08/30/2011 3:33PM

Del Mar: Proctor eyeing a strong close to meet

Shigeki Kikkawa
Killer Graces is the only prospective starter for the Del Mar Debutante who is still not eligible for a first-condition allowance race.

DEL MAR, Calif. – This has been a productive summer for trainer Tom Proctor, who has made a lot of noise with the handful of horses he brought here. He has a chance to finish with a flourish, too, because Proctor will be represented by Emerald Gold in the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Saturday, and he plans to run both Banned and Lil Bit O’Fun in the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Derby on Sunday.

Emerald Gold comes off an eye-catching victory against maidens in her second start July 30, and she has continued to progress since then. On Tuesday morning, she was just coasting through a half-mile drill in 50.40 seconds, a work so effortless the clockers designated it breezing, which was noted on just two of the 48 workers here Tuesday. The only other horse whose work was labeled breezing was the outstanding sprinter Euroears, who went five furlongs in 1:01.

“She’s had a couple of decent works. She’s doing good,” Proctor said as Emerald Gold galloped out. “It’s kind of a big step up, but it is for everybody.”

Indeed, with the exception of Killer Graces, every other 2-year-old filly in the Debutante still has a first-level allowance condition.

“It’s nice to have a Grade 1 in your backyard that’s basically an ‘a other than,’ ” Proctor said.

Proctor also believes Emerald Gold will appreciate going seven furlongs after winning at 5 1/2 furlongs last time.

“I think she wants to go longer,” he said.

Killer Graces also worked Tuesday, going a half-mile in 48.40 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

In addition to Emerald Gold and Killer Graces, the Debutante field also is expected to include Coup de Coeur, Self Preservation, Silent Saga, Weemissfrankie, Woebegon, and a pair of Bob Baffert trainees, Candrea and Dreamcaster.

Candrea has not raced since winning her debut July 7.

“I might run her, too” Baffert said. “After she won, she got sick. But she worked really well yesterday,” he said, referring to a six-furlong work from the gate in 1:11 on Monday.

Banned makes his West Coast debut in the Del Mar Derby following a productive campaign this year that has seen him win a pair of stakes at Churchill Downs before a narrow loss in the Virginia Derby at Colonial and then, most recently, a third-place finish in the Secretariat at Arlington Park.

Lil Bit O’Fun finished second in the La Jolla Handicap here Aug. 13. Both are late-runners.

“They’ll be back there having a tug o’ war,” Proctor said.

Among those pointing to the Del Mar Derby are Burns, the La Jolla winner; and Midnight Interlude, who had a nightmarish trip when fourth in the La Jolla as the even-money favorite.

Miller has high hopes in juvenile stakes

Trainer Peter Miller, who has Woebegon in the Debutante, also has a top contender for the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 7, in the unbeaten Majestic City, whose final work for the race is scheduled for Thursday morning.

“I set a goal for the meet of winning two races a week, which is pretty high,” Miller said. “Right now, we’re on 10, so we’ve got to win four the final week to hit that goal.”

Majestic City has won all three of his starts, but has not raced since the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 17. Woebegon was third as the favorite in the Landaluce Stakes on July 16, but Miller said Tuesday that he wishes he had passed that race.

“She bounced,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t have brought her back in three weeks. In hindsight, I should have passed the Landaluce and run in the Sorrento. That forced me to pass the Sorrento and go straight to the Debutante.

“I’m hoping she’ll run back to her maiden race,” Miller said, referring to a debut win June 26 in which Woebegon earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 84 while winning by 3 1/4 lengths.

Creative Cause to work Friday for Futurity

Creative Cause will have two recorded workouts between his win in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 7 and his next start, the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7.

Creative Cause worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds on Aug. 18 and is scheduled to work Friday under jockey Rafael Bejarano. Trainer Mike Harrington said that Creative Cause has had “some short works that weren’t recorded” in recent weeks.

“I’d gallop him two miles and then breeze him a quarter-mile,” he said.

Creative Cause may be favored in the Del Mar Futurity, which is run over seven furlongs. The race also will attract Majestic City, winner of two stakes at Hollywood Park this summer, and Drill, winner of a maiden race Aug. 13 for Baffert.

Great Warrior eyes Del Mar Derby

Great Warrior’s stakes debut was postponed from last weekend to this weekend.

Trainer A.C. Avila scratched Great Warrior from Sunday’s $1 million Pacific Classic on the morning of the race in favor of the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes on Friday and the $250,000 Del Mar Derby on Sunday. A decision on which race will be tried will be made later in the week, Avila said.

“I’m looking to go in the derby,” he said.

Great Warrior has 1 win in 9 starts and earnings of $52,706. He was 10th in an optional claimer on the main track here Aug. 13 and was listed as a 50-1 shot for the Pacific Classic.

Belvoir plans to stay in Southern California

Trainer Vann Belvoir will have a stable of more than 20 horses at Santa Anita this fall, continuing an involvement in California racing that began this summer.

Belvoir, who races primarily at Emerald Downs in Washington and at Golden Gate Fields, said he has received stall space for 20 horses but wants to expand.

“I’ve got more to bring down,” he said. “They gave me 20 stalls, and I’d like to get more.”

Belvoir said he will maintain a stable at Golden Gate Fields this fall and winter, after Emerald Downs closes Sept. 25.

Through Sunday, Belvoir, 37, had four wins from 24 starters, results that left him pleased with his first summer at Del Mar.

“You’re happy to be competitive,” he said. “We’re tickled.”

Friday, Belvoir is hoping for his first California stakes win when Macho Dorado and Moment of Weakness start in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes.

“I think they’ll be right there,” he said.

Celtic Princess set to undergo surgery

Celtic Princess will undergo surgery to have a splint bone removed from a foreleg and will resume training in the winter, Avila said.

The winner of the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Mile for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park on July 4, Celtic Princess was scratched from the John Mabee Stakes on Aug. 14 because of an elevated temperature, Avila said at the time. The injury was detected after Celtic Princess returned to racetrack training in mid-August.

“She’ll be back in 30 or 40 days,” he said.

The 7-year-old Brazilian-bred mare has won 6 of 15 starts and $330,624. Avila said the tentative plan for the first half of 2012 is to race Celtic Princess at Santa Anita, send her to Kentucky to be bred to Distorted Humor, and then put her back in training for a late spring and early summer campaign before she is retired and sent to Brazil.

◗ Blind Luck is scheduled to ship Friday from Del Mar to Hollywood Park, where she will be prepared for the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 2, according to Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward.

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen