Two graded grass stakes – both at a mile and one-eighth out of the track’s unique angled infield chute – will highlight an 11-race card scheduled for at Del Mar on Sept. 4 – the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Derby and the Grade 2, $200,000 John C. Mabee Stakes.
The Saturday program will have a first post a half hour earlier than normal – 1:30 p.m. PT instead of 2 p.m. – and that will be the case also with Sunday’s and Monday’s cards during the Labor Day weekend.
The Derby has drawn 14 runners and is for 3-year-olds as the culminating event in the track’s turf triple for sophomores.
The Leonard Powell-trained Flashiest headlines the Del Mar Derby and is back at the track where the 3-year-old gelded son of Mizzen Mast was last seen winning the Oceanside Stakes.
Powell said he’s prepared to forget Flashiest’s last race – an 11th-place finish in the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1) on Aug. 7.
“The Saratoga trip didn’t work out as we had planned, definitely not,” Powell said. “Maybe if he had run better at Saratoga we would have stayed back east. But when he didn’t perform very well back there, coming back here was the back-up plan. So we’ll see.”
Flashiest closed from sixth place, making up nearly four lengths, to win by a head under Abel Cedillo in the one-mile Oceanside on July 16. It was his third win in four starts and came at odds of nearly 13-1.
Cedillo, one-for-one aboard Flashiest, will be back in the irons for the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby. Sword Zorro (IRE), Zoffarelli (IRE), and Hudson Ridge, the 1-2-3 finisher in the second-leg La Jolla Stakes, at 1 1/16 miles are all entered as part of a capacity field of 14 on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
“The biggest obstacle will be the post, 14 out of 14,” Powell said. “But the horse is doing well so we’ll just hope to make the best out of it.”
The Mabee has drawn nine fillies and mares for its 64th running and it, too, appears to be the kind of race where contention runs deep. LNJ Foxwoods’ Dogtag has been made a slight 3-1 favorite over Slam Dunk Racing, Stable Currency and Branham’s Maxim Rate at 7-2.
Dogtag is on a streak of three straight runner-up finishes having earned place money in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine in April, the Possibly Perfect in June at Santa Anita, and the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 7. The margins ranged from a head to a length and a quarter.
“She’s run well, she just doesn’t seem to have a lot of luck in her races,” said trainer Richard Mandella, who will also saddle Tapwater in the race.