Bob Baffert at Saratoga - Photo by Courtney Heeney/Coglianese Photography

Bob Baffert at Saratoga – Photo by Courtney Heeney/Coglianese Photography

The first week of summer racing at Del Mar is complete, and suffice to say there was lots of noteworthy action on the juvenile racing front, with plenty more to come this week.

With the main juvenile stakes races coming a bit later in the meet, the most significant events on opening week were the high-class maiden special weights that drew large fields of promising young runners. On opening day, we saw the talented filly Brill overcome a slow start to break her maiden with an 88 Beyer speed figure; on Sunday, we saw the Bob Baffert-trained Mother Mother earn an 87 Beyer for a front-running maiden score, stamping herself as a primary rival for Brill in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) later this summer.

Quite in contrast to Brill, Mother Mother was away alertly in her maiden run, pushing the pace through a :22.16 opening quarter-mile before taking command and drawing off steadily to win by 6 ½ lengths, stopping the clock in a solid 1:10.78. Her performance was particularly exciting since she’s bred to relish longer distance—she’s by Pioneerof the Nile out of Mother, the dam of 2014 Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, so two turns shouldn’t be any issue whatsoever. As good as she looked sprinting on Sunday, we might not see her best until next year, when she could be a major contender for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

Rallying mildly to finish second behind Mother Mother was Tapwater, a well-regarded filly from the barn of Richard Mandella. She looks like one to watch next time out.

Promising two-year-old colts had their turn to shine in a five-furlong maiden event on Saturday, in which the 4-5 favorite Rowayton—whose good reputation preceded him—dueled for the lead through fractions of :22.35 and :46 flat before dispatching of his pace rival and pulling away to win by 1 ¾ lengths, stopping the clock in :58.61 and earning a 75 Beyer. Both Rowayton and the late-running second-place finisher Dueling are trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who also conditions the exciting Instagrand, ticketed for a start in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) on August 11th. Ultimately, the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) at the end of the meet could be on the horizon for all three colts, though it will be interesting to see if Hollendorfer chooses to split them up and take different routes.

Turning to this coming weekend, the action will kick off fast with the opening race on Saturday, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight for fillies. Six of the seven entrants are first-time starters, but none will attract as much pre-race attention as #7 Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Trained by Bob Baffert, the daughter of Tapit hasn’t missed a beat in her recent training and wrapped up her preparations by breezing four furlongs in a solid :47 3/5 on July 23rd at Del Mar. It’s also a good sign to see that Mike Smith—Baffert’s go-to jockey for big races these days—has been named to ride Chasing Yesterday.

Jerry Hollendorfer will be represented by #3 Whiff of Intrigue, a daughter of Orb making her debut, while Richard Mandella will send out #5 Scarlet, a daughter of Uncle Mo and a half-sister to 2017 Buena Vista Stakes (gr. III) winner Wild At Heart. Ultimately, Scarlet might be best going long on turf, but Saturday’s race will be a good starting point to see what kind of talent she has.

The tenth race on Saturday is a juvenile race on the complete opposite end of the spectrum—a one-mile turf race that drew a full field of twelve colts and geldings plus two also-eligibles. I’m excited to see how #12 Tariq performs. Trained by Doug O’Neill, this well-regarded son of Into Mischief finished a game second sprinting on dirt in his debut at Los Alamitos on July 8th and could be among O’Neill’s better two-year-olds this year. Meanwhile, Jerry Hollendorfer will make the same dirt-to-turf move with #3 More Ice, who finished five lengths behind Tariq at Los Alamitos, while Tariq’s stablemate #10 Alleva—fourth in that same Los Alamitos maiden race—will join his previous conquerors for a rematch.

But wait—Del Mar is saving the best for last! The final juvenile race of the weekend is Sunday’s sixth race, a six-furlong open maiden race that will mark the much-anticipated debut of #1 Roadster, an exciting son of Quality Road trained by Bob Baffert. Roadster has been catching eyes during morning training and Baffert reportedly thinks a lot of the gray colt, who will have Mike Smith in the saddle. Of all the two-year-olds scheduled to race this weekend, both at Del Mar and at Saratoga, Roadster is the one that I’m most excited to see. We might very well be looking at a major contender for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and the 2019 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

Hollendorfer will also be prominent in the race with the first-time starters #3 View Magic and #6 Gunmetal Gray (the latter a $225,000 auction purchase), while Doug O’Neill will send out the second-time starters #2 Thin Line and #9 Parsimony, with the latter looming as one of the main contenders based off a runner-up effort at Santa Anita last time out. Keith Desormeaux will also start a pair, those being the first-time starter #4 Seven Oxen and the more experienced #10 Jefe, a late-running third in a five-furlong maiden sprint at Santa Anita last month.

Enjoy the races!