The Hollywood Derby and the Matriarch Stakes are the big races at Del Mar this Thanksgiving weekend, but there’s also four other graded stakes for punters to have a serious look at.
The Native Diver Stakes (G2) sees the return of Mubtaahij to the track. Winner of the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) Sept. 30, he found Gun Runner and company too difficult in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 4, finishing eighth. There’s nothing of that caliber opposing him in this race, but he will still need to be close to his best to win.
If Mubtaahij hasn’t recovered fully from the Classic, keep an eye on Top of the Game, who beat Hoppertunity by 4 ¼ lengths in the Comma to the Top Stakes at Santa Anita Oct. 28. Irish Freedom and Curlin Rules, third and fourth, respectively, in the Comma to the Top Stakes, also contest the Native Diver Stakes.
Another good chance will be John Henry Turf Championship (G2) runner-up Prime Attraction, who has been withdrawn from the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) in favor of this race.
Thirteen juvenile fillies have been entered for the one-mile Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3) on the Del Mar Turf Saturday, for which the morning-line favorite is Fatale Bere, who backs up after a good fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) Nov. 3.
Fatale Bere faces a strong team of East Coast invaders. Christophe Clement brings over Raucous, an upset winner of the Chelsey Flower Stakes at Aqueduct at her last start; Chad Brown ships in the Belmont Park maiden winner Data Dependent; Graham Motion starts the former French filly Thewayjam, a winner at Keeneland Oct. 22; and from the George Weaver stable comes Daddy Is a Legend, winner of an allowance at Keeneland Oct. 27.
Santa Anita maiden winner Casino Red and Golden State Juvenile Fillies Stakes winner One Fast Broad are also worth considering.
Another Breeders’ Cup Classic contestant, Win the Space, is entered for one of Sunday’s features at Del Mar, the 1 1/16-mile Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) on turf. Win the Space finished last of 11 in the Classic, but he had previously run well for third to Mubtaahij in the Awesome Again Stakes. The Seabiscuit Handicap would be his first run on turf since he was a 3-year-old, when he won his maiden on turf but failed in the Del Mar Derby (G2) and Hollywood Derby (G1).
Two horses are set to back up from the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in the Seabiscuit Handicap, eighth-placed Om and 13th-placed Mr. Roary. Others to watch include He Will and Tequila Joe, first and second in the Lure Stakes, Del Mar Handicap (G2) winner Hunt, and American Stakes (G3) winner Pee Wee Reese. Dual stakes winner Flamboyant is entered but unlikely to start as he’s due to contest the Hollywood Turf Cup Nov. 24.
Eleven horses are entered for the one-mile Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) for juveniles on turf Nov. 26. The horse to beat is possibly the Chad Brown-trained Analyze It, an easy maiden winner at Belmont Park at his only start. Also deserving respect are Pubilius Syrus and Inscom, the first two home in a competitive Santa Anita maiden Sept. 30, and Armour Plate, third in the Zuma Beach Stakes at Del Mar.