08/31/2012 1:56PM

Del Mar Derby sees My Best Brother, Old Time Hockey renew rivalry

Benoit & Associates
Old Time Hockey beat My Best Brother by a nose in the La Jolla Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. – My Best Brother got the best of Old Time Hockey on opening day July 18 in a division of the Oceanside Stakes, but then Old Time Hockey hung a nose on My Best Brother in the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 11. Round Three of their budding rivalry is Sunday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Derby, but this field has quite a bit of depth, including Eastern invader Howe Great, and Midnight Crooner, who won the other Oceanside division.

Eleven are entered in the 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-olds, with Desormais on the also-eligible list. Old Time Hockey landed post 8, with Howe Great in post 10.

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“You’ve got to have a good trip. Whoever gets the best trip is going to be the winner,” Tom Proctor, the trainer of Old Time Hockey, said Friday morning.

Old Time Hockey got a great trip in the four-horse La Jolla, one of more than a dozen victories jockey Joe Talamo has engineered on the turf this summer. Old Time Hockey has made steady progress throughout his nine-race career, a trend Proctor hopes will continue.

“He’s gotten better all year long, a little bit at a time,” Proctor said. “The needle’s been pointing up.”

My Best Brother led from start to finish in the one-mile Oceanside, then was caught despite setting softer fractions in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla. His trainer, Julio Canani, wants to see My Best Brother roll along on the lead.

In the La Jolla, “I wish he was two or three lengths in front,” Canani said Friday morning, “but I don’t ride, I just train.”

Jockey Martin Garcia had won three straight on My Best Brother before the La Jolla, and is back aboard Sunday.

“He’s got to play it by ear,” Canani said. “He knows the horse.”

Howe Great comes off a win at Monmouth in the Jersey Derby, his fifth victory in nine starts. He was on or near the lead in three straight wins at Gulfstream last winter, but has come from just off the pace in his recent starts.

“Those Florida races were devoid of speed, and down there, that’s a big advantage,” Graham Motion, who trains Howe Great, said Friday morning from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, where he is based. “But, in general, he’s a straightforward horse, to ride and train.”

Motion said the Jersey Derby was a means to an end, a soft spot that worked as a prep for the Del Mar Derby. It also got Howe Great away from the likes of Summer Front, Silver Max, and Dullahan, who won the three previous races in which he competed.

“It was a very professional win,” Motion said. “He won fairly comfortably.”

Motion is dividing his 3-year-old grass runners on Sunday. Lucky Chappy will be at Saratoga for the Saranac Stakes. He said Howe Great was chosen to fly to Del Mar because “we feel very strongly the horse will benefit from the tighter track out there.”

“He has a great turn of foot on the turn,” Motion said.

Midnight Crooner skipped the La Jolla by design to point for the Del Mar Derby. He is 2 for 2 under Rafael Bejarano.

Brother Francis returned from a four-month layoff to wallop maidens sprinting on Aug. 5, but ran third in last fall’s Grade 1 CashCall Futurity.

“He’s a genuine horse,” said Jim Cassidy, who trains Brother Francis. “But this is a tough race. This isn’t maidens.”

Tones was second, behind My Best Brother and in front of Old Time Hockey, in that division of the Oceanside. Power Foot was fourth in that race.

Smart Ellis returned from a six-month layoff to beat allowance runners last time, and he’s 2 for 2 on this course.

All Squared Away won an optional claimer last time out. Tribal Tribute comes off consecutive victories against far softer in Northern California.