Updated on 09/18/2011 12:31AM

Amorama a true horse for course

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Benoit & Associates
El Roblar was one of the stars of opening day, winning the second division of the Oceanside Stakes on the turf with Alex Solis aboard.

2005 Meet Diary

Wednesday, July 20

The first three main-track winners raced wide, establishing a trend that held up the first five days of racing. The outside-friendly profile was not severe enough to call a "bias," but horses racing three-wide were in the comfort zone. It would be difficult for any horse to withstand pace pressure racing inside.

Race 4 was the first on the new turf course, and N1X horses blasted one mile in 1:33.00. Fast times would be the order of the week, but the consensus among horsemen is the course has "bounce" rather than being hard as might be surmised from the times. The course also played fair - opening week horses won on the lead or rallying from the back of the pack. Race-4 winner Dealer Choice rallied from seventh.

Becrux underwent throat surgery since his dull U.S. debut June 10 at Belmont, and ran like a different horse in race 6, going wire to wire in the first division of the Oceanside for 3-year-olds on grass. Even-money Eastern Sand broke slow, was used, got rank, pressed, and sputtered. He is not easy to ride. The race was a throwout.

Bro Lo, a 2-year-old firster by In Excess, ripped five furlongs in 56.46 seconds in race 7 and earned an off-the-charts Beyer Figure of 101. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Bro Lo will run next in the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for California-breds at six furlongs. He might be worth taking a stand against on principle. When a 2-year-old earns a 101 Beyer in July, he typically regresses.

El Roblar was the star of the day. He stretched out and went to turf, cruising effortlessly in the second division of the Oceanside. Jockey Alex Solis said "he's got that big, long stride."

El Roblar can run on dirt, too. He is aiming for the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5.

Thursday, July 21

The first turf sprint of the meet (race 3) was dominated by speed, but the opening quarter-mile on the new, fast course was run in a tepid 22.25 seconds. The slow-pace race-shape all but eliminated the chances of the closers, and longshots Vino Tinto and Taver on Rush ran two-one all the way around. Third place Lady Libertine rallied from seventh in a better than looked effort. The favorite, Fire Bolt, did not like the turf, according to jockey Victor Espinoza. The Yellow Sheet did not have a clear run into the lane, but finished well for fourth in a good comeback.

Common Trust was the 2-1 favorite in race 2 when he flipped in the post parade, got loose, and was scratched. Mammoth Power was the front-running upset winner at $18.40, making his first start since being transferred to good trainer Andrew Harris.

Race 4 for $100,000 maiden-claiming 2-year-old fillies was a weak race, but third-place finisher Itty Bitty Pretty lost her chance with a slow start. She finished well, and must be followed. Second-start dropper Inverness won the race unimpressively.

Flip Flop took advantage of a rail-skimming trip to win race 7, a classified turf allowance for fillies and mares. Next stop, the Grade 2 Palomar on Sept. 3, and the dilemma is if she is as good as her perfect-trip win looks on paper. House of Fortune was "tongue-tie off" and given an aggressive ride by David Flores. She responded and finished a good second pressing the pace. She will be tough against Cal-breds Sept. 4 in the Solana Beach Handicap. The race-8 favorite was Navaja, who never found a good position and beat two horses. She is not as bad as this makes her look.

Friday, July 22

Graded stakes winner Hasty Kris was the best horse in race 2, a N3X/optional $125,000 claiming race, but was ignored in the betting and drifted up from 5-2 on the line to 4-1. He got the pressing trip from the outside that has been so effective, and won clear. Runner-up Smoocher was claimed for a Del Mar record $125,000. Trainer Dan Hendricks outshook Mike Machowsky and Doug O'Neill.

Victor Espinoza may be becoming an improved turf jockey. His ride on race-3 winner Noble Masterpeice was a gem. Noble Masterpiece rallied three-wide into the lane, and could have kicked away turning for home, but he kept a firm hold on his mount in order to keep 6-5 favorite Golden Rahy buried inside. Because Espinoza rode with patience, he compromised his rival's chances, and won by a 1 1/2 lengths.

