07/19/2012 4:13PM

Del Mar: Oceanside winners uncertain for La Jolla

Benoit & Associates
Midnight Crooner wins the first division of the Oceanside, the first stakes of the Del Mar meet.

Midnight Crooner and My Best Brother won divisions of the Oceanside Stakes on Wednesday’s opening day program and have the $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2 as a long-term goal.

Whether either of the colts starts in the next stakes for 3-year-old turf males, the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 11, is a decision that will be made in coming days, their owners said.

The Oceanside Stakes divisions were the first stakes wins for both colts. Midnight Crooner, who finished eighth in the Blue Grass Stakes in April, had been pointed to the Oceanside by trainer Bob Baffert since winning an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on May 6.

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“Bob made the right decision,” owner Arnold Zetcher said. “We passed on the Tsunami Slew [Stakes at Hollywood Park] and waited for this.”

In Wednesday’s first division, Midnight Crooner stalked the pace under jockey Rafael Bejarano and took the lead in the final furlong, winning by a neck over Chips All In.

“Crooner was in a great place the whole time,” Zetcher said.

Midnight Crooner was timed in 1:34.74 for the one-mile turf race while My Best Brother led throughout the second division in 1:34.39, winning by a half-length over Tones.

My Best Brother has won three consecutive starts for owners Bill Currin and Al Eisman and trainer Julio Canani. Canani credited the winning streak with the addition of sheepskin cheek pieces, which help My Best Brother stay more focused. Currin said in the winner’s circle that the Del Mar Derby is a summertime goal.

My Best Brother was the 6-1 fourth choice in a field of eight. The even-money favorite, Holy Candy, did not finish the race, pulled up by jockey Garrett Gomez in early stretch. Holy Candy was vanned off, but Sadler said initial X-rays were clean.

“We’ll take some diagnostics,” he said.

The tests may include a more elaborate nuclear scan test that can detect more minute injuries.

“He’ll get a rest,” Sadler said.

Ballard Ruler targets I'm Smokin

The Sadler-trained 2-year-old Ballard Ruler is stakes bound after winning his debut in Wednesday’s fifth race for 2-year-old California-bred maidens.

Ridden by David Flores, Ballard Ruler ran five furlongs in 58.74 seconds. Sadler said the $150,000 I’m Smokin Stakes for California-breds over six furlongs on Sept. 3 will be Ballard Ruler’s next start.

Fast maiden winner returns

Winding Way had arguably the flashiest maiden win of the Hollywood Park meeting when the 3-year-old filly won a six-furlong race by 4 3/4 lengths on June 10. The victory left trainer Carla Gaines delightfully stunned, and anxious to see if it could be repeated in an optional claimer in Saturday’s fourth race.

“Let’s hope she runs back to her last race,” Gaines said. “It’s a little bit unnerving when they win that easily.”

In her maiden race win, Winding Ways was not extensively urged by jockey Joel Rosario and earned a highly-promising Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

Rosario has moved to New York for the summer, and Bejarano has picked up the mount on Winding Way for the filly’s first start against winners in an optional claimer in Saturday’s fourth race.

Winding Way will be heavily favored to remain unbeaten. Another win could lead to a stakes appearance later this summer.

Owned by breeder B. Wayne Hughes, Winding Way is part of a field of seven. You Can Dream has won her last two starts, a $20,000 claimer on June 16 and an allowance race for California-breds on June 29.