The La Jolla Handicap has lured nine turf specialists Sunday at Del Mar and sophomores will get a shot to earn a guaranteed $90,000 if talented enough to win.
The La Jolla Handicap will be run for the 77th time this weekend and the $150,000 Grade 3 event will be staged at a mile and a sixteenth on grass.
La Jolla, the city, is an idyllic community north of San Diego and surrounded by ocean bluffs and lush beaches. The La Jolla Handicap was first run in 1937 and over the years some important horses have won this race. Topsy Omar won the inaugural La Jolla Handicap and I witnessed Relaunch winning this race in 1979. Vernon Castle took the La Jolla in 1986 and last year Free Rose got the money with Joe Talamo in the saddle.
From the rail out, Fashion Business has yet to be dressed for success in the United States. He has been seen four times in America since shipping from England but the best he has done so far is a second. The good news for his fans is that effort came in his last race on this Del Mar course. The bad news is that he has limited speed. He tried to overcome the disadvantageous ten post in the 11-horse field last time but the wire came up a bit too quickly. Trained by Phil D’Amato, Fashion Business’ lone win came by a neck at Lingfield, a minor track in Great Britain.
Colonist is another that is speed challenged and he will be making his first start on turf. After racing wide in his debut, this colt put two wins together and is coming off a fourth in the Los Alamitos Derby. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, he will be ridden by Flavien Prat.
Placido is taking a big leap in the La Jolla Handicap as he just broke his maiden. The win came on the tricky hillside course at Santa Anita so he will have to prove he can win going a route of ground. He did show renewed energy in his work on July 30 but Prat bails on him and will be replaced in the saddle by Rafael Bejarano.
Pioneer Lad has never been out of the money in five starts so he gets an A for consistency. He made his turf debut opening day at Del Mar when a fine second at 21-1 in the Oceanside Stakes. The racer is trained by Richard Baltas, who is hoping for that déjà vu feeling since he won this race last year. This youngster has positional speed and should give a good account of himself right back. The Oceanside video was uploaded by TVG Network.
Offshore may have needed his last race. He started at Del Mar on July 28 and it was his first race since April. He is in the world-class hands of Neil Drysdale and he did break his maiden on the Del Mar course last summer with a meager 58 Beyer Speed Figure.
Caribou Club is one of two stakes winners in the La Jolla Handicap. He started his career last July at Laurel and lost by a neck sprinting. His trainer Tom Proctor thought enough of him to ship to Saratoga but the runner had to settle for third when he was forced to steady. He did something in his next race that is not easy to do and that is break his maiden in a stakes. He took the Laurel Futurity by a nose to close out 2016. Proctor started him in a sprint at Keeneland and then took a shot in the J.W. Murphy at Pimlico. He was a tiring fourth in that $100,000 race. Caribou Club was 15-1 in the Oceanside and he finished third, a length and a half behind Pioneer Lad. Proctor has won the La Jolla Handicap twice in the last five years.
Sharp Samurai is the other stakes winner in this cast. He won once in his first three starts but seems like a new horse since his trainer Mark Glatt put him on grass. He was with the leaders when he won at Santa Anita in April and then was dueled into submission when fourth in the Singletary Stakes. Glatt changed riders in the next race when he hired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. The pilot took Sharp Samurai off the pace in the Rainbow Stakes on June 10, got him to settle, and then reeled in all of his rivals with a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. The Rainbow Stakes video was uploaded by Santa Anita Park.
Double Touch raced in some big fields as a youngster in England and he broke through in the states on June 30th in a $75,000 optional claimer. He is trained by Dan Blacker, who has spotted them great this year with limited starters, and will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.
If Monster Man is going to win the La Jolla Handicap, he will have to invent a trip from the extreme outside post. He was dull in his first two starts but showed signs of life in his turf debut and then won in his fourth appearance on the track. He posted his best effort when winning in May and in his last race, he was forced to steady when running third to Sharp Samurai.
The turf course at Del Mar has played fair of late. On the Thursday card two turf winners were in stalking positions early and one winner came from left field. The way the La Jolla Handicap sets up this year is that Placido, Pioneer Lad, Monster Man and Sharp Samurai will vie for the early lead. The rest of the field will be at the mercy of relaxing and trying to find a lane to rally into in time.
The call goes to Sharp Samurai. He has been away for a couple of months but he won off a November to February layoff and he freaked that day. In that February effort, Sharp Samurai was just a head off the lead early before drawing away to win by over nine lengths. This runner has trained fast and steadily for this race and he has been stabled at Del Mar for a few weeks now.
Sharp Samurai can slice up this field in the stretch.
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- Bing Crosby Stakes Tops Del Mar Bill - July 28, 2017
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- Schuylerville Stakes Billed at Saratoga - July 21, 2017
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