“In 50 years I've never experienced anything like it,” Del Mar track announcer Trevor Denman said late Friday after the opening day of the Bing Crosby meeting had concluded.
What Denman, an on-track crowd of 5,011 and viewers of the TVG telecast experienced was an obliteration of the fifth-race field by fog as it approached the final turn in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.
There had been patches of fog for races earlier on the program. But for one race, it seemed a rogue fogbank moved in and took up brief residence at the northwest corner of the facility, leaving Denman to do some honest ad-libbing for his call.
“They are coming to the top of the lane and the fog out here has gotten really bad,” Denman said. “You can't see anything as they come to the quarter pole.
“We'll have to wait for them to reappear and there's going to be about three-sixteenths of a mile to go when they do.”
Those watching on TV saw nothing but a gray screen until, as Denman said it would, horses and riders reappeared from dense to wispy fog and saw Storm the Bastille, with Tiago Pereira aboard, rally strongly along the rail to overtake 54-1 shot Channel Crossing and Heriberto Figueroa and win by three-quarters of a length.
“Tiago said that (in fog situations) it's not much different from any other race for a jockey,” Pereira's agent, Patty Sterling, said Saturday morning. “You keep focused on the horse in front of you and aware of the ones behind. Of course, they have a much better view of what's happening than anyone from high up in the grandstand.
“He said he just followed the six horse (Go for a Ride with Jorge Velez) and then stayed along the rail when it opened up.”
Storm the Bastille, a 3-year-old French bred gelding trained by Bill Spawr for Gem Inc., paid $$19.80 to win. Channel Crossing returned $41.20 to place and the $1 exacta returned a healthy $377.10.
Veteran Del Mar observers said fog shrouding the track was rare, but not unprecedented. Visibility was perfectly clear for the final three races of the day.
Fog is far more common at other tracks and it was on a particularly heavy night at Delta Downs in Louisiana on January 11, 1990 that an infamous “Fog Race” incident occurred.
Sylvester Carmouche Jr. was levied a 10-year suspension after being convicted of holding Landing Officer, a longshot $2,500 claimer, in the chute and waiting for the field to come around the second time.
Carmouche didn't quite pull it off. The horse won by 24 lengths, just off the track record, and the come-from-behind specialist, known to end races dirtied from kickback, was clean and showed no signs of exertion from the distance race.
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