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As promised, here’s a belated, and somewhat abbreviated Del Mar wrap up. Personally, I worked way too many hours, each day cursing the six-day schedule and praying for Del Mar to someday go to five-day race weeks; I picked a lot of winners, finishing one behind Mike Superstein among all public handicappers, a group that is shrinking by the minute; I gambled well early, went on a two-week losing streak, rallied strongly again during Week 5, then played too aggressively and plunged hard through the final week to end up in the red. Very disappointing, especially considering the hours and effort invested.

As for Del Mar overall, business was down and traffic (foot and automobile) was much lighter due to the shaky economy and high gas prices. I thought the racing was about the same as normal, top-notch in the stakes divisions but the usual ho-hum weekday cards filled with cheapies and maiden claimers. Rafael Bejarano was outstanding in leading the jockey standings, Joel Rosario showed vast improvement to finish second and Garrett Gomez was tremendous in the big races, leading all riders in purse money. Trainer John Sadler crushed the competition, taking advantage of a “loophole” in the steroid rules to run roughshod over barns that mostly complied with the new rules. How much of an advantage Sadler had by allegedly not withdrawing his horses from steroids is debatable, but it couldn’t have hurt. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his roll during Oak Tree. The Barber brothers, mostly with horses in the Sadler barn, broke the owners’ record for winners in a season.Â

From the Department of the Bizarre, rider Matt Garcia was arrested and handcuffed in the paddock and Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel didn’t win a race at the meet. Hard to say which of those would have been a bigger price in a future book wager. After taking it on the chin early in the meet, favorites rebounded to win at 33%, including an astounding 44% win rate on turf.Â

Got married the Saturday after the meet ended, honeymooned in Hawaii for a week, went to a friend’s bachelor party in Arizona for two days (Georgia should have beaten ASU by 40, by the way), and here we are the night before the Oak Tree opener with three handicaps in the books and updating the blog. Obviously vacations go way too fast.Â

As for Oak Tree, this should be an outstanding meet, with the Arcadia track hosting the 25th Breeders’ Cup on Oct. 24 and 25. The 26-day meet kicks off with a very competitive Morvich Handicap coming down the hill, and features six Grade I stakes events on Saturday, five of which are designated as “Win and You’re In” BC qualifiers. We’ll all be watching Curlin try to become the richest horse in North American history when he goes in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday at Belmont. Even though he won last time at Saratoga, he looked to me like a horse that might be “over the top”. Here’s an early prediction: Assuming Curlin were to go ahead and run in the BC Classic, neither he nor Big Brown will win. Someone is going to pop up with the race of his life and pull off the upset over the Big Two. And Oak Tree will card the ultimate old-timers’ race, a pari-mutuel event on Oct. 18 featuring eight Hall of Fame riders from the past. Wonder what the insurance policy on that cost?Â

If the new Pro-Ride surface holds up (third version of this synthetic track, which was installed before last year’s Oak Tree meet), this should be a hell of a meet.

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