Horse for the course key at Del Mar and the Spa

July 26th, 2016

The best part of the racing season is upon us with the action front and center at both Del Mar and Saratoga. These unique meetings bring out the best-of-the-best and every owner and trainer points their respective runners to succeed at each of these venues, perhaps more than any other across the country

What I have found over the years in our handicapping just how important it is to identify runners that peak at each of these tracks and perform their best. More so than other venues, it seems to me that a horse that loves Del Mar simply runs his best races there, and the same can be said for The Spa.

A prime example at the claiming level occurred with FREDDIES DREAM, who posted a 12-1 upset in Race 3 at Del Mar Thursday. The gelded son of Good Journey is far from a standout, dropping in class as he failed to challenge in his first three starts this year at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, but he morphs into a much better runner when competing on the Del Mar turf.

We first took notice when the California-bred posted a sharp local win late in the 2015 meeting. The chestnut was bet down to 7-2 odds last year, which seemed like a bargain after the race after he inhaled foes to score going-away, and Freddies Dream offered a similar turn of foot to strike the lead in midstretch before gamely prevailing on Thursday.

On Saturday, a pair of graded stakes distaffers displayed their affinity at each locale.

DACITA finally lived up to the promise she displayed at Saratoga last year when capturing the Diana (G1).

A Chilean champion, the Chad Brown-trained mare made a splashing U.S. bow at the Spa in 2015, overcoming a less-than-favorable trip to overhaul eventual turf female champion Tepin in the latter stages of the Ballston Spa (G2). That’s the last defeat for the mighty Tepin and Dacita wound up being bet down to 5-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Keeneland as a result, but the chestnut daughter of Scat Daddy didn’t perform at the same level after leaving upstate New York.

Dacita was finally back in top-class form on Saturday, rallying boldly while extremely wide to get up late over a nice group of rivals. She was off as the 4-1 third choice over a turf course she relishes.

MOKAT was overlooked as the 7-1 fifth choice in the San Clemente (G2) and ran back to the commendable form she displayed last fall on Del Mar's turf .

Unraced since a next-to-last effort in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1), Mokat had dropped five starts this year while racing at Churchill Downs and Santa Anita. The daughter of Uncle Mo finally broke through on Saturday, registering her first stakes tally while humbling a well-regarded field of sophomore turf fillies in the San Clemente, closing strongly to win going away by 3 ¾ lengths.

The dark bay miss broke her maiden when trying the turf at Del Mar last fall, striding away to a 5 ½-length victory for Richard Baltas, and recorded a fine half-length second when making her stakes bow in the Jimmy Durante (G3). The top three performances of her career, by a wide margin, have come locally.

I recommend trying to pinpoint horses who have the "Horse for Course angle" and backing them with confidence at these particular meets.