Sea to See was 5-2 in the betting when scratched three minutes to post for being unsound in the left front. It was the third Mike Mitchell trainee in two weeks that jockey Tyler Baze has scratched in the post parade. In race 4, Aspiring Summer hopped in the air and broke last in the six-furlong sprint. He finished eighth, but galloped out in front of the field. He is trained by Bill Spawr, whose Excess Taxes won the race at $12.40. The 9-5 favorite Crowning Victory ran awful without a visible excuse.

After three tough races at Hollywood Park, race 5 favorite Smile N Wildcat came unraveled at even-money. He also was forced to duel along the inside, which is not the winning ticket here. Smile N Wildcat finished up the track and was claimed by Bob Hess Jr. in a 14-way shake. The upset winner was fresh comebacker Obtuse, who paid $26.60.

Saturday, July 23

Bill Spawr first-off-the-claim is automatic at Del Mar, and Brite Lorelei rolled in race 2. Spawr is typically red-hot opening week, and won with three of 11 starters the first five days. Meanwhile, John Sadler's summer-long drought apparently has ended. Exclusive dominated race 3. It was Sadler's second win in two days.

A wicked early pace spelled doom for inside-speed front-runner Rojo Blanco. He ripped through suicidal fractions of 21.21 and 43.79 seconds, tried to fight back, but weakened to third in a big effort. The horse that pressured Rojo Blanco was Doug O'Neill trained I'll Prey for You. The horse that rallied from ninth to win going away was O'Neill-trained closer Remo.

Intercontinental would have been better off racing to the lead in the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap, race 6. But because of concerns about her ability to stay 1 1/8 miles, jockey Alex Solis wrangled her back off the pace. The winner was Amorama, whose only previous U.S. victory was last summer at Del Mar when she won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

The win by Amorama illustrates there is more to horses-for-courses than racing surface. The Del Mar turf is new this year. But other factors such as time of year, seaside location, and barn surroundings contribute to the horse-for-course tenet. The second favorite in the race, Ticker Tape, finished last without an immediate alibi.

Miranda Stands, favored to win race 7, left her race in a workout five days earlier when smoked a half-mile in 45.60. In the race, she beat two. The four-length winner was Mystery Girl, who is getting good for trainer Chris Paasch. Runner-up Miss Norman raced green and is sitting on a win next time out.

Sunday, July 24

Choctaw Nation reeled in a poor group in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, but the race was slow and the field was weak. Choctaw Nation has a remote chance to win the Pacific Classic, because he will be in the gate. But is he Grade 1 caliber? Probably not, and there is a big difference from a closing victory at 1 1/16 miles, and a speed-friendly 1 1/4 mile race such as the Pacific Classic. Which is to say that Lava Man remains the early favorite.

Can a horse run a mile in 1:32.57 and be unimpressive? Yes. Three Valleys was sluggish early in race 3, and fully extended late, to win by three-quarters of a length. It is no wonder that trainer Bobby Frankel entered the Grade 1-placed colt in a N2X allowance. Based on the visual impressive, he will be tough to back on the raise.

Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-old colt Enforcement improved a ton second time out and cruised to a powerful four-length win in race 5. Reports are he is headed East. He fits in any graded stakes Baffert puts him in. Always Royal was a first-time gelding, but had a nightmare trip in a throwout race.

Proposed powered to a big win in race 7, and the full sister to Grade 1 winner Silent Sighs is ready to stretch out. Odds-on favorite Del Mar Miss added front wraps and put up little resistance late. Another horse adding front wraps was Singletary, whose runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Eddie Read (race 8) indicates distance limitations or declining form.

Sweet Return was handed the Read with an opening quarter-mile in 25.17. He is a front-runner who also can finish - final three furlongs in 33.80. Castledale, who won the Shoemaker Mile in a set-up, made up no ground late and finished fourth.

Wednesday, July 25

The lone front-runner going a mile on turf, Zats It took the lead out of the gate in race 2 and was gone. Both turf races on the card were won by speed, but the first two weeks of the meet produced no discernable turf bias. Petrus was overbet at even-money in the N1X for 3-year-olds. He got buried in traffic on the far turn and finished well for second. Next time. Third-place finisher Cat a Cold Eye ran six times at Hollywood Park and could use a break. Tired, over-raced horses are bet-againsts at Del Mar.

