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McFarlane's horse will do the running this time
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Dan McFarlane can easily recall his first encounter with the horrors of opening-day traffic at Del Mar.
A few years ago, McFarlane fetched a friend at the airport a few hours before first post only to find himself in a severe traffic jam near the racetrack. With race time for one of his runners closing in, McFarlane did the only thing he could think of: He left his friend in the car and
started jogging toward the track.
"Here, you take over the controls," he recalls saying. "I've got to get to the receiving barn."
McFarlane made it to the track in time, though he remembers that running to the racetrack in loafers led to sore feet for a few days.
For Wednesday's opening day, McFarlane has plenty of incentive to be there early.
McFarlane will start Ez Dreamer in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes at a mile on turf. A stakes winner at Turf Paradise for Triple AAA Ranch, Ez Dreamer will be seeking his first stakes win in California in the Oceanside. In his last start, the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park in June, Ez Dreamer was beaten a nose by Tiz West after a troubled trip.
Ez Dreamer was carried out by Tiz West on the backstretch, and the two fought through the stretch before Tiz West prevailed. Jockey Corey Nakatani, who rode Ez Dreamer, lodged an objection, but the stewards did not change the order of finish.
"I didn't see how hard he'd gotten hit," McFarlane said of the backstretch incident. "I didn't think they'd take [Tiz West] down."
Before settling on the Oceanside, McFarlane considered two main-track stakes for Ez Dreamer - the $350,000 Swaps Stakes, which was to have been run on Saturday at Hollywood Park, or the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 2. He wanted to keep the colt local because of Del Mar's turf program for 3-year-olds.
"The Oceanside is a good race with the timing for the Del Mar Derby," he said of the $400,000 race on Aug. 31. "We still don't know whether he's better on turf or dirt."
New faces aim for Oceanside
The Oceanside has been run in at least two divisions annually since 1989; last year there were three. As of late Thursday, the track had received 35 nominations, leading to the likelihood of at least two divisions. Nominations closed on Friday. The race is restricted to nonwinners of a first-place purse of $50,000 this year.
Trainer Jack Carava is just getting to know his horse for the Oceanside. Moral Compass, third in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park on June 6, joined Carava's stable earlier this week. Moral Compass was
recently acquired privately by the La Canada stable.
"I don't know a lot about him," Carava said. "We spotted him a while back, but we didn't make a move until last week. He looks like a horse that was a good purchase at the right time."
Carava hopes that Moral Compass, previously trained by Barclay Tagg, can start in the Del Mar Derby after the Oceanside.
Friday at Santa Anita, Moral Compass worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds, a day before Carava was scheduled to send his stable to Del Mar.
Cannonball, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf over a soft course at Monmouth Park last fall, and the winner of a minor turf stakes going six furlongs at Belmont Park on May 31, will start in the Oceanside for breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Wesley Ward.
Ward expects Cannonball to thrive on Del Mar's firm turf course, but he is slightly concerned that the distance could be beyond the colt's reach.
"He's always a tryer and loves the firm ground," Ward said. "He only finished third in the Breeders' Cup because he was so sharp. I think he'll like the Del Mar course because it's so hard and firm. I think his optimum distance would be 6 1/2 or seven furlongs, but I think he'll get a mile pretty good."
Ramsey won the Del Mar Oaks with Bail Out Becky in 1995.
Lava Man expected for Eddie Read
There are six stakes in the first week of the Del Mar meeting, two of which are graded: the $300,000 San Diego Handicap, a Grade 2 at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, and Sunday's $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap, a Grade 1 at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The Read is likely to feature the seven-time Grade 1 winner Lava Man, American Handicap winner Whatsthescript, and Out of Control and Storm Military, who are trained by Bobby Frankel.
Surf Cat, the winner of the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park in the spring, is a top candidate for the San Diego, along with 2008 stakes winners Rebellion and Well Armed.
Ellis hopes for another star
Late last month, Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, was retired after a series of disappointing performances. One of his finest moments was a win in the 2004 Del Mar Futurity in his championship season.
Trainer Ron Ellis and owners Mace and Samantha Siegel may have another candidate for that race on Sept. 3 with Temerity, who makes his debut in a maiden special weight at 5 1/2 furlongs, Sunday's fourth race at Hollywood Park.
By leading freshman stallion Lion Heart, Temerity was purchased for $170,000 as a yearling last September. Ellis says that Temerity may need a wake-up race to reach his best.
"I think he's a Del Mar Futurity type of horse," Ellis said.
Temerity, who will be ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., had a sharp five-furlong workout from the gate in 1:00.20 on Wednesday.
"I don't have him perfectly honed to win first time out," Ellis said. "He's a good-looking colt, and the Lion Hearts have come out running."
There are two maiden special races for 2-year-olds Sunday. Temerity is part of a field that includes Captain Steel, who finished fifth in his debut May 22 and has since worked well for trainer Jeff Mullins.
In the sixth race, the second division, Candy Lion will be favored in a field of 10. He was second by a head in his debut on June 19.
* Declan's Moon will be retired to Country Life Farm in Maryland, where he was conceived. He was being housed in Kentucky on Friday and was scheduled to be vanned to Maryland in coming days, Ellis said.