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Solar Echo runs her way into Oaks
DEL MAR, Calif. - Three consecutive wins have prepared Solar Echo for her stakes debut in Sunday's $300,000 Del Mar Oaks, but the turf race is not an easy spot for an attempt at her first major win.
"We're running with the big girls now," trainer Ron McAnally said.
Run over 1 1/8 miles, the Grade 1 Oaks will draw a strong field.
The top candidates include Katdogawn and Atlantic Ocean, the first two finishers in the San Clemente Handicap on Aug. 2; Cassis, the winner of the Musidora Stakes at York, England, in May; and Personal Legend, who finished a fast-closing fifth in the American Oaks on July 5.
Solar Echo belongs with that group. Owned by Janis Whitham, Solar Echo won a maiden race by eight lengths over six furlongs at Santa Anita on March 15, her second career start. She won an allowance race over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park June 26 and won her turf debut in a one-mile allowance race at Del Mar on Aug. 4.
In that race, she fought with Sharpbill through wicked early fractions of 21.43 and 44.09 seconds, put away that rival, and won by 2 1/2 lengths in a quick 1:33.92
McAnally said he believes Solar Echo benefited from that race and will not be a runaway leader in the Oaks, which is limited to 10 runners because of the narrow width of the course. Still, McAnally admits that Solar Echo will be close to the front.
"She won't be too far back," he said. "She's easy to rate."
The timing concerns McAnally. The Oaks will be Solar Echo's quickest turnaround, 20 days. "The only question is maybe coming back a little soon," he said. "She's not a big, robust filly. I wish I had another week."
Baffert likes Atlantic Ocean's work
Atlantic Ocean completed her serious training for Sunday's Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by working five furlongs in 59.20 seconds on Monday at Del Mar. Exercise rider Dana Barnes was aboard for the drill, which was conducted over the main track. The Oaks is at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Atlantic Ocean finished second in the San Clemente Handicap at a mile on the Del Mar turf on Aug. 2.
"She worked awesome," said Bob Baffert, who trains Atlantic Ocean. "She's coming up to a huge race."
Another Oaks candidate, Dessert, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 for trainer Richard Mandella.
Three-horse spill wreaks havoc
The breakdown of Naskra Nick in Saturday's 10th race, for maiden claimers, led to a three-horse spill, the second major accident at Del Mar in a week.
Naskra Nick, ridden by Martin Pedroza, was second on the turn but shortening stride noticeably in early stretch when he was struck from behind by Jason Raj, ridden by Max Corrales. Jason Raj also collided with Chataquos' Chance, unseating jockey Scotty Ziesing.
Pedroza and Ziesing rose to their feet quickly. They were taken to the track's first-aid department and released.
Jason Raj and Chataquos' Chance appeared uninjured and ran down the stretch. Corrales was taken to a local hospital for precautionary X-rays, complaining of shoulder pain. The X-rays were negative, but Corrales did not ride on Sunday, because of soreness.
Naskra Nick was euthanized as a result of a leg injury. Trained by Jack Carava, he entered the race with no in-the-money placings in three starts.
On Aug. 11, five horses were involved in a spill on the turn of a sprint. Three horses were euthanized and three riders were hospitalized.
Two of those jockeys - Anthony Lovato and Jose Silva - suffered back injuries. Lovato was released from hospital on Thursday. He will be out for four to eight weeks, according to his agent, Tommy Ball. Silva will be out for an undetermined period of time.
Tyler Baze, who was also involved in the accident, is booked to return on Wednesday, but needed to receive clearance from a doctor on Tuesday.
Big odds drop during race
More than $44,000 in win bets were placed on the favorite just seconds before the ninth race on Saturday. Amber Twilight, dropped from 2-1 to even-money during the running of the one-mile race. Amber Twilight won the race.
According to Del Mar chief financial officer Michael Ernst, approximately $46,000 in bets were made on the race from a hub in Lewiston, Maine, with $44,697 bet on Amber Twilight.
The odds on Amber Twilight changed to even-money as the horses passed the half-mile pole. Amber Twilight led throughout the race for $14,000 to $16,000 claimers. Listed at 7-2 on the morning-line, Amber Twilight was 9-5 at one point before post time.
Ernst said that bets are calculated every 45 seconds. He said a cycle of bets was made eight seconds before the start of the ninth race and again 37 seconds after the start. "We're satisfied that everything was proper in this wager," Ernst said.
With the expansion of simulcast wagering to hundreds of locations throughout the country, and offshore, in recent years, late changes in win prices have frustrated bettors who have seen odds change after the start of a race.
The issue has been discussed by racing officials who have stressed that bets have not been placed after a race has started and that it takes as long as a minute after the start of a race to process all bets from satellite locations.
John Harris, a commissioner with the California Horse Racing Board, said on Sunday that similar bets in the past have been investigated by the board. "Apparently, there are no improprieties," he said.
Still, he said changes could be suggested in the future so that offtrack bets are reflected in the win pool at the off time. He said he would not want to limit the capability of ontrack customers to place bets until the betting is stopped when the gates open.
"I think we have to get it where the bet is clearly displayed before the race," he said. "It's a technological issue."
Giovannetti gets a 90-day break
Giovannetti, the winner of the Phoenix Gold Cup last March, was turned out earlier this month for a 90-day break, trainer Frank Monteleone said.
Giovannetti, 4, finished third in the Los Angeles Times Handicap at Hollywood Park in May, but was unplaced in three subsequent stakes, including a ninth in the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 26.
Owned by Bernie Schiappa, Giovannetti has won 7 of 15 starts and $268,951.
Monteleone said that Giovannetti's goal this winter is the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint for California-breds and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24.
Shulman sends stable to Santa Anita
Sandy Shulman has shipped his barn to Santa Anita. Shulman's stable includes horses owned by Ron Charles, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.
Charles said his horses trained by Shulman will continue to race at Del Mar through the end of the meeting on Sept. 10. Other trainers have sent parts of their stables to Santa Anita, but have left horses at Del Mar.
Charles downplayed the decision to leave. "We've had a few problems," he said. "We'll still race."
- Touch of the Blues continued to train strongly for an upcoming start in Woodbine's Atto Mile by working a half-mile in 49.40 seconds on the turf, around dogs, for trainer Neil Drysdale.
- Halfbridled, an impressive debut winner earlier at the meet for Mandella, worked seven furlongs in 1:25.20. The 2-year-old filly is expected to make her next start Aug. 30 in the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante.
- Mandella also worked the comebacking Pleasantly Perfect, last year's winner of the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, who was timed in 1:00.80 for five furlongs.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman