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Rough riding and a fistfight
DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockeys Rene Douglas, Corey Nakatani, and Patrick Valenzuela all were facing disciplinary action Wednesday from Del Mar's stewards following incidents on Monday, which included two inquiries, a disqualification, and a fight in the jockeys' room.
Nakatani and Valenzuela were the combatants in the fight and in one of the inquiries. Douglas was not involved in the fight, but had a mount disqualified and placed last in the day's second race after bumping with a runner ridden by Valenzuela.
In the second race, a one-mile grass race, Douglas, aboard Cheiron, violently bumped Valenzuela's mount, Grafton, at the top of the stretch while seeking room. Grafton took several awkward steps, nearly went down, finished last in the five-horse field, and had to be removed from the turf course in the horse ambulance.
"He nicked a vein on the inside of his right front leg," Neil Drysdale, the trainer of Grafton, said Tuesday morning at Del Mar. "He was very, very lucky. He got knocked down to his knees."
After an inquiry, the stewards placed Cheiron last, behind Grafton.
Moments later, Valenzuela entered the jockeys' room and found himself the subject of a debate over race-riding tactics. Nakatani and Kent Desormeaux, neither of whom rode in the second race, opined while watching a replay of the race that Valenzuela was out of horse on Grafton and should have yielded to Douglas on Cheiron. According to several jockeys who witnessed the incident, Valenzuela and Nakatani exchanged heated words, which escalated into a fight. During the altercation, Valenzuela cut his ear.
Nakatani and Valenzuela were involved in another incident in the day's featured seventh race. Sexy Helmsman, ridden by Nakatani, was quickest away from the gate in the five-furlong turf race and led narrowly over Gathering Storm, who was on the rail under Valenzuela. Nakatani kept Sexy Helmsman exactly one lane off the rail around the turn and into the stretch, and Gathering Storm appeared intimidated. At the eighth pole, Valenzuela stood up on Gathering Storm and took her outside Sexy Helmsman, but they could not catch the front-running winner.
The stewards posted the inquiry sign and took a long look at replays of the incident before deciding there would be no change.
Valenzuela was incensed. He angrily took his tack off of Gathering Storm, weighed in, and then looked to the stewards' booth on the sixth floor and shouted at the stewards. Jenine Sahadi, the trainer of Gathering Storm, picked up the stewards' phone adjacent to the winner's circle - the one stewards use to talk to jockeys during an inquiry - and pointed out that Gathering Storm had emerged from the race with a bloody gash on one leg.
The day's events were the subject of much discussion Tuesday morning at the track, with several trainers of the opinion that jockeys who are involved in fights should be removed from their mounts the rest of the day.
"I've seen it happen too many times where they take it out on each other on the track, but there's horses involved," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "They need to cool off. In any other sport, you get in a fight and you're ejected. They should do that here."
Five winners hit pick-six bonanza
Monday's card was spiced by a huge pick-six pool, the result of a record one-day carryover of $648,442 from Sunday's Pacific Classic card. There was a $1 million guarantee on Sunday, $1,167,860 was bet, and no one had all six winners.
Another $2,489,177 was bet into Monday's pick six, leaving an overall pool of $3,137,619. Del Mar's single-day pick-six record is $3,595,771, but that resulted from a two-day carryover heading into the Pacific Classic card of 1998.
There were five winning tickets on Monday, and each was worth $406,106.60.
Deep fields for weekend stakes
Both the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante for 2-year-old fillies on Saturday, and the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap for long-distance turf specialists on Sunday should have big fields of accomplished runners.
Bully Bones, the undefeated winner of Del Mar's Sorrento Stakes, and Indian Breeze, who captured Hollywood Park's Landaluce Stakes before finishing eighth in the Sorrento, head the field for the seven-furlong Debutante along with the impressive recent maiden winner Wild Fit. Douglas rides Bully Bones, Valenzuela is on Indian Breeze, and Alex Solis rides Wild Fit.
Wild Fit has been the subject of several private-purchase offers since her debut win, according to trainer Jeff Mullins.
Others expected for the Debutante, with riders, include Golden Silk (Jose Valdivia Jr.), Miss Norman (David Flores), River's Prayer (Victor Espinoza), Slick Road (Mike Smith), and the Chris Paasch-trained entry of Diplomat Lady (Jon Court), and Mystery Girl (Garrett Gomez).
The Del Mar Handicap is topped by Laura's Lucky Boy and Sarafan, who were involved in the controversial Escondido Handicap earlier this month, when Sarafan was disqualified for bumping Laura's Lucky Boy in deep stretch. Others pointing for the 1 3/8-mile grass race include Always First, Continental Red, Continuously, Exterior, Leprechaun Kid, Outta Here, and Runaway Dancer, and possibly Fast and Furious, Greek Sun, and Habaneros.
Fast and Furious needed to have a quarter crack on his right front foot patched this week, trainer Ron McAnally said. "He's missed some time, and it's a long race," he said.
By contrast, Friday's CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap, at 1 3/8 miles on turf for older fillies and mares, had only nine nominations, and few are expected to enter. Expected to run are Cold Cold Woman, Jordyn Macoma, and Secret Charm.
Woke Up Dreamin works fast
Woke Up Dreamin, who has emerged as one of the nation's leading sprinters with stakes victories at Belmont Park and Calder in his last two starts, zipped six furlongs in 1:12 on Tuesday morning for trainer Bob Baffert. The time was the best of 13 at the distance.
"I backed off him," Baffert said. "He got a little fat. He turned into a couch potato. Sometimes you can't back off these big, heavy horses."
Baffert said he had no immediate plans for Woke Up Dreamin, whose year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park.
"The way the sprint division is, it's survival of the fittest," Baffert said.
- El Roblar, who won a division of the Oceanside Stakes and is preparing for the Grade 2, $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 for trainer Richard Mandella.
- Solis did not ride Monday, complaining of a sore toe.
- Jockey Octavio Vergara has been suspended for three days, beginning Saturday, for causing interference at the start of Sunday's sixth race with Proud Cecy.
- Mike Orman, who has trained and been a racing manager, has been named the new farm manager of Windfall Farms in Creston, Calif.