Max Power was the ugly winner of race 5, a $20,000 claiming route. He had a perfect pressing trip, raced on his wrong lead to the wire, and was fortunate that runner-up Hotel Hall was blocked along the rail. Can't envision Max Power repeating without a class drop.

Bob Baffert unleashed another 2-year-old maiden winner in race 6. Midnight Lute, by a sire who has made little impact (Real Quiet), raced wide in the six-furlong sprint and rallied from behind to win going away. A big, tall colt, he does not look like a sprinter, and should improve at longer distances. Third-place finisher Sweet Roberto was blocked behind runners on the turn and did well to run third. His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, can't buy a win at Del Mar. Since 2001, the northern California kingpin is 2 for 71 at the beach.

Wednesday, July 27

The main track produces more positional movement than Hollywood, and it is difficult to win after dueling for the lead along the rail. Race 1 favorite Fallfree met such a fate when pinned inside a three-way jam in the $50,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. He finished third.

Race 2 favorite Follow the Rainbow was overbet at 2-5 in the route for older maidens, and after pulling hard throughout the race he raced on his wrong lead to the wire and could not get past front-runner Chummin. The $36.60 winner was a comebacker trained by Craig Dollase, who had three wins last summer with layoff horses.

In the three months since Jack Van Berg's son, Tim, returned to the stable, the Van Berg operation has started to win races. First-time starter Sexy Operator got no action in race 5 for 2-year-old maiden-claiming fillies, but she raced gate to wire at $97.80. Van Berg also won race 8 with longshot Latin Moon.

The Graduation Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds was a modest sprint won by odds-on favorite Cougar Mtn. Lodge with an 82 Beyer. Cougar Mtn. Lodge, by Comic Strip, was purchased privately by Leonard Fishelberg for $235,000 before his maiden win. "When we bought him I knew he was going to be a two-turn horse," trainer Mike Mitchell said. "We want him to stretch out."

Thursday, July 28

Cold Cold Woman, a filly, ran well against males in race 2. She finished second behind Deputy Lad in the 1 3/8-mile allowance turf race, which will serve as the ideal prep for the CTT and TOC Handicap on Aug. 26 against fillies and mares.

Jasjonjake had an impossible trip in race 4, a one-mile race for older $40,000 maiden-claimers. From post 10, he was six wide early, five wide on the backstretch, and four wide on the far turn. He finished fourth, and was best. Race 5 longshot Replacement was buried behind runners on the turn of the maiden-40 starter allowance, and finished on his own. He could be worth gambling on at a big price next time in a similar spot.

In race 7, Top This and That was a first-time gelding, freshened, and dropping in class. He rallied from behind in the $62,500 turf claimer for 3-year-olds to get up late at $24 for trainer Dan Hendricks. Seventh-place Keg Tap also was a first-time gelding, but got caught four-wide throughout. In race 8, first-time gelding Currituck returned from a two-year layoff to win in 1:09.82 while under a hold. Claimed by Mike Harrington, the 90 Beyer Figure that Currituck earned makes him the horse to beat in a maiden-claiming starter allowance.

Friday, July 29

For the second time this week, Bob Baffert lost at low odds with an older maiden. Following the Wednesday defeat by Follow the Rainbow, 1-2 favorite Teresita ran poorly in race 1. She finished a weary third and is worth betting against again next time.

Kent Desormeaux is riding super, and he made all the difference on race 4 winner Cusco. Turning for home threewide in the turf route, Desormeaux was cognizant that 2-1 favorite Domaine was buried inside. Desormeaux held his position into the lane, kept the favorite trapped, got first run, and won by a neck. Domaine could not get clear until deep stretch, finished with a rush, and missed by less than a length. Domaine was best, and can win a similar N2X filly-mare turf route next time.

Razik was claimed last time for $20,000 and returned for a $10,000 tag in race 5. Not the type of horse you would want to gamble on at 4-5. Seasonal King got loose, and all that Razik could do was chase him home.

