08/01/2011 1:16PM

Del Mar: Sherman Bartlebort tests his speed in Graduation Stakes


DEL MAR, Calif. – It is tricky business honoring people by naming racehorses after them. Horses do not all turn out like Frankel or Dr. Fager. So when they do turn out well, it is reason to celebrate.

The reasons are good Wednesday at Del Mar, where a fast Northern California shipper with a funny name – Sherman Bartlebort – is favored in the $100,000 Graduation Stakes. The race is the 2-year-old’s first in Southern California. He will run for an appreciative audience.

Sherman Bartlebort is named after Dr. Mark Sherman and Dr. Scott Barttelbort, San Diego-area doctors who were instrumental in the treatment of breast-cancer survivor Gayle Finch, sister of co-owner Peter Finch and a certain attendee Wednesday at Del Mar.

Gayle Finch recently passed the five-year cancer-free milestone, in time for the juvenile campaign of a promising young horse named after her doctors.

“It’s exciting,” Peter Finch said. “We’ll see how far he can go.”

They already know he is quick.

“He is a fast horse,” trainer Bob Hess Jr. said. “He’s not that big, but he’s very athletic.”

The gelding arrived at Del Mar in sharp form following back-to-back Northern California wins for trainer Bob Hess, Hess’s father who owns the gelding in partnership with Finch, Jim Eaton, and David Perea.

Sherman Bartlebort shipped Saturday night to Del Mar and will be trained lightly up to the race. Hess Jr. is aware of the challenge facing shippers.

“The question for any horse is, will they take to the Del Mar surface and how will it play in the afternoon?” he said.

Sherman Bartlebort is the only Graduation starter that has cracked 70 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, which he did twice against good company. His maiden win June 10 at Golden Gate was over romping next-out winner Longview Drive; Sherman Bartlebort led gate to wire July 9 in a $62,000 stakes at Pleasanton.

Rafael Bejarano rides Sherman Bartlebort, whose job became easier when a key nominee to the stakes did not enter. A Toast to You, a smashing 79-Beyer maiden winner June 11 at Hollywood Park, was turned out by trainer John Sadler with a knee issue. He is expected back for fall.

Ten entered the 5 1/2-furlong Graduation. Main rivals for Sherman Bartlebort include maiden winner Unhitchthetrailor, lightly raced Pend Oreille, dropping out of a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile; and Rousing Sermon, a come-from-behind debut winner of a low-rated (53 Beyer) race on June 5.

Other entrants include Unusual Heatwave, Inquisitive Son, Rino S, Three Vases, Ruler of Dubai, and Joyzey Billy. The Graduation is the seventh race on an eight-race card.