Coach Richard Mandella hopes for a bountiful weekend after Stakes win
Richard Mandella opened what could be a big weekend for the Hall of Fame coach on Friday with Big City Lights winning the $175,000 Real Good Deal Stakes.
Mandella also has favorite Sumter running in Sunday’s Grade III La Jolla handicap. And Beholder, another horse trained by Mandella, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Friday in Saratoga, New York.
For good measure, Mandella has a long shot Soothsay listed in today’s Grade II Clement L. Hirsch stakes.
Juan Hernandez quickly propelled the Big City Lights ($4.80) into the lead after breaking last in the 7 furlong stakes for the California-bred 3-year-old on the main track. Big City Lights led up to 2½ lengths and finished 1¼ lengths ahead of Slow Down Andy (Mario Gutierrez). Finneus finished third in the field of eight horses.
“He was running well from the start,” Hernandez said of Mr. Big’s son. “Mr Mandella just told me to play as I went. He said I shouldn’t take anything away from him. When we got past the five-eighth mark, he really wanted to go, so I let him. He was comfortable and so was I.
“He was a little tired at the end, but he managed.”
“It was nice to have the outpost where we didn’t have to rush and worry about getting trapped,” said Mandella, who returned to the track after a bout with COVID. “I just said to Juan, ‘Just let him break and if he wants to take the lead, that’s fine…if he settles, do it.’ He was content for a bit and then continued.
The Real Good Deal was the fourth win of the summer meeting for Hernandez and second for Mandella, who has a total of 72 wins in Del Mar.
One of the biggest of them came during the Pacific Classic 2015 with Beholder, a daughter of Henny Hughes. After Beholder won the Clement L. Hirsch earlier at the 2015 meeting, Mandella said, “We’re racing colts,” which means racing in the Pacific Classic. “A lot of times you say these things and it doesn’t work,” Mandella said. “But it did.”
Over his career, Beholder has won three Eclipse Awards and three Breeders’ Cup races among 11 Tier I victories.
Today’s 11-race schedule includes the $400,000 Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at 11/16 miles for fillies and older mares and the $150,000 California Dreamin’ Stakes at 11/16 miles on grass – a test for 3-year-olds as part of the Golden State series. Del Mar’s third weekend ends Sunday with the La Jolla Handicap 11/16 mile turf for 3-year-olds.
While Shedaresthedevil, trained by Brad Cox, returns to defend his championship in the Hirsch as a favorite on the private mission trained by Bob Baffert, Sumter de Mandella is the slight favorite on Armagnac in the La Jolla Handicap.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be aboard Sumter who is coming off three straight wins including his first last November at Del Mar.
The Baffert-trained Armagnac is racing for the first time since finishing seventh in the Preakness. Florent Geroux will be on board.
Spirit of Makena, a 40-1 long shot, won Friday’s final with Drayden Van Dyke on board. Spirit of Makena paid $85.20 – the biggest return of the meeting. Spirit of Makena was the fifth winner of the meeting for coach George Papaprodromou.
The Pick 6 will have a carryover of $608,414 today with a mandatory payout.
Hernandez was the only rider to take two wins on Friday, taking his lead in the jockeys standings to six over Umberto Rispoli.
Center is a freelance writer.