09/06/2012 2:12PM

Del Mar Futurity winner Rolling Fog will try two turns in FrontRunner

Shigeki Kikkawa
Rolling Fog will stretch out to two turns after winning the Del Mar Futurity.

DEL MAR, Calif. – When trainer Bob Baffert shipped his runners to Del Mar for the summer, he had high hopes for Rolling Fog, who had been tearing up the track in his workouts at Santa Anita as he neared his debut. But in his first work over the Polytrack surface at Del Mar, Rolling Fog struggled, and Baffert briefly contemplated sending him to Saratoga to keep him on dirt.

But Rolling Fog worked stronger the next time over this surface, subsequently won his debut on Aug. 4, and continued to progress, so much so that on Wednesday he won the biggest race of the meet for 2-year-olds, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, which gave Baffert a record 11th win in the seven-furlong race, all since 1996.

Baffert on Thursday said that Rolling Fog had come out of the race well and would be pointed to the Grade 1, $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes – formerly the Norfolk Stakes – at Santa Anita on Sept. 29. That race is at 1 1/16 miles, which would mark Rolling Fog’s first try around two turns.

The Del Mar Futurity gave Rolling Fog a fees-paid berth to the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile through the Win and You’re In program, but Rolling Fog, being a son of the sprinter Posse, might end up being more suited to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at six furlongs.

“I don’t know yet,” said Baffert, who added he believed Rolling Fog would do well at Santa Anita because “he is much better on dirt.”

Baffert swept the major races for 2-year-olds. He captured the Del Mar Debutante for fillies on Saturday with the unbeaten Executiveprivilege.

Miller beats Baffert by one for training title

In a dramatic finish, Peter Miller beat Baffert by one win for the training title, 21-20, but the outcome was not decided until literally the last race of the meet.

Miller came into Wednesday’s closing-day card one win behind Baffert, but won three races, including two stakes, to end an inglorious streak in which he sent out 31 straight losers. That put Miller two up on Baffert. But Baffert closed the gap to one when Rolling Fog prevailed, and Baffert had a chance to tie in the last race, but Nextdoorneighbor finished a distant eighth, giving Miller, who lives in nearly Carlsbad, Calif., his first title anywhere.

“It was a magical, magical season,” Miller said Thursday morning. “It meant a lot to me because I live here, my wife [Lani] and I met here, and every summer since I was 8 years old I’ve come to Del Mar. I really did want to win the title. But I was putting too much pressure on myself the last week and a half. It wasn’t healthy.

“I was 0 for 31. That is a slump. I went from underdog to favorite, to underdog, to favorite. It was a crazy, roller-coaster couple of weeks. To go from 0 for 31, then run six horses in five races and have three win and two seconds, and have to hold off Baffert, it was absolutely crazy.”

Miller won two sprint stakes on Wednesday, with the filly Reneesgotzip in the CERF Stakes, and with Comma to the Top in the Pirate’s Bounty. It was Comma to the Top who accounted for the margin of victory. Comma to the Top, 4, gave Miller his richest career win in the 2010 CashCall Futurity.

“That was appropriate, because he’s come through every time I’ve needed him,” Miller said.

Doug O’Neill finished third with 18 wins, all of which were posted before he began serving a 40-day suspension that included the final 2 1/2 weeks of the meet. O’Neill’s assistant, Leandro Mora, kept right on motoring, with 10 wins, good enough on his own for a tie for fifth at the meet.

Combining O’Neill and Mora, they posted 28 wins, which would have beaten Miller by seven.

Record-setting meet for Bejarano

Rolling Fog gave jockey Rafael Bejarano his 13th stakes win at the meet, a single-season record that bettered by one the previous mark that, before this meet, had been held by four different riders.

Laffit Pincay Jr. (1976), Chris McCarron (1995), Gary Stevens (1997), and Corey Nakatani (1998) all had won 12 stakes in a single Del Mar meeting. Bejarano the first part of the meet appeared on his way to smashing that record, but Joe Talamo started picking off stakes in bunches – he won 9 of 18 at one point – and going into the Futurity, both Bejarano and Talamo had 12 stakes wins for the meet.

Bejarano finished first with Rolling Fog, who benefited from a clean trip. Talamo’s mount, Gabriel Charles, never really had a clear run while pocketed inside horses near the rail.

Bejarano ran away with the overall riding title, winning 52 times, nine more than Talamo. Garrett Gomez was third with 39 wins, and Edwin Maldonado (24) and Martin Garcia (22) rounded out the top five.