Super win by Datticus, who wired N1X foes going one mile in a quick 1:35.89. The lightly raced Datticus was making only his third career start. He's a 5-year-old and should win right back. Cee Mister B raced wide and could use a drop in class. Trainer Mike Harrington solidified his status as one of Del Mar best longshot trainers when his second-time starter Mudd in Yer Eye paid $43 winning race 8.

Saturday, July 30

The racetrack changed overnight, and a speed bias emerged. Race 1 winner Cyclotron became the first sprinter this meet to engage in a pace duel while pinned on the fence, and inch clear late. The bias was unmistakable in race 4, a $32,000 claiming route. Tough Game opened up going 44.75 seconds and 1:09.50 and won by five lengths.

The 2-year-old filly Golden Silk regressed six points on the Beyer scale in race 6, but she still won the maiden sprint by 1 1/2 lengths. Trainer Jim Cassidy said the filly, by Songandaprayer, will run in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 27. Baffert-trained firster Diamond Omi was supposed to be the real deal, but the Giant's Causeway filly never got involved and finished a dull fifth.

Shining Energy was tabbed as a sprinter early this year, but she had some physical issues that trainer Julio Canani corrected, and she returned as a new filly in the Grade 2 San Clemente. Racing wide throughout in the mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, Shining Energy came on strong late to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The Del Mar Oaks is next, and there is no reason she cannot handle another furlong.

San Clemente favorite Louvain got shuffled out of position on the backstretch, finished as well as she could, but had too much to overcome in the slow-paced race. Runner-up Memorette had traffic trouble on the far turn and into the lane. Can't count her out of the Oaks picture, either.

Sunday, July 31

Anearlyfil could have won race 1, a $10,000 claiming sprint for fillies and mares, but the 25-1 longshot was buried behind runners into and through the lane and was unable to get clear until too late. Air Ace gave Baffert his third win of the meet with a 2-year-old colt, winning race 6 by three-quarters of a length in 1:04.06. His Beyer Figure was a modest 76.

Pico Central was vulnerable going into the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap, his first start since March in Dubai. Then he came onto the track wearing four wraps for the first time in this country, and he ran as poorly as a top-class horse can run. Jockey Mike Smith said: "He had his head up and never put it down." Trainer Paulo Lobo said Pico Central bled. It would appear that Pico Central, the best sprinter in the country not to win an Eclipse last year, is finished.

Race winner Greg's Gold had a perfect trip tucked on the rail behind the speed, found a seam inside, and shot clear in the lane. Nice win. The 3-year-old Storm Wolf was not fast enough to keep up, and was exposed as merely a good 3-year-old sprinter. After 11 days of racing, favorites have won 37 percent (36 of 96).

Monday, August 1

Curious allowance conditions allowed Mashina into race 3. The turf route was a nonwinners-of-two-other-than, but Mashina had won a maiden race and two others in Spain. Instead of being written for the standard nonwinners of $7,500 twice other-than, though, the conditions were written at a $9,000 cutoff. That allowed Mashina to stay eligible. She won by a nose and paid $8.60.

Mango Escapade hit the front in deep stretch of race 4, but Kent Desormeaux stopped urging her in the shadow of the wire in the $40,000 claiming sprint for fillies and mares and got nailed on the line by Sunshine Dreamer.

A romping maiden win in race 5 by Resident Alien earned a 95 Beyer and was a timely claim by Jeff Mullins. The California-bred filly is sired by Bertrando, so her options include turf and two turns.

Indian Country dropped into a $50,000 claimer in race 6, took a heap of late money to close at 8-5, and won by three in a quick 1:15.31. Record Smashed was gunned into the pace at the half-mile and lost his punch into the lane. Runner-up Bonus Pack ran well, was second best, and was claimed by Bill Spawr in a 10-way shake.

Graded stakes-placed Singhalese had nothing behind her in race 7, but she looked good winning the N1X for 3-year-old fillies and will enter the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks as a leading contender.

Wednesday, August 3

The rail turned golden; every main-track winner scraped paint. In race 1, the morning-line favorite, Royal Classic, opened up at 5-1, stayed high throughout the betting, and ran to the wagering by finishing next to last. The only horse who ran worse was 9-5 favorite Concert Master, whose only two good races were slow-pace affairs.

