By Papo Morales, AmWager
Race 9 Yellow Ribbon Handicap
It’s opening weekend at Del Mar which is Spanish for by the sea. Located just a stones throw from the Pacific Ocean, Del Mar’s slogan of “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” could not be more appropriate. California’s summer racetrack has been a magnet for Hollywood’s elite since it was first built in the late 1930’s by a partnership of investors including actor/singer Bing Crosby. In fact, Crosby met fans at the gate on opening day back in 1937 and was a regular attendee of the races. The summer playground for California’s elite, Del Mar has continued to draw crowds over the years and opening weekend is always popular with the stands full of beautiful people and the starting gate overflowing with entries.
The Yellow Ribbon is the first graded stakes race of the meet and this year’s rendition drew a great field of nine fillies and mares going a mile and 16th on the oceanside turf. Morning line favoritism has fallen on Nancy From Nairobi (3-1) for trainer John Salder. The British bred daughter of Sixties Icon(Galileo), has performed very well since making her US debut back in December of last year. She has won three of six races at distances ranging from a mile to a mile and an eighth. While she failed to hit the board in her last race, it is worth noting Mike Smith takes the reins for this race. She should be sitting a mid-pack position, with Smith looking to make his move down the lane. At her morning line price she offer fair value and will be my key horse on my tickets.
Other horses that I believe have a shot are Her Emmynency (6-1), Prize Exhibit (12-1), and Kerri Belle (8-1). Her Emmynency is a Successful Appeal filly who was lightly raced last year with only four starts. She made the most of her opportunities however, winning twice and placing second once. She was moved from the Michael Stidham barn into the care of Kristin Mulhall in October of last year and was then given the winter off. She has raced three times in 2016 and has not had much luck, including losing a shoe and drawing the rail twice, which apparently she does not care for as she ducked in at the start in both of those races. Today she breaks from post three and I like her series of drills coming in. She has tactical speed in a race that lacks a lot of early pace. Remember, this filly is a Grade 1 winner and I can see her running an Emmy performance.
Prize Exhibit is another British bred in this race, being by Showcasing out of an Inchinor mare. Looking at her last four races, you may be persuaded to leave her off your tickets as she has failed to pick up a check and been beaten by a combined 34 lengths. However, one of those races was on dirt; she had a horrendous trip in another; and her last race was not all that bad considering she was seven wide and still managed to split a 13 horse field finishing sixth. In fact, her Bris speed figure of 97 in her last race was the highest figure this filly has run in her last eight starts. Prize Exhibit can be ornery and her own worst enemy, often spending more energy fighting her jockey than running her race. If her head is in the game, then she is capable of being right there at the wire as she was last year when she finished second in this very race.
Kerri Belle is a six-year-old by Empire Maker out of the Polish Numbers mare Belleski. She was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade I Gamely, beaten just one and three fourths lengths. That race was at a mile and an eighth, a distance that, despite her pedigree, may be a bit beyond her scope as she seemed to flatten down the lane. While the outside post is not ideal, you do get the Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens in the saddle. The top spot may be out of her reach in this race but I can see her filling out your exacta or trifecta.
The wild card in this race is Queen of The Sand (6-1) for Patrick Gallagher. While she has not raced in eight months, she has an affinity for the track as she has finished in the exacta in five of seven races at Del Mar. Maybe it’s only coincidence that her sire is Footstepsinthesand and that the mare runs well so close to the Pacific Ocean. Can she win this race off the extended layoff? I’m not sure but I have seem some crazy things at the beach. I would not be surprised to see the Queen of The Sand right there at the finish line.