Race 6, Friday) – Definitely my best chance on Friday’s card. This imposing Cal-bred is four-from-five, having racked up a quick hat-trick of late, and I can only see him extending that trend here. He turned over the well-fancied Classier last time out, and there doesn’t seem anything of that calibre amongst his rivals here. And while he’s done all his running – and winning! – at Santa Anita, as I say, Del Mar is a very comparable test and track.
Astronomer (Race 3, Saturday) – a very likeable half-brother to Mr Impossible who I know well and am hugely fond of, this lad could be even better one day. Owned by the powerful combination of Lady Bamford and Michael Tabor, Astronomer is making all the right moves at home, and even if I fear he may be one workout sky of knowing the time of day, he’s got a lovely draw and this two-bend track shouldn’t scupper his lack of experience. The early tissue prices suggest he might go off at generous odds with some more proven sorts in opposition. However, I believe he can overcome his inexperience as the race unfolds. Keep an eye on him for his canny handler Simon Callaghan, for whom I always like to ride.
… right, that’s my lot. I’ll be back in a few weeks’ time to assess another big-race double-header in the shape of the Pacific Classic and the Del Mar Oaks towards the end of August. Until then, stay lucky!”
N.B. At the time of filing his blog, entries for Sunday’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes were yet to be finalised by Del Mar.
Umberto Rispoli – Top-Jockey
Der ehemalige zweifache italienische Champion hat weltweit auf höchstem Niveau gewonnen, von Frankreich bis Japan und Hongkong. Letztes Jahr wechselte er über den Atlantik nach Nordamerika, wo er von seiner neuen Basis in Kalifornien aus seine Liebe zum Rennreiten neu entfacht hat, wie er sagt. Die Akklimatisierung erfolgte sofort und Umberto kam sogar bis auf einen Sieg an den führenden Jockey des Sommers in Del Mar heran.