GRADE 1 $250,000 DEL MAR OAKS
Del Mar's biggest day of summer comes Saturday with the Pacific Classic program. The $1 million feature race boasts heavily favored Maximum Security, while the undercard has the Grade 3 Green Flash and Torrey Pines, the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap as well as the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. It's the Oaks that could be the best betting stakes on the card with a field of 11. The Race 9 Del Mar Oaks leads directly into the Race 10 Pacific Classic and could be a good way to utilize the daily double wager to Maximum Security.
Grade 2 winner LAURA'S LIGHT has the marquee victory on her resume among the domestic challengers. Horses like GUITTY and WARREN'S SHOWTIME have knocked on the door behind LAURA'S LIGHT. Internationally, MISS EXTRA is a Group 2 winner in France, while NEIGE BLANCHE won at France's Group 3 level.
AQUA SEAFORM SHAME has won back-to-back turf sprints and stretches out as the likely speed over a half-mile farther trip. PARKOUR ran off on the lead in the Honeymoon and has the potential to go ballistic early again. TRICKLE IN has been forwardly placed in all 4 starts, albeit against slower paces than what she'll see Saturday and likely be in chase mode of the aforementioned pair. LAURA'S LIGHT is plenty fast but has been able to harness that with pressing trips in her recent starts, something she'll likely need to do again. This tempo should set up for a late-running finisher, but they'll have to reel in LAURA'S LIGHT, who should get first run on the pacemaker(s).
Six of the last 9 winners of the Del Mar Oaks have been ship-in horses from outside California; Cambier Parc last year was the third in 4 years to do so. When you think about races restricted to 3-year-old turf fillies, that's a lot of restrictions to narrow the pool of eligible contenders of high quality. And when you look at the spring-summer of the California circuit, you're really limited in the same horses in a micro-division racing against each other. It makes sense that a new face with talent seeking Grade 1 black-type could find this an appealing late-summer spot annually.
This year, the shippers take the form of 3 barn transfers, 1 from the east/midwest and 2 from France.
TRICKLE IN moves from trainer Mike Stidham to SoCal-based Dan Blacker after a private sale. She's on her third barn in 5 races as she began her career with Jonathan Thomas and was sold after a winning debut. She's won 3 of 4, all wire to wire, and would certainly fit the historical profile of a Del Mar Oaks winner moving west. But the pace scenario looks tough for her with blazers like AQUA SEAFORM SHAME and PARKOUR likely in front of her early the first half-mile. She was pestered by a 35-1 shot all the way in her last win at Delaware Park in which she was a bit tired late, didn't gallop out well and the top 7 were within 3 lengths at the wire.
The French exports MISS EXTRA and NEIGE BLANCHE have come a long way to meet for the first time. MISS EXTRA was on the A-level in her homeland, taking on top-class company at Deauville and Longchamp. She rallied nicely to win the Grade 2 Prix de Sandringham over a mile, and was in the same spot turning for home in the Grade 1 French Oaks but failed to produce any run and tired at 20-1 while going a mile and five-sixteenths. MISS EXTRA should be more suited to this mile and one-eighth run at Del Mar against far easier competition than she met in her last. Note French Oaks heroine Fancy Blue returned July 30 at add the Group 1 Nassau for Aidan O'Brien. MISS EXTRA was moved from her owners to the US care of Richard Mandella by design, a Hall of Fame trainer who won the 2003 Del Mar Oaks with Dessert. The barn also has fleet PARKOUR in the mix and should ensure a hot pace.
NEIGE BLANCHE was not at the class level of MISS EXTRA back in her native France. But she comes into the Del Mar Oaks off a career-best race when upsetting the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre at Lyon in June. She beat only 4 rivals when 10-1 that day, her first try in a group stakes and what was billed as a prep for the French Oaks. But she was subsequently sold and moved to the US under the care of trainer Leonard Powell, who won this race in 2018 with Fatale Bere. NEIGE BLANCHE, sired by Goldikova's full-brother Anodin, has raced at a mile and one-quarter or longer in every start, so she'll cut back in trip some while adding Lasix. She could take well to US racing.
If the Californians are to hold serve in the Del Mar Oaks, LAURA'S LIGHT will be heavily leaned upon to hold her form from wins in the Grade 3 Honeymoon and Grade 2 San Clemente, the latter the local Oaks prep. She has sat perfect trips, clear in second, with making first runs in both scores. Her only misfire came on Polytrack in Turfway's Bourbonette, but there does remain some skepticism here that the Peter Miller trainee is best over this long of a trip. Albeit, taking a stand against her in the same-distanced Honeymoon proved the wrong move. But the European raiders here should provide a much stiffer late threat than what she's seen so far.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: LAURA'S LIGHT hasn't missed a superfecta in her career and should be counted on to hang for a minor share even if she succumbs to the closers. I'd slot her third or fourth.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: GUITTY, also trained by Leonard Powell and a French export last year at age 2, gives herself a lot of work to do from far off the pace. But she nearly got there in the San Clemente over a mile, and in a race in which she was reluctant to load and very head-strong fighting her rider the first quarter-mile. The wide draw shouldn't hurt her style as she'll be dropping back and making a late run. She's nearly 20-1 or more in all 3 starts this year, so I don't expect the public will over-bet her.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $80 daily double MISS EXTRA with MAXIMUM SECURITY. $10 exacta part-wheel MISS EXTRA, NEIGE BLANCHE over GUITTY ($20).