Top handicapper Andrew Champagne runs through the meet at Del Mar on Sunday
Sunday is closing day at Del Mar, and with it comes a 10-race program that boasts several fun wagering opportunities. There's a mandatory payout in the 50-cent Pick Six, but as that's a bit above my usual budget, I'll stick with the late Pick Four, which kicks off in the seventh and features a pair of graded stakes races on the grass. Here's how I'll play it!
RACE #7: We kick things off with what hits me as the most wide-open race in the sequence. The Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille drew a field of 11 2-year-old turfers. I'm using six of them, and those with deeper pockets may very well want to start by hitting the “ALL” button.
Many of these runners met in the Zuma Beach Stakes back in October. #7 BIG FISH and #9 CAISSON ran fifth and fourth, respectively, but I think both could improve considerably here. The former won twice at this route over the summer, while the latter had a hard-luck trip in that race and was beaten just a length. Both may be square prices, and I think they're must-includes on any multi-race ticket.
I'll also use #1 EBEKO, #6 PARTY GAME, #10 ROYAL PRINCE, and #11 WOOTTON ASSET. Your guess is as good as mine with regard to which runner will go favored, and it's not an easy opening leg. I want plenty of coverage. Here's hoping I've gone deep enough to find the winner.
RACE #8: This maiden race for Cal-bred fillies drew a 12-horse field. I'm not blown away by any of the runners with experience, so I'll stick with a pair of first-time starters. While one of them is the favorite, my top selection should be a bigger price.
#12 ANNIE GRAHAM debuts for trainer Steve Miyadi, whose barn has hit at a solid clip with first-time starters. She's a full sister to three winners, and visiting jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride. The outside draw should work to her advantage, and Ortiz should be able to work out a trip of his choosing from that spot.
#7 LAUREN SQUARED, meanwhile, makes her first career start for Peter Miller, who's in the midst of another strong meet where the turf meets the surf. She boasts a few solid five-furlong gate drills ahead of this event and should be fit. Those drills, though, hint that she may want to go longer than this six-furlong distance. Perhaps she's good enough to win anyway, and I wouldn't leave her off the ticket, but anything shorter than her 3-1 morning line odds would hit me as an underlay.
RACE #9: The Grade 1 Matriarch is usually a fun race, and the 2020 renewal is no exception. A field of nine older turf distaffers will line up, and I'm going three-deep.
#6 VIADERA is one of three Chad Brown trainees in this race, and I think she's the best-meant. She's won her last two starts in New York, including the Grade 3 Noble Damsel, and she's improved with every stateside start. There seems to be plenty of speed in this race, and I think she'll be able to sit back and make a winning move beneath regular rider Joel Rosario.
I'll also use #2 MAXIM RATE and #3 SHARING. The former has won three of her last four starts, including the Grade 2 Goldikova at Santa Anita, while the latter missed her chance at a second straight Breeders' Cup victory, was second in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot against a world-class group, and should sit a perfect stalking trip just off the speed.
RACE #10: I'll look to finish things off with a single in the final race of the meet. I wish I could say I'm getting creative here, but the more I look at the Sunday nightcap, the more I think the morning line favorite will be tough to beat.
#9 SWIFT AS I AM won his debut with authority back in July at Emerald Downs. He returned from a three-month break earlier this meet to run a good third at this level after chasing a hot pace down the backstretch, and his last-out Beyer Speed Figure of 69 is easily the highest such number in the field.
I think he's likely to improve off of that effort in his second start off the bench. If he does, I can't see any of his opponents being able to keep up, and for that reason, he's a fairly easy single for me.
50% bonus on your first deposit, up to a value of $250.