06/24/2011 10:48AM

Del Mar to see showdown of fillies in San Clemente

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BENOIT PHOTO
Sarah's Secret captures the Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood and will run next in the San Clemente at Del Mar.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The handicapping notebook is full again. And with Del Mar just around the corner it is time to start looking ahead, with stuff like this . . . .

◗ Who do you like? Is it undefeated Sarah’s Secret, who wired the June 11 Honeymoon Handicap, or is it 1-for-3 Mizdirection, tons best finishing second June 18 in the Manhattan Beach Stakes for filly sprinters? It is a close call. The 3-year-old fillies Sarah’s Secret and Mizdirection meet July 24 at Del Mar in the Grade 2 San Clemente.

◗ Speaking of the troubled trip by Mizdirection, Hollywood goofed running the six-furlong Manhattan Beach with the turf rails at 15 feet. Turf stakes should always be run “rails down.” A wider course produces less trouble, and more genuine results.

◗ Grade 1 winner The Usual Q. T., the highest money earner ($1.5 million) by Unusual Heat, remains a star. But when the 5-year-old’s team considers the $100,000 California Dreamin’ Handicap on July 24 at Del Mar instead of trying for a repeat win July 23 in the $300,000 Eddie Read, it means The Usual Q. T. is on the down slope of a stellar career.

◗ Richard Tedesco’s departure from Santa Anita will not make things easier for the Great Race Place to fix its main track. The respected track superintendent’s last day at Santa Anita was to be Friday. Tedesco remains the track superintendent at Del Mar, so that’s good news for where the surf meets the . . . synthetic.

◗ Speaking of the prestigious summer race meets, the ball has been dropped in New York and California. Condition books are unpublished for Saratoga and Del Mar. News flash: The condition book is the best advertisement for a major meet. Hello?

◗ Del Mar will not be the same this summer without a string of Bruce Headley-trained runners. Headley this week said his stable will remain at Santa Anita, and ship to Del Mar only to run. Headley prefers to train on dirt, rather than Polytrack.

◗ California-based Crown of Thorns was eliminated on the first turn in the Stephen Foster last week, so make him the horse to beat July 30 at Del Mar in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap.

◗ By the way, was the Stephen Foster the year’s worst Grade 1 for older males? Yes. Go ahead and call me a grump. I liked Regal Ransom. He ran last.

◗ Start spreading the news. The speedster Alienation (101 Beyer Speed Figure last out) posted another bullet drill Wednesday at Santa Anita (six furlongs in 1:11). She might be long gone July 4 in the Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont. It’s a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

◗ Luckily for Alienation, the West’s best filly sprinter will skip the Prioress. Turbulent Descent, runner-up in the wet-track Acorn, returns East for the Aug. 6 Test at Saratoga and a showdown with California-based May Day Rose. New York can thank California for providing strength to the Prioress, and Test.

◗ Speaking of New York and 3-year-old fillies, you have to feel sorry for the Mother Goose on Saturday. Neither of the country’s two best fillies – Plum Pretty or Royal Delta – will run. That leaves Joyful Victory, although one gets the feeling she is not quite as good as her Oaklawn blowouts suggest. Color her vulnerable.

◗ Speaking of overrating horses, I was wrong about Cozi Rosie. She looked like a killer in the female turf division after a huge February comeback. Two losses later, she seems like just another okay horse. Cozi Rosie is the top weight Sunday at Hollywood in the Grade 3 Beverly Hills at 1 1/4 miles. Good luck.

◗ One of my favorite horses is aiming to the wrong race. After winning four consecutive graded stakes on Hollywood turf, Acclamation will switch surfaces for the Hollywood Gold Cup, a $500,000 Grade 1 he probably cannot win. But he would be odds-on July 17 in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sunset Handicap at 1 1/2 miles. Acclamation works Tuesday on the main track.

◗ As for the Hollywood Gold Cup, it is all Twirling Candy vs. First Dude. It would have been nice to see horse-for-course Rail Trip in the Gold Cup, a race he won in 2009 and finished second in 2010. Rail Trip has five wins and three seconds at Hollywood, but since transferring to New York he has raced twice in the last year, two losses.

◗ Animal Kingdom’s injury is reported to be relatively minor. So why the nagging feeling the Kentucky Derby winner may never return? Hope that negative opinion is wrong.

◗ The Factor has resumed jogging, trainer Bob Baffert said, which means there is hope the fastest 3-year-old in the country may actually return. By the way, “fastest” 3-year-old does not necessarily mean “best” 3-year-old.

◗ Champagne d’Oro resumes her campaign July 9 at Calder in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney. Do you remember her? Champagne d’Oro is the Grade 1-winning sprinter otherwise known as older sister to Belmont winner Ruler On Ice.

◗ Do you consider it amateurish when handicappers brag? Hey everyone! Ruler On Ice was my third preference in the Belmont! I am the greatest! Actually, no I am not.

◗ Looking at the Grade 2 New York Stakes on Saturday at Belmont, it is hard to decide which female turf division is weaker – East Coast or West Coast. Or maybe there is no difference. After all, the mighty Hibaayeb won in both places. As for the New York, it sure looks like Zagora is a lock.

◗ The sprint showdown of the Hollywood season is July 2 in the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Triple Bend – Amazombie vs. Smiling Tiger. But wait. Rumor is Paco Gonzalez may start Color of Courage, recent triple-digit-Beyer winner of visually impressive allowance races. So maybe it’s a three-horse race, but my money is on Amazombie.

◗ Just when it seemed Majestic City was a cinch in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile on July 17, along comes impressive debut winner Night Tide. A one-horse race is suddenly a two-horse race. Hooray!

◗ Here’s a weird stat from a top stable. Steve Asmussen this year is 0 for 27 with first-start 2-year-olds (through Wednesday). He has nine seconds, and five thirds. That is weird.

◗ Bob Baffert joined Twitter. His midweek tweet concerned medication: “Taking away raceday Lasix is like getting rid of the face mask. Going to be a lot of bloody noses.”