09/10/2009 11:00PM

Score one for local turf-filly team

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Benoit & Associates
Gotta Have Her, Tyler Baze up, wins the Palomar at Del Mar, defeating East Coast shipper Carribean Sunset.

POMONA, Calif. - They're off and running on the five-eighth-mile dirt track at Fairplex Park, home of the Los Angeles County Fair meet through Sept. 28. Time to clean out the handicapping notebook, with stuff like this . . .

* Either the California turf fillies are really good, or New York is overrated. Gotta Have Her, the second-best grass filly at Del Mar, beat shipper Carribean Sunset on Wednesday in the Grade 2 Palomar. The win flattered Magical Fantasy, who previously beat Gotta Have Her, and took shine off Forever Together, who previously beat Carribean Sunset.

* Where was everyone? Traffic was expected to be a mess Labor Day, final day of the holiday weekend. But driving north from Del Mar on Monday evening, toward Los Angeles on Interstate 5, there was clear sailing at limit speed. Blame the recession.

* It was fun waving the flag for Mi Sueno after her brilliant Sorrento Stakes victory. But that's it, no more. Mi Sueno badly disappointed Sept. 5 winning a bleak, slow Del Mar Debutante. Besides, there's a new girl. She is Pure Class, blowout two-turn maiden winner Sept. 7 and favorite for the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes on Oct. 4 at Santa Anita.

* A few so-called experts thought Sterling Outlook might win the Del Mar Futurity last weekend. Yeah, right. No knock on Sterling Outlook's trainer, Peter Miller, but he was up against eight-time (now nine) Futurity winner Bob Baffert.

* Too bad Dave in Dixie is two races behind Lookin at Lucky, because the smashing Aug. 29 debut by long-striding Dave in Dixie was as good as it got for 2-year-olds this summer. Problem is, he is down 3-1 in race experience, chasing unbeaten Lookin at Lucky, who looked like the real deal winning his third straight in the Del Mar Futurity.

* Beyond entertainment value in the salty commentary provided by California clocker-bloodstock adviser Gary Young, you have to admit the guy does his job well. He was instrumental in purchases of Pure Class and Dave in Dixie, two of the flashiest juvenile maiden winners of the Del Mar meet. John Sadler trains both.

* It would have been nice to cash in the Pacific Classic, but it did not happen. Therefore, this observation admittedly is pure past-posting. The $50 winner, Richard's Kid, embodied a timeless betting angle - a sharp horse, in good hands, moving up in class.

* It may be a condemnation of the handicap division out West and nothing more, but it is strange that all three Pacific Classic winners on Polytrack were shippers from the East or Midwest - Student Council, Go Between, and Richard's Kid.

* Everyone likes to brag a little, but TVG's Ken Rudulph crossed the line after the Pacific Classic. Near the end a postrace interview with winning trainer Bob Baffert, Rudulph turned to the camera and said, "I do want to say to the folks out there . . . I gave out the winner on TVG . . . I picked this horse." Awkwardly timed self-promotion.

* Yes, it is true that Colonel John had to wait behind horses on the far turn and into the stretch of the Pacific Classic. But after he straightened for home and found a path, he was merely one-paced, and lacked the explosive stretch run he showed in his previous start, which came on grass. Wonder if the Breeders' Cup Mile might be the best fit for Colonel John this fall.

* Speaking of the Pacific Classic, here's hoping Del Mar next year returns the $1 million race to its traditional late-August slot on the calendar. The race lost much of its pizazz this year when it was positioned so late in the season, on closing Sunday, Sept. 6.

* Thumbing through files, and stumbled across an old California Horse Racing Board press release titled "Del Mar Takes Initial Step for Polytrack," which outlined the Del Mar support for synthetic. The release was dated Jan. 13, 2006, four months before Barbaro broke down at Pimlico, and four months before the racing board's synthetic-surface mandate.

* Trainer Don Warren is a Los Angeles County Fair mainstay, and fairgoers are counting on Warren and owner-breeder Buddy Johnston to have some ammunition left even after going 7 for 24 this summer at Del Mar. A $2 win bet on their starters at Del Mar produced a $5.57 return for each win bet.

* Have you noticed? Even though the name of the track was changed years ago, longtime racing fans in California still refer affectionately to Fairplex as simply "Pomona."

* Saturday is opening weekend of the fair meet, and Spinning Yarns is favored in the $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes, named for the founder of the historic California breeding farm Old English Rancho. There are 14 Thoroughbred stakes scheduled at Fairplex. Can you guess how many are named for a horse?

* Thirteen years ago Monday, an unheralded 2-year-old won a maiden sprint at Fairplex Park. Free House would go on to win nine races and more than $3.1 million for trainer Paco Gonzalez and owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan. Although Free House has had only moderate success as a stallion, he sired E.B. Johnston favorite Spinning Yarns.

* This is the trivia answer from two paragraphs above. None of the 14 Thoroughbred stakes at Fairplex is named for a horse.

* Jockey Martin Pedroza entered the 2009 L.A. County Fair meet as the all-time leading jockey with 561 wins at Fairplex Park. Pedroza will be inducted into the Fairplex Hall of Fame in a ceremony Sept. 27.

* A continual string of half-mile one-turn races will be run the next two weeks at Fairplex, so here is an interesting statistic for horseplayers who cannot skip a race. The past five years at Fairplex, favorites at four furlongs have won 44 of 85 (52 percent).

* If they do not run any mule races this fall at Fairplex will anyone notice? Didn't think so.