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As I wrote in my last posting, the trainer race was going to get very interesting by Sunday. And with two more winners on closing day, Jeff Mullins was able to tie Doug O’Neill for leading trainer at Hollywood Park. With O’Neill virtually stopping to a walk—no wins since Lava Man on June 30 (a streak of 0-for-26)—Mullins closed furiously, winning with 23 of 66 starters (35%) since June 6.

Mullins got off to a good start when SCOTTSBLUFF re-rallied to win (in 1:07.2) a very tight photo in the opening-race turf stakes, and scored with odds-on favorite NORWAY HOUSE to tie things up after the 6th race. He still had two bullets left with favorites THE FIVE J’S and STORMIN AWAY but both ran poorly. In any event, a terrific accomplishment for Mullins, starting about half as many horses as O’Neill, who did not have a strong meet percentage-wise. However, when Horse of the Meet LAVA MAN won his record-tying third straight Gold Cup, O’Neill really didn’t need to win any other races at the meet. Honorable Mention: Ron Ellis had a terrifically high-percentage meeting and was voted top trainer by the media. He got another win today (in tandem with Jose Valdivia) when DELICATE CAT rallied from last to win a turf sprint.

Michael Baze held off repeated challenges from Joe Talamo to become the youngest leading rider at a HP Spring/Summer meet since Bill Shoemaker. Both riders were outstanding, so here’s to seeing these two guys go at it for many years to come.

Thanks in part to the wagering frenzy created by a four-day Pick 6 carryover, and strong Friday night business, HP established a new record of $11.3 million for daily handle. Congratulations on a strong meeting with good racing. The only lowlight for me was the small field sizes over the past two weeks.

ENTER ANON won again, this time for new trainer Mike Pender. The 4-year-old gelding stepped up into allowance company to win his third straight in dominating fashion…old-timer RUNAWAY GROOM rallied from far back to win the Sunset Handicap going away. The 8-year-old gelding continues to bang out a good living and was ridden to perfection by Alex Solis, who split horses in mid-stretch with a perfectly-timed ride. Solis, who was winning his third straight Sunset, is riding the turf as well as anybody. Perhaps this is becoming his forte.

On a personal note, I rallied from far back early to lead all public handicappers at the meet, edging by Mike Superstein 172-170. After struggling early and trailing by 15 winners in the first month, I went on a 36% streak over the past seven weeks, with my selections showing a flat-bet profit during that time. I’ve led my share of meetings over the past 20 years but I must say this one is the most satisfying.

Early thoughts on Del Mar: With the advent of Polytrack at Del Mar this summer, who knows what to expect? I have no clue how the track will play and I’m not going to pretend I do. For a couple good articles on the subject, check out Jim Quinn’s “Handicapping for Polytrack” (http://www.dmtc.com/season/polytrack-handicapping.php) and Jeff Nahill’s article http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/07/15/sports/delmar/22_55_167_14_07.txt in the North County Times.

My advice (and how I will play the races on my Premium Play selections) is to concentrate on turf races during the first week or two. I will be going to school early in the meet, observing and taking notes, trying to find any kind of bias or edge. I can’t imagine any serious player jumping in and playing main-track races aggressively right away. So, let’s take a deep breath, decompress from this meet, and take a low-key approach for the first week or two of Del Mar. Besides, with six-day racing there’s enough work and nightlife to keep us plenty busy.

To View Free Samples of Friday, Saturday and Sunday Premium Plays, click on the links below: Premium Plays for July 13Â Â Â Â Premium Plays for July 14Â Â Â Â Â Â Premium Plays for July 15Â Â

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