DEL MAR, Calif. - These are heady days for trainer Simon Callaghan, who is hoping to take shots at three important races here in upcoming weeks, beginning with Ighraa in the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks on Saturday.
Technically speaking, Ighraa will race Saturday for her French trainer, Francis-Henri Graffard, but she will be turned over to Callaghan after the race. Entries for the Del Mar Oaks were to be taken Wednesday, and since an overflow of entries was expected, Ighraa also was entered in Friday’s $90,000 Sandy Blue Handicap, which also is for 3-year-old fillies on turf.
“The intention is to run in the Oaks,” Callaghan said. “The entry in the Sandy Blue is precautionary, in case we don’t get into the Oaks.”
Ighraa arrives with promising form, including a close fourth-place finish against the older Thistle Bird in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom on May 31. Two starts after that, Thistle Bird was second in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
Callaghan unleashed an eye-catching European import Sunday in the 3-year-old No Jet Lag, who displayed a dazzling turn of foot on the final turn en route to a victory in a first-level allowance. The effort was so good that Callaghan immediately circled the Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 1 as No Jet Lag’s next target.
“He’s definitely a talented horse,” Callaghan said. “His form coming here was good, but the last couple of races were deceiving, because he ran one race on soft ground, another going just three-quarters of a mile. I’ve had him for almost eight weeks. He’s really talented.”
No Jet Lag was making his first start as a gelding Sunday. Callaghan said he was gelded just before leaving Great Britain.
Callaghan also has the well-regarded 2-year-old filly Bajan, who defeated maidens Saturday to earn her way to the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 31. Bajan was second against males in her debut to Alberts Hope, subsequent winner of the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes, then ran in a race restricted to fillies Saturday.
It looks like she’s come out of the race really well, so the plan is to go to the Debutante,” Callaghan said.
Emotional Kitten heads Oaks
In addition to Ighraa, both Charlie Em and Sarach entered the Sandy Blue but are expected to also enter the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, which is expected to be topped by Emotional Kitten, runner-up last time out in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park.
Others expected to enter the race include Discreet Marq, Doinghardtimeagain, Kitten’s Dumplings, Macha, Need You Now, Pearlside, Topic, Unusual Way, and Wishing Gate.
By contrast, Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap, for older female sprinters at 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack, is expected to come up light, with Reneesgotzip appearing to have a decided pace advantage over her prospective rivals.
Reneesgotzip, trained by Peter Miller, returned from an extended layoff earlier this meet with a runaway win. Edwin Maldonado subbed that day for Garrett Gomez, but Gomez regains the mount Sunday.
Edwin did nothing wrong,” Miller said. “He was pinch hitting. It’s Garrett’s mount.”
Reneesgotzip’s rivals could include Book Review, Great Hot, Sugarinthemorning, and Winding Way, who looked sharp working five furlongs Tuesday morning in 59.20 seconds. That time equaled the best of 18 at the distance. Winding Way is now trained by Jerry Quinn, because trainer Carla Gaines is serving a suspension for a medication overage.
Recent purchases clash
Three horses who have been sold since their last start – Jedi Mind Trick, Easy Solution, and Echo Zulu – are among the entrants in Thursday’s first race, a starter optional claimer for 2-year-olds going 5 1/2 furlongs.
Jedi Mind Trick beat $25,000 maiden claimers at Sacramento last month and subsequently was purchased privately by the Doubledown Stables of Richard Templar and moved to trainer John Sadler.
“He’s a California-bred, was reasonably priced, and got a good Ragozin number,” Sadler said.
Easy Solution and Echo Zulu both will be making their first start for Peter Miller. Easy Solution arrives from Woodbine, where he beat maiden claimers in his lone start. As such, he is eligible to Del Mar’s lucrative ship-and-win bonus.
Echo Zulu was purchased for $55,000 at the post-race paddock sale here July 21, two weeks after he finished second in the Everett Nevin Stakes at Pleasanton.