The addition of front wraps can be overstated as a handicapping factor, but when the horse is a 2-1 favorite, such as Precious Gem in the second race, there is cause for concern. She finished six lengths clear of third in the $32,000 maiden-claimer for 2-year-old fillies, while no match for class-dropping rail-skimmer Cedar Fever, who won by the same margin.

My Miss Storm Cat was propelled by the pro-inside jet-stream in race 3, but her dominating sprint comeback earned a 104 Beyer that makes her look stakes quality. But can you trust a figure when it was earned under optimal conditions?

When a California-bred maiden filly runs a mile on turf in 1:33.11, you know the grass is fast. Dancing Edie won by seven lengths in a huge effort and looms a serious contender right back against winners.

The disqualification of Sarafan in race 8 was another bad call by track stewards. Sarafan and Laura's Lucky Boy bumped at the wire, but hardly enough to warrant the disqualification of the winner.

Thursday, August 4

The inside bias disappeared, only to be replaced by a speed bias. It did not matter what path, as long as a horse was forwardly placed. The bias was so severe that notorious stopper The Missile Came nearly stole race 2 for 2-year-old maiden-claimers, but he got collared late. And in race 4 for $25,000 maiden-claimers at a mile, front-runner Carbonator set a wicked half-mile of 45.51 seconds and still held second.

Succeed or Bust broke slowly and was eliminated in race 2. The first-time starter was claimed by Molly Pearson and is worth following. Freakin Streakin was hounded from the inside and the outside in race 7, but found renewed energy to kick away late in the N2X sprint for fillies and mares.

Third-place finisher Champ's Rocket rallied from last and might have won on a fair racing surface. The even-money favorite was Siphon Honey, who flipped behind the gate but was allowed to start anyway. Trainer Vladimir Cerin does not employ the move often, but he is one of the best at the claim-and-drop maneuver. He did it in race 8 with maiden dropper Greenhill Hall, who rode the speed bias to win by more than eight.

Friday, August 5

The third-place finish in race 1 by Triple Strand extended Doug O'Neill's drought. Since the first weekend, he is 1 for 28. Runner-up Tizadream could have given winner Vatchesvendetta a run for her money, but Tizadream got buried behind foes into the lane, while the winner got the jump. Even with the turf rails at 14 feet, closers still had a fair chance.

What was Victor Espinoza thinking in race 2? He gunned Abbi's Choice inside the pacesetter at the three-eighths pole, at which point jockey Martin Pedroza, on front-runner You Crack Me Up, tightened things up. Abbi's Choice steadied, lost momentum, and finished last.

When second-time starter Aspiring Summer broke on top in race 4, the maiden sprint was effectively over. The 3-year-old won the sprint by five lengths with an 86 Beyer, and he wants to run two turns. He may be the best horse in trainer Bill Spawr's barn.

Lover Jones was bleeding from the mouth in the post parade for race 8 and finished sixth at 22-1. First-time starter St. Amanda got bet from a 5-1 morning line to 9-5, set the pace, then gave up in the lane, finishing fifth.

Saturday, August 6

Yes Master ran better than the winner in race 1, but the severe fractions (21.59 and 43.92) took their toll and Turnbolt was up late to win. Yes Master is inconsistent, but the one to catch next time. Reckless Hero tried to chase the pace, but merely cracked.

Odds-on comebacker Carano broke slowly, was unable to make the lead, appeared uncomfortable racing from behind, and finished sixth in race 2. A full brother to millionaire Valentine Dancer, Carano might be counterfeit.

Art Moderne was rank on the lead in race 3, but the European import was so much the best horse in the N1X that it did not matter. He won by a length, while fifth-place finisher Cusak got buried in traffic at the quarter pole and had no shot.

Stevie Wonderboy won race 5, for 2-year-old maidens, in a strong 1:16.20, and the 92 Beyer Speed Figure he earned means he will be among the contenders Sept. 7 in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity. The win also validated the Hollywood Juvenile won by What a Song. Stevie Wonderboy finished third in that race.

