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Bing would have sung up a Breeders' Cup storm

J A McGrath

Bing Crosby, one of the Hollywood legends who founded Del Mar racetrack back in 1937, was a keen racing fan.

He owned plenty of racehorses in his time, including Meadow Court, who famously won the 1965 Irish Derby at the Curragh, after which a delighted Bing sang a verse of 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling' in the winner's enclosure.

Del Mar on Friday, with its four-race appetiser of championship races prior to Saturday's main card, had a certain buzz of anticipation that would surely have left Bing and fellow founders Gary Cooper, Joe E Brown and Oliver Hardy proud that America's showcase meeting had come to their little track.

Who knows? Bing might even have burst into song to mark the occasion.

Del Mar, the smartest and most expensive town in San Diego, is accustomed to the high-rollers, but it will never have seen so many as this weekend when a collection of the world's wealthiest come to watch their horses run.

One notable equine absentee is Ulysses, who misses the G1 Turf after being found to have heat in one of his legs. But all the other stars, including Arrogate and Gun Runner in the G1 Classic, and Godolphin's Ribchester in the G1 Mile, are present.

A couple of key points to come out of the first day were the importance of drawing well, particularly on the Turf track, and the realisation that horses can close from way off the early pace on the dirt, although they needed to be handy to the lead on the final bend.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Wuheida in the G1 Filly & Mare Turf is arguably Godolphin's best chance of a winner on Saturday. This classy filly looks brilliant in herself, and her draw, gate 5, is going to be a big advantage.

Her jockey William Buick had a taste of local conditions when riding Masar in the G1 Juvenile Turf. After starting a forward move at the end of the back straight, he suffered bad interference that saw Buick lose a stirrup iron.

Masar probably learned more about racing in that one minute and 36 seconds than in four starts previously, and the way he finished, despite his troubles in transit, marks him as one to follow next season.

Even with his excellent credentials, the Richard Fahey-trained Ribchester, Europe's best miler, will need plenty of luck in running to pull off a triumph in the G1 Mile. World Approval will be a serious danger from gate 5. 

In the G1 Turf, Godolphin's Talismanic has most to worry about in the shape of Highland Reel, who will love the fast ground and be in a position to dominate from gate 3.