11/08/2017 10:56AM

Turf sprint, statebred allowance present challenges


DEL MAR, Calif. – The afterglow Friday at Del Mar includes handicapping challenges similar to those bettors faced during a triumphant Breeders’ Cup one week ago.

A perplexing turf sprint for 2-year-old maidens and a turf route for California-bred fillies and mares are the chief obstacles for bettors on an otherwise routine eight-race card Friday. Similarities to the Breeders’ Cup? You bet.

Stormy Liberal was tough to find at 30-1 in the BC Turf Sprint, but bettors familiar with Del Mar nuances were fading odds-on Lady Aurelia already. When it comes to winning favorites in Del Mar turf sprints, 23 percent is the new normal.

Since Del Mar replaced and reconfigured its course three years ago, favorites have won just 25 of 109 turf sprints. The best horse does not win as often as the 34 percent average at other distances. However, finding the “best horse” Friday in race 3 is no easy task.

Second-time starter Afleet Ascent is the program favorite, based on an ordinary third-place debut. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained son of Northern Afleet has worked well since the effort and is eligible to improve.

Kershaw is a stablemate of Stormy Liberal, owned by Rockingham Ranch and trained by Peter Miller. Kershaw was gelded following his debut, an off-slow fifth-place finish at odds-on. Others in race 3 include first-time starters Saratoga Morning and Jimmy Chila.

Race 7 also is murky, also with Breeders’ Cup overtones. Speakers and Battleground State were as wide last out as Bolt d’Oro in the BC Juvenile. Winemenow stretches from 6 1/2 furlongs to a mile. She can win if she stays the trip. A similar concern applied to Gun Runner’s ability to get a 1 1/4 miles in the BC Classic.

A field of seven was entered in race 7, a first-condition allowance for California-bred fillies and mares at one mile on turf.

Battleground State is the program favorite, Her last-start maiden win was better than the half-length margin of victory, or 72 Beyer Speed Figure, suggests. The three-start filly raced four wide start to finish, yet won decisively.

Speakers was well backed last out in her first race against winners, but finished seventh in an eight-horse field. She had an alibi. Carried wide on the first turn, she became keen, continued wide, and sputtered in the lane. Her maiden win two starts back might be fast enough to win Friday.

Winemenow finished second in a highly rated statebred allowance turf sprint at Santa Anita last out. She is in career-best form, has run well over the Del Mar course, and enters with the field’s top figure, a 76 Beyer.

Others in the featured race 7 include Scathing, Mizzen Glory, Ms Wakaya, and Lady Espionage.