Sunday, August 7

The 2-year-old filly Miss Norman won race 3 as expected at even-money, but the 71 Beyer Speed Figure she earned was a six-point drop from her runner-up debut. Maybe the race she exits (July 23, race 7, won by Mystery Girl) was not that strong after all.

Da Stoops set the pace in race 6, then re-broke at the head of the lane to win by more than eight lengths in a solid 1:03.84. He was the fifth 2-year-old maiden winner this meet trained by Bob Baffert, and the 89 Beyer he earned makes him a contender in an upcoming Cal-bred stakes. Fabulous West washed out in the post parade before race 7 and ran to his appearance by finishing next to last.

The Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch (race 8) for fillies and mares was a disaster. Girl Warrior (adding front wraps) and Santa Candida broke through the gate before the start. Girl Warrior's odds drifted up from 3-1 to 4-1 while she was reloaded, and she finished next to last. Santa Candida bled and finished fourth. Alphabet Kisses showed once and for all she cannot stay two turns, finishing last. The winner was Tucked Away ($40.40), a late-running sprinter who was in the right place at the right time. Hollywood Story steadied briefly at the head of the lane and fell short by a nose. Not a strong group of older fillies and mares.

Monday, August 8

David Cohen outfinishing Pat Valenzuela? It happened in race 1, a $20,000 claiming route for fillies and mares. Cohen rode front-runner Potion, who set a blistering pace (46 seconds and 1:11.46) and opened up at the quarter pole. She was on fumes, but when Valenzuela rolled up on the outside with An Annika Moment, Cohen and Potion fought back inside and won going away. The runner-up did stumble at the start, but she also had the race won midstretch and couldn't get the job done.

Bob Baffert-trained Dreamabull was 3-1 in the post parade for race 2, but was scratched for being unsound in the right front. Jockey Rene Douglas lodged a frivolous claim of foul in race 3, alleging interference by winner Holdthehelm. There was no contact between the two horses.

Celtic Sword became the first turf sprint winner this meet to rally from the back of the pack in a trouble-filled race 6. Celtic Sword had a perfect trip saving ground and never left the fence. Meanwhile, unlucky fourth-place finisher Sex Machine was blocked behind horses, Alex Solis tried to go for a hole that wasn't there, made contact with a horse in front of him (Greenie), and got clear too late. Sex Machine was moved back to last.

After three weeks of racing, favorites are firing at an above-average 39 percent (61 of 155). Odds-on favorites have won 61 percent (13 of 21).

Wednesday, August 10

Jockey Kent Desormeaux blew his stick at the sixteenth pole in race 1, just about the spot where Prescriptionneeded let Vitali inch clear. The runner-up in race 2, Princess Kinzie, was disqualified and placed third for interference in the lane, even though the bumping incident did not affect the order of finish.

When first-time starter Decathlete was claimed from race 4, it marked the fifth straight starter that trainer Vladimir Cerin had taken from him. Low-percentage trainer Nick Hines was an easy toss out in race 5, when his Polish Times drew the outside post in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for $62,500 claimers. He opened up at 5-2, drifted to 6-1, and beat one horse.

Razik was going nowhere in race 6 for $10,000 claiming sprinters. The 10-year-old Razik was outrun early, climbing, and in front of only one horse. But he got going on the turn, rallied wide, and won going away by two lengths to give local owners Sid and Jenny Craig their first win of the meet. Race favorite Waki American had a perfect trip saving ground, angled out, and gave nothing the final eighth in a disappointing third-place finish.

Off-form Ticker Tape was a bet-against in race 7, the Osunitas Handicap, and her third-place finish showed once again she is not the filly she was last year when she won two Grade 1 races. The $92.80 winner was Healthy Addiction, a John Sadler trainee switching to turf. It has long been a profitable angle - a Sadler trainee changing surface or distance.

Thursday, August 11

Jockey Tyler Baze is in the middle of one of the worst slumps of his career. Even when he does nothing wrong, he loses. It happened in race 1, when 2-5 favorite Dancing General could not get past first-time starter Tempting Date and lost by a nose. It was eight lengths back to third, and Dancing General will be favored again to win the next maiden race for Cal-bred fillies and mares.

