08/07/2012 1:26PM

Del Mar: Obsess targets cleaner trip in Thursday turf sprint

Benoit & Associates
Obsess will seek to avoid traffic in a five-furlong sprint on turf Thursday at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The highest-grossing films of the year have been “Marvel’s The Avengers,” “The Hunger Games,” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” but for horseplayers eyeballing Del Mar on Thursday, they might want to take a look at a replay of the second race from opening day, July 18, because it could yield a little blockbuster.

Obsess finished fourth in that five-furlong grass race, but he was compromised by traffic trouble for much of the stretch run of the optional claimer. He returns in a similar spot in Thursday’s featured seventh race, and a clean run, under new jockey Patrick Valenzuela, could very well put him in the winner’s circle, and at a price.

“He’s one of those horses who every race looks to be in trouble,” Hector Palma, who trains Obsess, said Tuesday morning.

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Lakerville, who won the July 18 race, already has come back to win again. Kingpin Ryno, the runner-up that day, appears to be the one to beat Thursday, but he owns three times as many second-place finishes (six) as he does wins (two) in his 14-race career. He does fire every time, though.

There are five others in the main body of the race, which is limited to seven runners. There are another seven on the also-eligible list.

Nofty comes off a victory against a California-bred allowance field at Betfair Hollywood Park and now moves into an open first-level allowance. However, he is shortening up from six furlongs to five, and in his only start at five furlongs, he finished fourth last year at Del Mar.

”It didn’t work last year, but he seems to be a better horse now, so hopefully that makes the difference,” said Gary Mandella, who trains Nofty.

Don Perico is turning back to a sprint after fading when going long in a first-level allowance at Hollywood Park last time out. He did land the meet’s leading rider, Rafael Bejarano.

Brutally Handsome is making his first start in nearly a year for trainer Mike Puype, who is having a strong meeting. Brutally Handsome was second in his two prior tries at five furlongs on turf, including last summer at Del Mar.

La Mano Nera is back in a sprint after going two turns last time out. He outfinished Nofty in a Cal-bred allowance sprint at Hollywood Park in May.

Sabor Amargo has finished in the money just once in four starts since arriving from his native Chile.

Of those on the also-eligible list, A Toe by Three would merit strong consideration if he gets in. He was a close third in a similar spot July 20.