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Consider the jockeys' race officially up for grabs. Rafael Bejarano seemed to have a stranglehold on the title, but Joel Rosario has been on a tear, and Tyler Baze has shown he's not going away either as the meet comes into its closing weeks.
As hot as Rosario was two weeks ago with 12 wins, he did even better this week, posting 13 tallies, that after being blanked Thursday. But then came hat trick Friday, a four-bagger Saturday, and two more hat tricks Sunday and Monday. By the time the week was done, he sat atop the standings with 67 victories. It's not as if Bejarano has just stopped, either -- five more wins on the week kept him in the mix at 64. Baze also posted five wins. While 58 wins keeps him within reach of the leaders, he'll need a big couple last weeks to be a major player.
Rosario's good fortune has come not only with numerous victories, but also in the quality of mounts he's getting and how he's being perceived by horsemen. For instance, he's been named to pinch-hit on leading 3-year-old filly Blind Luck for Jerry Hollendorfer for her next two starts.
Rosario will pilot Blind Luck in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks at Delaware on July 10, and then, should things go well, in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 21. That could be the race of the division as Blind Luck may run into Grade 1 winner Devil May Care.
Bejarano, Blind Luck's regular rider, is booked to ride Rail Trip in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10 and the Hollendorfer-trained Tuscan Evening in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 21.
With leading trainer Doug O'Neill sitting out a suspension until July 15, the field is trying to close in on him. This past week, however, saw the wealth spread all over the backstretch. O'Neill remains on top with 27 tallies, followed by Mike Mitchell (22), Bob Baffert (20), and John Sadler (19).
Looks like Lyrical Goddess has suddenly gone the wrong way. A 4-year-old daughter of Bertrando, she came out firing, winning her debut at Santa Anita on April 16 and then finishing a strong second against starter-allowance foes here May 15 in her first try against winners. She tried that caliber again June 5, but after a troubled start she rushed up into a duel and paid the price, weakening to finish seventh.
Well, apparently it wasn't just the duel that did her in. She came back with a significant drop for Thursday's sixth race, a $12,500 second-level sprint, and on paper she looked imposing. Sent off the 2-1 favorite under Martin Pedroza, the Cliff Sise Jr.-trained filly seemed in a good spot, dogging pacesetter Hard Eight to the top of the lane. As in her prior run, however, that's where she hit the wall. She stopped badly, finishing seventh of eight.
Cozi Rosie likely would have been favored in Saturday's Grade 1 American Oaks. But that daughter of Pleasantly Perfect was scratched Friday by Sadler.
"She was not herself this [Friday] morning," said Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, racing manager for owner/breeders Jerry and Ann Moss. "We'll probably do a nuclear scan on her to be safe. We'll be very cautious."
The issue involves her left fore.
No bias in terms of style or path for either surface all week.
While the good news for Baffert is that stable star Lookin At Lucky, winner of the Grade 1 Preakness, is doing well after missing some training, Baffert also is beaming over the prospects of up-and-coming 3-year-old Concord Point.
Lookin At Lucky will target the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth on Aug. 1 and a chance for revenge as he may meet Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver there. Meanwhile, Concord Point, a devastating 8 3/4-length winner of the Grade 3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows over such nice runners as Thiskyhasnolimit, in track record time, will be "nominated to everything," according to Baffert. With Lookin At Lucky eyeing the Haskell, that may mean Concord Point could be funneled toward the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga the day before.
Baffert also has reported that Game on Dude, winner of the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in May and fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont on June 5, will stay home and be his representative in the Grade 2 Swaps on July 17. There, he may run into Sidney's Candy, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and Golden Itiz and Alphie's Bet, first and third, respectively, in the Grade 3 Affirmed last month.
Trainer Simon Callaghan reported that his 4-year-old filly Turning Top returned in good shape from her smart win in the Grade 3 Beverly Hills Handicap here June 26. That was her fourth straight victory, and Callaghan said she would be nominated to both the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington (Aug. 21) and Grade 1 John Mabee at Del Mar (Aug. 15) for her next start.
Jockey Corey Nakatani will reportedly resume riding in Southern California this week, according to his new agent, Tommy Ball.
Nakatani, who has ridden at Oaklawn and Churchill Downs this year after spending the bulk of his career in Southern California, was to resume riding here this week to get ready for the Del Mar meeting July 21 to Sept. 8.
Ball added that Nakatani may stay beyond Del Mar, if he is successful at the seaside.
Dawnie Macho has joined the John Sadler barn after an auspicious debut at Arlington and was nominated to the Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on July 11.
A chestnut daughter of Macho Uno, Dawnie Macho was purchased privately by Gary and Cecil Barber after her five-length debut win in 51.16 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs June 12.
"She set a track record," Sadler said. "I will probably work her Monday and decide on whether to go in the Landaluce."
The lineup is expected to be headed by She'll Heir and Swiss Wild Cat, the one-two finishers in the Cinderella; Belleofthebridle, second against males in the Willard Proctor; and Given Episode, an impressive debut winner.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
This isn't to say Isle of Giant's is ready to take on Rail Trip, but this son of world-class racehorse and sire Giant's Causeway appears to be blossoming, particularly with the move back to synthetic footing. He won his maiden on Woodbine's Polytrack on Dec. 6. After four months off, he came here but was a nonfactor seventh in a 1 1/4-mile turf route April 21, his first try against winners. Trainer Ben Cecil opted to go back to synthetic footing, cut back in distance (1 1/16 miles) and well down in class ($25,000 N2L) on May 29 here, and the result was a romping 16 1/4-length win for a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.
Cecil decided to bite off quite a bit more in Friday's fifth race, a tough optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles. Well, it wasn't tough at all for his upstart gelding. Isle of Giant's, under Rosario, who had ridden him in that May 29 laugher, put the horse right on the lead again, set modest splits, and drew off to win with complete ease by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:43.01. Rosario never really asked Isle of Giant's either, or the margin could have been a lot more. He earned another strong Beyer Figure (98).
While this was on Cushion Track, he is already proven on Polytrack, the synthetic surface at Del Mar. And judging by the ease of these two wins, it's not inconceivable he might next try Del Mar's Grade 2 San Diego Handicap on July 31 at 1 1/16 miles.
HORSES TO WATCH
Wild and True
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Last race: July 1, 4th
Finish: 3rd by 4
Two-year-old son of the talented Expressionist made an auspicious debut here, even if things didn't work out. He came into his debut off plenty of solid works, but once the bell rang for the $40,000 claiming sprint, things went poorly -- he got squeezed back significantly at the start to get away last. To his credit, he gathered himself, bided his time, and put in a solid, sustained run to get third in a smart debut outing.
Long Legged Lovely
Trainer: Marty Jones
Last race: July 3, 10th
Finish: 3rd by 2 3/4
The rail draw and her natural speed may have been her undoing. In her second career start June 5, she got into a duel and paid the price, faltering to third. Well, it happened again. This time from the rail, her speed carried her right up into the teeth of a duel, and what's worse is it was the No. 2 horse with whom she dueled, so she was hemmed in on the rail throughout. She got the better of the duel, but she lost the war.
Asno Del Caramelo
Trainer: Mark Glatt
Last race: July 4, 9th
Finish: 3rd by 3
Son of Grade 1 turf/dirt stakes winner Candy Ride broke slowly from his rail draw in this five-furlong sprint. However, after biding his time he began to make a run on the far turn, but that was stymied when he had to steady off heels and check. He moved back to the inside but had to steady again when crowded along the fence. He wasn't going to beat the winner, but for a debut effort, to keep on coming despite the lack of experience and the trouble was most encouraging.