Horse Racing

NorCal Coach Cleaning at Del Mar

Edited release from Del Mar

It was a memorable encounter for several Northern California coaches who enjoyed vacationing at Del Mar, as well as a coach who came to Southern California from Northern California and stayed.

Jonathan Wong picked up seven wins in a week last month at Del Mar, earning the title of ‘Coach of the Week’ and climbing into the Top 10 in the coach rankings. He never left. Going into the final day of summer against Del Mar on Sunday, Wong has scored 13 wins, taking sixth place in the coach rankings and just six behind Philip D’Amato’s pace.

“Beyond satisfaction,” Wong said. “It definitely exceeded expectations. I was hoping we could win six to eight and we’ve won 13 so far, so we’ve doubled what we hoped. Great.

“We’ve been helped a lot,” Wong continued. “We have owners who allow us to put horses where they can win, a great team working here for us, making sure everything is taken care of. Luckily, we got lucky. The horses just clicked at the right moment, they entered their race and everything went perfectly.”

Wong still calls Golden Gate Fields his base, but he’s training full-time in Southern California. He is currently at the top of the coach rankings at Golden Gate.

“I live down here, but most of our barn is in the Bay Area, and we’re thinking of getting a rope to Keeneland for the meet-up and spreading it out into the Kentucky area,” Wong said.

Coach Andy Mathis had the best meet ever at Del Mar this summer, winning 12 races, good enough to place seventh in the coach rankings. Unlike Wong, Mathis has returned to Northern California but he has lasting memories of the 2022 encounter.

“Much better than I ever imagined,” Mathis said. “It hasn’t fully sunk in how well it works. I think there’s a good chance I’ll win the race no more than 12.

“It was one of those trades where we won a few races early and I think if we can win six or seven races that’s really good,” added Mathis. “The next thing you know you’re six or seven and you say, ‘Boy, nine is going to be a huge number’ and then 10 and then last week we landed at 12.”

Mathis says he appreciates how difficult the summer encounter is and how much luck it takes.

“It was a lot of luck throughout the encounter,” he said. “Whether it is the speed scenario or the horses that have entered the races and are not on the list are eligible. Del Mar is hard. Training starts early, you have a later posting time. You really need everyone on the same page. All grooms and riders. Those were long days and hard work.”

That being said, Mathis says he will likely return next year.

“It’s like blackjack and you’re on the move,” says Mathis. “You can’t just get up and leave. Once I recover, I’ll want to go back. “

The other two coaches at Del Mar for the summer are leaving town with the victory their own. Quinn Howey called Northern California home, but brought a chain of horses to Del Mar and won three races. OJ Jauregui did the same and pocketed a win.

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