DEL MAR, Calif. -- The closing day of the Del Mar meeting next Wednesday is fast approaching, and the looming date keeps jockey Joe Talamo from peeking at the jockey standings.
Through Aug. 21, Talamo had a two-race lead on Joel Rosario, an advantage that had evaporated as of Wednesday when they began the race week tied for first with 35 wins.
"I try not to look too much," he said. "Win, lose, or draw, it's been a wonderful meet. If there is a meeting in Southern California where you want to do well, it's at Del Mar."
Five of Talamo's wins have come in stakes, the most recent of which was the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile with Caracortado last Saturday. Since the meeting began July 20, Talamo, 21, has had 10 two-win days and two three-win days.
"I'm riding for some new trainers and riding better and better horses, trying to take advantage of great opportunities," he said. "We've had a lot of two-win and three-win days."
Last year, Talamo did not ride the entire meeting, suffering a wrist injury in early August that kept him out of action for nearly two months. This summer, he has been in a battle for the riding title with Rosario, Rafael Bejarano (31 wins through Sunday), and Garrett Gomez (26).
"I think there are some future Hall of Famers in the room -- Gomez, Rosario, and Bejarano," he said.
Modesty led Talamo to leave his name off that list, but his accomplishments have grown in recent years as a fixture in the top five in Southern California.
"I love it, because you learn so much, how to win," Talamo said of the competition.
One of Talamo's greatest assets is his work ethic. He works several horses each morning and said he has had one day off since the meeting began. "I guess sleeping in would be until 5:30," he said. "I think that's why I've been successful."
Those workouts have helped Talamo reach the top of the jockey's standings, a title he fears he cannot win. Rosario has had 40 seconds and 30 thirds at the meeting, compared to 19 and 17 for Talamo. If those placed horses return for Rosario in coming days, Talamo said a title may be impossible.
"It's going to be real tough," he said. "His business is so strong. Look at all the seconds and thirds he's had, and we're still tied. If it happens, it does. If not, we had a good meeting."
Killer Graces tops Del Mar Debutante
Talamo can win a sixth stakes of the meeting aboard Killer Graces in Saturday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante for 2-year-old fillies over seven furlongs.
Killer Graces is part of a field of 10 and is the lone stakes winner in the group. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Killer Graces won the Cinderella and Landaluce stakes at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, but was sixth after a poor start in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes here Aug. 5.
Remarkably, the first three finishers of the Sorrento are not entered in the Del Mar Debutante. Race winner Mighty Caroline was retired because of injury, while River Kiss and Heleonor Rugby, who finished second and third, were entered in Wednesday's Generous Portion Stakes.
Aside from Killer Graces, there will be strong support for the maiden race winners Dreamcaster and Weemissfrankie. There is a European shipper in Self Preservation, bought privately following a maiden race win in Ireland in June. Self Preservation, now trained by Ben Cecil, was supplemented to the Del Mar Debutante for $10,000.
Taylor saddling first Del Mar stakes starter
Evelyn's Dancer, another supplemental entrant for the Del Mar Debutante, will be 79-year-old trainer Troy Taylor's first stakes runner at Del Mar.
Evelyn's Dancer won a starter allowance in her California debut July 28, having won a $25,000 claiming race for maidens in her debut at Emerald Downs on June 24.
"We bought her after that race," Taylor said. "I'd be tickled if she hit the board."
Owned by Mark Dedomenico and Glen Todd, Evelyn's Dancer will be ridden by Tyler Baze in the Del Mar Debutante.
This is Taylor's second season at Del Mar. Taylor was winless with five starters here last summer. This year, Evelyn's Dancer has been his sole winner from eight starters in an eight-horse stable. On the verge of his fifth consecutive training title at Hastings in British Columbia, Taylor said he will have a presence in Southern California this winter, with a 20-horse stable at Santa Anita.
"I like it down here," he said. "It's good weather for the horses."
As he was talking, Taylor was hanging leg bandages on a line to dry in the sun. A retired greyhound, the stable pet, walked by to inspect a visitor.
"Sometimes, I think he could outrun a few of the horses," Taylor said.