07/17/2017 11:36AM

Mandella, Baffert strong in juvenile department

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Barbara D. Livingston
Varanasi, trained by Bob Baffert, makes her racing debut Wednesday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – A precocious group of talented 2-year-olds already has been unveiled in Southern California this year, but the action ramps up considerably with the opening of Del Mar on Wednesday, and the meet’s first maiden race for 2-year-olds could be a preview of coming attractions, with promising fillies trained by Bob Baffert and Richard Mandella among the entrants.

Baffert is always a dominating presence in 2-year-old races here – he has won the Del Mar Futurity 13 times in the last 21 runnings – but it is Mandella who bears watching this summer as he heads into this meet with what appears to be a strong group of fillies, including Varanasi, a daughter of Jimmy Creed who runs in Wednesday’s fifth race. In the coming weeks, Mandella will send out Ladybug, a Medaglia d’Oro filly who has trained sharply, as well as Poetic (Violence), Retro (Giant’s Causeway), and She’s Funny (Tapit), all of whom look to have talent.

“I’ve got a bunch of fillies ready to run,” Mandella said. “Varanasi has trained really well. She was a little ahead of the others all along. Ladybug runs in this condition book, and she can run, too. We’ll find out more when we run them.

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Mandella also has some promising colts, headed by Arch Anthem (Arch) and Keystone Field (Candy Ride), who will debut later this summer.

Baffert, per usual, is loaded. He’s already sent out Diamondsandpearls, a $1.7 million 2-year-old purchase, to an eye-catching debut win, and his filly in Wednesday’s fifth race, Just a Smidge (Into Mischief), has been working very well at Santa Anita.

Baffert’s most precocious colts are Serengeti and Zulfikhar, both of whom already are maiden winners and are headed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 12. But there are plenty more in the pipeline, including St. Patrick’s Day, a full brother to American Pharoah who should debut later this summer, and Nero (Pioneerof the Nile), who has trained very well and could run as soon as this weekend.

Doug O’Neill also has a strong entrant in Wednesday’s maiden race in Tyfosha, who was second to subsequent stakes winner Surrender Now first time out. His most precocious male looks to be Gracida, a son of Custom for Carlos who cost $400,000 this year. He has shown keen speed in his Santa Anita works and could square off against Nero this weekend. The promising Lucky Pulpit filly Saudi Chroma, a debut winner in May, will miss the meet with a minor injury, O’Neill said.

Peter Miller said Surrender Now is headed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 5, when she likely will face Diamondsandpearls, and Miller also has an extensive roster, so he should be a force throughout the meet. He has two first-time starters – Broome and My Princess Taylor – in Wednesday’s fifth race. Ones to watch from his barn include the colts Amalfi Drive (Flatter) and So Long Sailor (Quality Road). Fans of the Showtime series “Billions” will want to keep tabs on Bobby Axelrod (Tale of the Cat), who should debut later in the meet.

Also headed to the Sorrento is Spectator, who won her debut for Phil D’Amato. His best prospect may be the colt Concur (Curlin), who should debut toward the end of the meet. Both D’Amato and Mike Machowsky are well stocked with California-bred 2-year-olds, too.

Richard Baltas is very bullish on Tequila Sunrise, the runner-up to Spectator in her debut. He believes she will improve sharply when sent two turns at this meet, likely on turf.

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Jerry Hollendorfer has a deep roster of 2-year-olds. Like Miller, he has a pair of fillies – Mapit and Our Slick Chick – debuting Wednesday, but look for the colts Jungle Warfare, third in his debut last month, and the unraced Chaos Theory (Curlin) to make an impact as distances increase.

John Sadler has several promising fillies, including Artistic Diva (Munnings) and Condi (Elusive Quality), both of whom should debut two to three weeks into the meet, Sadler said.

Brian Koriner’s barn has been upgraded with several quality 2-year-old buys of owner Samantha Siegel, the best of whom could be the colt Paddock Pick (Graydar) and the filly Taylor and Burton (Pioneerof the Nile).

Simon Callaghan’s most precocious runner has been the colt Run Away, who won the Santa Anita Juvenile and is slotted next for the Best Pal, but he has some pricey 2-year-olds who could make the last part of the meet, including Moonshine Memories, a $650,000 yearling by Malibu Moon, and an unnamed Distorted Humor colt out of Lemon Kiss who went for $850,000 at Timonium in May.

Others worth following include the colts Tatters to Riches (Union Rags), a $1 million buy trained by Jeff Mullins, Xten (Eskendereya) for Tim Yakteen, Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) for Mick Ruis, and Mr. Orb (Orb) and Draft Pick (Candy Ride) for Pete Eurton. Also, the fillies Tea for Tam (Malibu Moon) for John Shirreffs, Chatty (Exchange Rate) for Michael McCarthy, and Time to Play (Medaglia d’Oro) for Eoin Harty.