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Declan's Moon, Giacomo tighten up
DEL MAR, Calif. - At the end of 2004, Declan's Moon was the best 2-year-old in the land, and Giacomo, who had finished second to Declan's Moon in the Hollywood Futurity, was not far behind.
Declan's Moon subsequently was named the champion 2-year-old that year, and the following spring Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby. Both of their careers have had hiccups since then, but on Tuesday morning at Del Mar, within about five minutes of one another, both turned in drills for upcoming stakes races at Del Mar on Aug 20.
Declan's Moon was on the track first, and effortlessly covered five furlongs in 59.60 seconds. Declan's Moon most recently suffered the first loss of his career when returning from a 16-month layoff. He is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup at seven furlongs.
"He went nice and smooth," said his trainer, Ron Ellis, who watched the work from the box seats. "He's moved forward since his race. I was very happy with the work. It was smooth. No bobbles."
Ellis has been critical of Del Mar's main track this summer. "It still balls up in their feet," he said. "I might take him back to Santa Anita to train, but that's no paradise, either."
Ellis usually is stabled at Hollywood Park, but that track is closed now for the installation of a synthetic surface.
Giacomo won the San Diego Handicap in his last start. Tuesday's drill, in which he breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 with exercise rider Steve Willard, was his first since that race.
"I just wanted something easy first work back after the race," said his trainer, John Shirreffs, who watched the work from horseback in the homestretch. "So far, so good."
Giacomo is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles. Although he went smoothly in the drill, Giacomo bobbled a couple of times while jogging the wrong way along the outside fence just prior to working.
Paasch wins with another 2-year-old
Trainer Chris Paasch won a 2-year-old race on Sunday with the filly She's Included, and he'll try for a stakes win on Saturday with the filly Company Secret in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sorrento Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. Both are being pointed for the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 4, Paasch said.
Company Secret defeated maidens at Hollywood Park on July 16 under Saul Arias, but Alex Solis will take over for the Sorrento, in which Company Secret is scheduled to face Untouched Talent, a Storm Cat filly who won her debut in a stakes race at Pleasanton.
Solis won aboard She's Included, but Arias was originally scheduled to ride the filly. Paasch and Arias had a disagreement over the way Arias rode Zoemeg in a race earlier on Sunday, and Paasch asked Arias to take himself off She's Included, which he did.
"I really like the kid," Paasch said of Arias on Tuesday morning. "I think he has the potential to be a very, very good rider. But since he's been down here, he's made some bad decisions. I'll ride him again. But after the ride on Zoemeg, I told him I thought it was in our best interests for him to take off of She's Included."
Owner-trainer Currin wins twice Saturday
Bill Currin, who trains his own horses, went to the winner's circle twice on Saturday with a pair of maidens, including Stormello, who romped by 3 1/2 lengths against a field of highly regarded 2-year-olds.
Stormello had finished sixth in his debut against Cobalt Blue, who is considered one of the best prospects on the West Coast. Stormello added blinkers and Lasix for his second start, and never looked back.
Currin and Al Eisman both bred and own Stormello, who is by Stormy Atlantic and out of the Carson City mare Wilshewed.
"I've liked him all along, since he was a baby," Currin said. "He was born special."
Currin said Stormello could make his next start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 13, or await the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 6.
"The blinkers helped him," Currin said. "He came out of this race like he went into it. He finished so willingly. He re-broke when he switched leads."
Currin's other winner was Wildout, a 3-year-old filly, who finally scored in her 13th start. Currin bought that filly as a yearling and owns her outright.
Espinoza in familiar spot - on top
After two weeks of racing, Victor Espinoza, the leader last year at Del Mar, leads the jockey standings with 17 wins, five more than Martin Garcia and Solis, who are tied for second.
Garcia, however, is facing some down time. He has been granted a stay against a three-day suspension he received from Del Mar's stewards the first week of the meet, but he also received a five-day suspension for his ride on Spunky Harry in the sixth race on Friday. Spunky Harry was disqualified from third and placed seventh for interference late in the stretch.
Also recently receiving suspensions were jockeys David Cohen, Michael Baze, and Freddy Fong.
Cohen got a three-day suspension for his ride on Past Tender, who was disqualified from first in the sixth race on Friday. Cohen got five more days for failing to maintain a straight course and causing interference aboard Evening Escort in Sunday's fourth race. In addition, Cohen was fined $100 for reporting late to the jockeys' room on Sunday.
Baze got a three-day suspension as a result of his mount Fuego being disqualified from victory in the third race on Friday.
Fong received three days for the disqualification of Arabic Dancer from third place in the sixth race last Thursday.
Doug O'Neill leads the trainer standings with nine wins, three more than Jeff Mullins, who won twice on Monday to break out of a four-way tie for second.
Make Mine Vodka is two-time winner
Make Mine Vodka became the first two-time winner of the meet on Saturday when he won a $25,000 claiming race after winning for $20,000 just seven days earlier.
Make Mine Vodka was claimed out of his July 22 race by O'Neill, and he was claimed again on Saturday, by trainer Art Sherman, who won a 15-way shake for the 5-year-old gelding.
Thoro-Graph's Brown wins contest
Jerry Brown, who runs Thoro-Graph out of New York City, turned a $6,000 bankroll into $39,341 in two days of betting at Del Mar over the weekend to defeat 49 other high-rollers and win first prize in a handicapping tournament that included some of the game's most familiar tournament players.
In addition to keeping the cash he won at the windows, Brown received a $20,000 check for winning the tournament. Runner-up Dennis Tiernan, whose bankroll ended up at $23,759, earned $5,000 in prize money for finishing second.
Del Mar's tournament offered five spots in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in January in Las Vegas. Also qualifying were David Gutfreund, Ross Gallo, and Mark Streiff. Dennis Decauwer and Toby Turrell, who were third and fourth, respectively, at Del Mar, already had qualified for the championship tournament.
Players put up $6,000 of their own money and had to bet a minimum of $300 per race on every race at Del Mar on both Saturday and Sunday.
"I like this tournament because it's most like playing horses," Brown said. "Rather than emphasizing a separate set of skills - trying to find longshots - this not only involves how to handicap but how to bet, which are all the skills that are emphasized as a horseplayer."
* Trainer Rafael Becerra was fined $400 because his horse Special Matter tested for an overage of the legal medication phenylbutazone in the first race at Santa Anita on April 22.