Honorable Coach got loose in race 3, and wired a modest field of N1X 3-year-olds on turf. Standing Brave was fanned wide, and rallied well into the grain of the slow-fast race shape. Petrus, the 2-1 favorite, ran poorly without an excuse.

Race-6 comebacker Excessive Balance was a mile best. He got shuffled back and steadied on the turn of the $16,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds, tried to rally in the lane, but missed by less than two lengths. Claimed by Wesley Ward, he can win a similar low-level claimer for 3-year-olds with a better trip.

Tialinga earned the win in race 7. She pressed a hot pace while buried on the rail, stayed inside to near the eighth pole, angled out, and wore down Etch in the Cal-bred N1X sprint. Etch ran super, setting fractions of 21.62 and 44.28, but fell short. Vikki's Honor had a nightmare trip from the rail under Baze, and finished eighth.

Friday, August 12

Shore Patrol showed no workouts in the month since his last start, but the 2-year-old maiden-claiming dropper romped by four lengths. In race 3, Vegas Folly was 5-2 in the betting for the $12,500 claiming route for fillies and mares, but warmed up sore and was scratched three minutes to post.

Ron Ellis remains red hot. His race 4 winner Karn was his third win this meet first off the claim, and increased his Del Mar record to 6 for 10 this meet. Race 5 favorite G T Forty (Baffert) was pulled up at the wire and vanned off the track. The winner was Estate Collection, who ran like a seasoned horse. He won despite Baze, who took the maiden four wide into the turn, stayed out there, then inched clear late.

When expected pacesetter Proud Tower Too was wrangled off the pace by Baze in race 7, the Real Good Deal Stakes, it left favorite Thor's Echo loose to set an easy pace. He was gone. Proud Tower Too, who runs best on the lead, made a little run on the turn, but flattened out.

No One Like Me broke slowly again in race 8, and it cost her any chance. She was bet down from 5-1 on the line to a starting price of 2-1, and could have made a race of it with a clean start. But she did the same thing in her debut. The $16,842 pick six payoff was huge considering the win payoffs: $6.80, $7.20, $7.40, $5.80, $5.20 and $5.80.

Saturday, August 13

Truly a Judge is a front-runner whose asset is his speed. But when he was rated into the first turn, he surrendered his tactical advantage and wound up three wide and sandwiched between horses. Truly a Judge weakened through the lane, and strategy may have made no difference. But there is no benefit to having speed if you're not going to use it.

Jockey Rene Douglas anchored Obtuse in race 4, and pulled him up on the turn. He was vanned off the track. There were 15 claims in for him. Soft fractions in race 6, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, allowed Lady's Champagne ($46) to go sprint to route and press her way to victory in the $40,000 claimer.

First-time starter One Union scored the most impressive win of the meet by a 2-year-old maiden, and could be the one to beat Sept. 7 in the Del Mar Futurity. A son of Dixie Union trained by Richard Mandella, One Union engaged in a pace battle while pinned on the rail, got headed in the lane, but found renewed energy midstretch and pulled away in a quick 1:03.40. He galloped out super, earned a 99 Beyer, and has the look of a star.

The good 3-year-old turf horses Willow O Wisp and Juliesugardaddy put on quite a show in the slow-paced La Jolla Handicap, race 8. They ran two-one throughout the 1 1/16-mile race, which had no pace (49.26 and 1:12.76), and smoked home with a final five-sixteenths in about 28.60. El Roblar, a closer, had no shot and was beaten two lengths.

Sunday, August 14

Trainer Mike Mitchell wins often on the drop, so when he pushed Traffic Update up three levels first off the claim (from $25,000 claiming to$50,000 claiming), it was a sure sign the colt was doing well. He took pressure throughout, and edged clear late at $7. The old pro Bluesthestandard was pulled up at the three-eighths and vanned off the track.

Sharp debut by Jeff Mullins-trained 2-year-old firster Wild Fit, a sister to graded stakes winner Fusaichi Rock Star. Away slowly, she looped the field on the turn and won off by four lengths. In a weak division, her splashy debut puts her right in the stakes picture.

Swing the Cat ($41.20) was the second longshot turf winner in two days to st