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Business blooming at Del Mar fall meet

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is already having a better-than-expected Bing Crosby meeting.

Track President and Chief Operating Officer Josh Rubinstein reported Sunday, Nov. 22, that handle figures are running 20 percent ahead of 2019 — when there were fans in the stands.

And the best is, very apparently, yet to come.

David Jerkens, Del Mar racing secretary, has labeled Saturday’s nine-race card as the best at the seaside oval “in years.”

“Outside of the Breeders’ Cups, Saturday’s card with those fields for the three stakes races is the strongest in California in a long time,” Rubinstein said.

More than two dozen horses are flying in from Eastern tracks to challenge the local stock in the seven turf stakes races over the final four days of Del Mar’s seventh fall meeting. They are being joined by three of the nation’s leading jockeys — Irad Ortiz Jr., three-time Del Mar riding champion Joel Rosario and Manny Franco.

“Right now, the average field next Saturday is 10.2 horses,” said Rubinstein. “And we won’t know about the fields for Sunday’s closing day until Thursday.

“Mike Ernst (Del Mar’s chief financial officer) and I were talking this morning about having the successful summer meeting that we did in terms of safety and results and to follow that up with this fall meeting ... it’s very rewarding.

“I think this helps set the stage for next year’s Breeders’ Cup.”

The final weekend features a pair of $300,000 Grade I stakes — Saturday’s Hollywood Derby at 11/8 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds and Sunday’s Matriarch Stakes for older fillies and mares — plus two Grade IIs and three Grade IIIs (starting with the Red Carpet Handicap on Thursday, Nov. 26.)

Three horses are flying in for both the Red Carpet and Friday’s Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup. Both those races also include a Southern California entry returning from a trip east.

Fourteen imports are entered in Saturday’s three stakes races — the Grade III Jimmy Durante, the Grade II Seabiscuit and Hollywood Derby.

Five of those imports will be racing in the 79th Hollywood Derby, which will go off as the finale of the nine-race card.

Trainer Christophe Clement has recent, two-time Grade II stakes winner Decorated Invader (Rosario) and Belmont Derby winner Gufo (Flavien Prat) in the 13-horse field. Chad Brown has entered Saratoga Derby Invitational winner — by a head over Gufo — Domestic Spending (Ortiz). Trainer George Weaver is sending Keeneland stakes winner Ever Dangerous (Victor Espinoza) and Thomas A. Bush has Grade II winner Get Smokin (Mike Smith).

Long shot wins Cary Grant

Loud Mouth, a 13-1 outsider, rallied from fourth over the last half-mile Sunday, Nov. 22, to catch Take the One O One near the wire and win the $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes by three-quarters of a length.

Favorite Galilean ran fourth in the 7-furlong sprint for older California-bred or sired horses.

“I was tracking Galilean,” said winning jockey Abel Cedillo. “When he made his move on the turn, I moved with him. Then I went by him in the stretch and went after the leader.”

“I kept experimenting to find out what and how far Loud Mouth ($28) wanted to run,” said Steve Knapp, who trains the 4-year-old for Ron Thomsen of Valley Center. “I knew this horse could run. He’s had some real questionable rides. This horse has a big heart and he’s a runner when he gets close to the lead.”

Notable

Smith rode the Bob Baffert-trained Life is Good ($2.40) to an 8-length victory in the debut of the 2-year-old son of Into Mischief. Life is Good covered the 6½ furlongs in 1:15.50.

Geovanni Franco, who snapped an 0-for-89 slump at Del Mar with a win Saturday, Nov. 21, won two more races Sunday, Nov. 22, with Roses and Candy ($8) in the third race and Derby Quest ($27) in the ninth.

Cedillo won two races Sunday, Nov. 22 — while Flavien Prat was blanked — to extend his lead in the jockey standings to eight (18-10). Umberto Rispoli is third with nine wins.

— Bill Center is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune.


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