08/02/2011 1:18PM

Del Mar: Baffert pair may dominate feature


DEL MAR, Calif. – In between major stakes races on the East Coast on consecutive weekends, trainer Bob Baffert has returned to Del Mar, where on Thursday he will try to put a hammerlock on the day’s featured seventh race, sending out both Awesomemundo and Toro Bonito in a second-level allowance for fillies and mares.

The one-mile race, worth $70,000, drew four others, but it is Baffert who holds the strongest hand. Awesomemundo, 3, the least-experienced horse in the race with just four starts, is 2 for 2 since going around two turns. Toro Bonito, 5, the most experienced horse in the race with 22 starts, had been stuck at the first allowance level for well over a year before a breakthrough victory last time out at Hollywood Park on June 19.

“She finally won,” Baffert said Tuesday morning at Del Mar. “It only took her 30 [actually 21] outs.”

Toro Bonito has done well at Del Mar in the past. She won against maidens here, and has finished first or second in half her four starts.

Martin Garcia rode both Awesomemundo and Toro Bonito to their last victories, but he has sided with Awesomemundo, who is owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill. Awesomemundo’s wins both came at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park. She made four starts there, beginning with her career debut on May 1. This will be her first race at Del Mar.

“It might be a little short for her,” Baffert said. “I think she wants to go a mile and a quarter. I even thought about running her in the Alabama. She’s getting better and better.

“They’re both doing well,” he added. “But they both need pace.”

There is no obvious front-runner in the field. Catchy Tune could inherit the lead, being as she is coming out of a sprint, but her best efforts have come when she sits just off the pace.

Downhill Diva is exiting a pair of sprint preps at Hollywood Park. This is the third start of her form cycle, and since she is drawn inside of Catchy Tune, she would be the early leader if Catchy Tune is rated.

Elvies Lane comes off a second-place finish in a similar second-level, two-turn allowance at Hollywood Park. Both of her wins, however, have come in sprints. And she never has raced at Del Mar.

Pure Class is making her second start for trainer Mark Glatt since being claimed for $40,000. She owns a win over this track, against maidens two summers ago.