Del Mar’s summer season once again features several Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events, but the unprecedented COVID-19 calendar makes the seaside track a player on the Road to the Kentucky Derby as well.
The Aug. 1 Shared Belief Stakes is among the new scoring races for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1), and the 1 1/16-mile affair is likely to serve as the final prep for Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero Honor A. P. While Hall of Famer Bob Baffert figures to be represented too, possibly by Cezanne, only time will tell how he deploys his well-regarded sophomores across the Derby trail. The $100,000 Shared Belief is worth points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the respective top four.
Baffert had already chosen the return spot for his champion recruit, Maximum Security, who ranks as the 127-pound highweight in Saturday’s San Diego Handicap (G2). Regular rider Luis Saez was to renew their partnership until testing positive for COVID-19, so Abel Cedillo gets the pickup opportunity.
The first-past-the-post in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, the Gary and Mary West homebred was last seen defeating distaff star Midnight Bisou in the $20 million Saudi Cup Feb. 29. Maximum Security was subsequently transferred from embattled trainer Jason Servis. To gear up for his first start for Baffert, who also trained his sire New Year’s Day, the 4-year-old has posted a series of strong drills.
The $150,000 San Diego is a 1 1/16-mile prep for Del Mar’s signature event, the $500,000 Pacific Classic (G1) on Aug. 22, that offers a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Both Classics are contested at the American classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. The Pacific Classic undercard includes a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap (G2) over 1 3/8 miles.
Del Mar’s other Breeders’ Cup Challenge events are the $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) on Aug. 1, giving the winner a free ticket to the Sprint (G1); the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) on Aug. 2, a lead-up to the Distaff (G1); and the $150,000 Pat O’Brien Handicap (G2), a Dirt Mile (G1) “Win and You’re In” on Aug. 29.
The track’s marquee races for juveniles once more highlight closing weekend, with the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante (G1) for fillies on Sept. 6 and the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) on the Sept. 7 Labor Day finale.