JC / Railbird

Del Mar

Pharoah Planning

American Pharoah worked three furlongs in :36.40 at Santa Anita on Monday (photo) and negotiations re: his next race are ongoing. Monmouth Park wants the Triple Crown winner for the Haskell on August 2. Owner Ahmed Zayat wants a few things too if he’s going to commit:

Earlier Monday, word from the track was that they were still waiting for direction from Zayat as to whether he wanted them to increase the Haskell purse or put together some kind of lucrative package for winning multiple races, including the Haskell and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

That’s not what Zayat’s looking for, however, and he said he indicated that in a conference call with Monmouth Park leadership last week.

“I want to make it a festival,” he said. “Where it’s best for the prestige of this horse. Something that is appropriate for a Triple Crown winner. I want to excite the fans. I want to make it a festival that they will always remember. A great day for the sport. And whoever is going to deliver that, that’s what’s good for me. That’s where I’m going to go. That was my message to them.”

And what about Del Mar, where the colt will be training this summer?

… officials are trying to come up with a plan on how to deal with having racing’s superstar housed on the backstretch. Baffert made it clear that the colt is getting back to work, and surely Del Mar will respect those wishes. At Del Mar, it’s almost certain there won’t be nearly the fuss made over the colt’s arrival as there was at Santa Anita, where he was welcomed back as a conquering hero by adoring fans, TV stations and every form of media. As much as Del Mar would like to see it, this won’t be Cigar coming in for the 1996 Pacific Classic. Talk about a zoo.

All Del Mar can hope for is that American Pharoah’s scheduled works will be announced ahead of time to allow San Diego’s horse racing fans to attend them in the morning as they did for California Chrome last year.

If you’re not already planning to be there August 22, don’t rush to book a trip.


Dullahan has three wins in 12 starts, all in Grade 1 races, and all on Polytrack. It’s enough to conclude that the 2012 Pacific Classic winner is a Poly-monster. But, looking at recent photos of the burly Dale Romans trainee, I’m not so sure that Dullahan hasn’t just matured into an omni-monster, effective on any track surface. At this stage of his career, which includes in-the-money finishes in turf and dirt stakes, why pigeonhole him?

Addendum: Jennie Rees has a story up about Romans’ stellar year, in which she asks him whether Dullahan is a Poly-specialist: “Yeah … [b]ut that doesn’t mean he can’t do other things … his form definitely moves up on Polytrack. But he can compete on other surfaces. I still believe he can at a high level. How high, I’m not sure.” Very interesting. If Dullahan stays sound through his 4-year-old season, it should be fun to find out.

Meetings Taken

Santa Anita and Del Mar executives recently met with horseplayers to discuss the January 1 takeout increase and other concerns. Art Wilson reports:

A HANA-backed boycott of California races is believed to be a factor in Santa Anita’s declining handle numbers this meet. HANA president Jeff Platt and the group’s California representative, Roger Way, met with Santa Anita president George Haines and Allen Gutterman, the track’s marketing director, on Sunday at Santa Anita and with Del Mar president Craig Fravel and marketing director Craig Dado on Monday … Aaron Vercruysse, hired recently by the Thoroughbred Owners of California to advise the group on betting matters, attended Sunday’s meeting …

The meetings are evidence that horseplayers, as represented by HANA, have gained the clout to compel conversation about customer issues. And while conversation isn’t action of the sort that’s going to end the players’ boycott, it is a start, one that went over well with Andy Asaro, a California horseplayer who attended both meetings. I talked with Asaro last night and he was positive about the discussions, describing the Santa Anita and Del Mar executives as “very interested” in the bettors’ perspective and open to making adjustments. He was less appreciative of the TOC, represented by Vercruysse. Although Asaro found Vercruysse pleasant and knowledgeable, he felt his presence was perfunctory. “He was there for the TOC to be able to say they talked to us,” said Asaro, suggesting that wasn’t enough. “They need to show goodwill.”

1/31/11 Addendum: HANA president Jeff Platt answers questions about the meetings. Noted: “However, I think there might be at least partial support at this point within track management to rescind the takeout increase. I say that because they reached out to us. They are looking for solutions.”

Checking In

with the 2-year-olds I’m following. Smash, an impressive first-out winner at Hollywood in July, hasn’t worked since July and has had some “setbacks,” trainer Bob Baffert told Steve Andersen. “Some of them got down [to Del Mar] and had setbacks. I didn’t want to push them.” The Smart Strike colt could be sent to Belmont for the fall meet. Trainer Rick Violette reports that Sovereign Default, expected to start in Monday’s Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, is injured and out indefinitely. Typhoon Slew, coming off a nice grass win at Ellis Park earlier this summer, finished third in the With Anticipation Stakes on Friday. The race was won by Soldat, switching from dirt to turf and exiting a second to Wine Police in a Saratoga maiden special last month. “When I asked him at the quarter-pole, whoosh! He really took off,” said rider Alan Garcia. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the colt could start next in the Pilgrim Breeders’ Cup at Belmont in October and would point to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Much praise for Uncle Mo from Dick Powell: “He was remarkable … anyone that was here that day might say years from now, ‘I was there the day that Uncle Mo broke his maiden.'” If the Debutante at Del Mar holds up, next year’s top 3-year-old filly could be a Californian. The 12-horse race came up tough.

← Before