Soul Driver captured his second straight stakes on turf when taking the opening-day Oceanside at Del Mar and Prospect Park made his grass debut a winning one in the August 9 La Jolla (G3), impressively scoring by a 4 ¼-length margin. The exciting 3yos will meet for the first time in Sunday’s $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2).
Soul Driver has blossomed since switching back to turf for Jeff Mullins three starts ago, recording a troubled third in the March 21 Pasadena before returning from a freshening with a 4 ½-length decision in the June 20 Singletary at Santa Anita. The Street Boss colt overcame a wide trip in the July 16 Oceanside, closing with a flourish to get up by a nose, and Mike Smith retains the mount on the late-running chestnut.
Prospect Park was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, finishing second in the San Felipe (G2) and fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), but a fever took him out of Kentucky Derby consideration. After a two-month hiatus, he came back with a pair of close runner-up finishes in the Affirmed (G3) and Los Alamitos Derby (G2). Trainer Cliff Sise’s decision to try the Tapit colt on turf last time turned out to be a revelation, with Prospect Park taking to the new surface with a career-best performance, and Kent Desormeaux will be back aboard the dark bay stalker.
A total of seven sophomores will contest the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby, including multiple stakes victor Papacoolpapacool, who will attempt to turn things around after a fifth in the Oceanside and a fourth in the La Jolla. Tiago Pereira picks up the mount on the Temple City gelding for Phil d’Amato.
La Jolla runner-up Om, who defeated American Pharoah in the Triple Crown winner’s career debut last summer, also returns on Sunday and Gary Stevens will take over the reins aboard the front-runner for Dan Hendricks. American Derby (G3) runner-up Crittenden, fifth in the Secretariat (G1) last time, is entered along with Royal Albert Hall, who finished third in both the Oceanside and La Jolla; and last-out maiden winner Win the Space.
A convincing winner of the San Clementine (G2) and Senorita (G3), Prize Exhibit will look to rebound from a third as the favorite in the August 15 Del Mar Oaks (G1) when she lines up against older rivals for the first time in the $200,000 Yellow Ribbon (G2). Imported from England, the Jim Cassidy-trained daughter of Showcasing won’t be facing the most difficult assignment in the 1 1/16-mile turf affair.
Prize Exhibit recorded a field-best 100 BRIS Speed rating last time and easily ranks first in BRIS Prime Power (156). The fast-closing dark bay will keep Santiago Gonzalez in the saddle.
Grade 3 scorer Queen of the Sand, a close second in the Royal Heroine (G2) and John C. Mabee (G2) in her last two, is a main rival. James Graham will be up on the Paddy Gallagher trainee. Lady Pimpernel, winner of the Robert Franekl (G3) two back and unraced since a second in the January 18 Astra at Santa Anita, is another logical contender among the 12 distaffers entered.
The $80,000 C.E.R.F., a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, kicks off the stakes action Sunday with an eight-horse field. Baruta is a leading contender following a runner-up in the August 16 Rancho Bernardo (G3) and Ben’s Duchess merits respect after netting a field-best 105 BRIS Speed rating for a recent allowance/optional claiming tally over the track.
Prospect Park winning the La Jolla courtesy of Benoit Photo