HHR’s 2 Year Old Stakes Watch- Graduation Stakes

Del Mar Graduation Stakes

Long On ValueIt’s time for another special edition of HHR’s 2 Year Old Stakes Watch. Earlier in the week on Monday, we covered two races at Delaware with the Strike Your Colors Stakes. If you missed it, we caught another great run from Long On Value and our value play, Mr. Rover paid nicely for second in race 6, but the real hum-dinger was in race 8, when our value play Barracuda Wayne won. Barracuda Wayne paid a whopping $48.20 to win and $13.80 to place! It made for an awesome day at Delaware Park for HHR, let me tell you! At any rate, let’s see if we can catch another one on Wednesday July 31st at Del Mar with the Graduation Stakes.

$100,000 Graduation- Will It Be Awesome?

Willie B AwesomeThe $100,000 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar is the 7th race of the day, catering to California Bred or Sired 2 year olds. This field of 8 is set to go 5 ½ furlongs. This evenly matched group is headed by Willie B Awesome, the 3 to 1 morning line favorite. Willie B Awesome has several things going for him here and I believe he will be the horse to beat in the Graduation Stakes. Trained by Walther Solis and ridden by Martin Pedroza, this 2 year old has had some really decent races running 3rd in the Hollywood Juvenile and 2nd in the Willard L Proctor Memorial. In the Hollywood Juvenile he fell short by only a half a length to Alpine Luck, but the race was held under a very slow pace. Here’s what trainer Solis had to say about that race-


“I was a little upset with the ride. The pace was so slow, and [jockey Martin Pedroza] was choking him. He should have let him go.”


Clearly Solis was unhappy with the way Pedroza chose to run Willie B in the Juvenile, but regardless Pedroza is back onboard for the Graduation, and we can only hope that the two have worked out a better strategy for this race. Willie B Awesome’s workouts look strong and you can hardly go wrong with a son of Awesome Gambler at Del Mar. Look for Willie B Awesome to give another great performance in this one.

Could Solid Wager Be The Best Bet?

Del Mar PaddockNo stranger to Willie B Awesome is Solid Wager. Solid Wager has ran close on the heels of Willie B in his last two starts and could very well get there in the Graduation. One thing Solid Wager has going for him is his inside post position. In his last two outings he was in middle post positions and was forced wide both times, still managing to pick up a 4th place spot in the Juvenile and a 3rd place finish in the Proctor Memorial. In the graduation he has a start from post position 2 and could easily catch a rail trip for an added advantage here.

But a better bet over Solid Wager could very well be Better Bet. Better Bet is coming off of a 1 length maiden win at Del Mar and gained some ground in the process. He is only one of two horses in this field that has any racing experience at Del mar and with Gary Stevens in the irons I look for Better bet to make a good run here. Stevens is on fire at Del Mar right now and actually has some experience racing against Willie B Awesome and Solid Wager. The other horse with a Del Mar win is Moving Desert, the only filly in the race. She picked up her maiden win at Del Mar by 3 lengths. In her previous outings she tried to take early leads only to tire in the stretch. Trainer Blake Heap made an adjustment going into her last race, advising jockey Joel Rosario to not force her to the early lead. It made all the difference in the world. Jockey Joe Talamo will be taking the reins in the Graduation.

Graduation Stakes- Look For a Flash of Chrome

California ChromeBut my value play in this one will have to be California Chrome. In his last outing, California Chrome ran 5th in the Proctor Memorial with Corey Nakatani as jockey. For the Graduation, trainer Art Sherman is giving the mount back to Alberto Delgado, who had been his previous rider and had led the horse to his maiden win at Hollywood. California Chrome is sporting several spectacular workouts heading into this race and looks ready to put on quite a show and at a great price. His connections have decided to go with the blinkers on and administer first time Lasix. California Chrome will be feeling good and ready to run, distraction free. Look for this two year old to light up the tote board!




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Mike Jr, eldest son of Mike Lane Sr, is co-lead author at and was raised on thoroughbred horse racing and handicapping. Although father and son often butt heads on their selections, they both have much love and admiration for the sport. Mike Jr. brings a new, fresh perspective to horse racing and is often in search of new angles to try.

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