Hollywood Derby (Del Mar) Predictions, Odds & Picks

If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Gufo (4/1)

Post Position and Odds – Hollywood Derby

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2020 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
G Franco R Mandella
U Rispoli M McCarthy
3 SCARTO 10/1
M Franco M Puype
4 TAISHAN 20/1
J Valdivia Jr. R Baltas
J J Hernandez P Eurton
R Gonzalez P Miller
A Cedillo D O’Neill
I Ortiz Jr. C Brown
M Smith T Bush
J Rosario C Clement
V Espinoza G Weaver
12 LANE WAY 15/1
D Van Dyke R Mandella
13 GUFO 4/1
F Prat C Clement

Best Bets for the Hollywood Derby

Here are my plays ($50 in total)

$20 Win – Gufo = $20

$5 Exacta box – Gufo, Ever Dangerous and Scarto = $30

Top Pick:

Gufo (4/1)

Led by multiple graded stakes winners Smooth Like Strait, Gufo, and Decorated Invader, an excellent field of 13 will take to the turf on Saturday at Del Mar for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

Smooth Like Strait, a Mike McCarthy trained son of Midnight Lute will be the local’s top hope in the 9-furlong test. Starting just under a year ago, he has won four of his last seven, while racing in strictly stakes races on the grass. Most recently he easily accounted for the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita.

Chief among his competition will be a consistent pair from the barn of Christophe Clement. Decorated Invader is a proven commodity, having won a Grade 1 at 2 and three additional stakes races this year. His stablemate meanwhile, has been even better of late. Gufo won the Grade 1, Belmont Derby, in his last after having a four-race winning streak narrowly broken in the $500,000 Saratoga Derby.

Another who should get plenty of wagering support in the deep field is Domestic Spending. From the barn of America’s top turf trainer, Chad Brown, the son of Kingman is a winner of a 3-for-4 lifetime and comes in off a game win in the Saratoga Derby in his most recent effort.

How to Watch the Hollywood Derby

Hollywood Derby Information
What Hollywood Derby (Grade 1)
Where Del Mar
When Saturday, November 28 — 7:30 PM
How to Watch TVG
Purse $300,000

Race Analysis

Smooth Like Strait

While the three other favorites will all be invading from the East, this California-based son of Midnight Lute should find himself right at home where the turf meets the surf at Del Mar. He’s won both of his two races on the grass there, each coming in graded stakes. Coming off a nice win in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby last time, he’ll look to use his strong early speed to stalk Get Smokin early. The question is how much will he have left after chasing that one. I have big respect for him as one of the best 3-year-old turf horses in the nation, but I have the feeling that he will be passed down the lane this time around.


Trainer Christophe Clement has this big chestnut rolling, and that is exactly what he does in the late stages of his races. With a striking closing rush, he has won 5-of-7 lifetime, while narrowly coming on too late in the other two. An impressive winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby last time, he will need to cut back a furlong to the 1 ⅛ mile distance of the Hollywood Derby, as he makes his first visit out west, but the good news is that Del Mar is a turf course which you can have success making that big late run. In an excellent and deep field, he is the top choice.

Domestic Spending

The most lightly raced horse in the field, he won a wild dash to the wire in the $500,000 Saratoga Derby in his last start. That came back in August, but it’s not unusual for the most talented runners from the powerful Chad Brown barn to have their races spread out. Off that victory, in which he edged out both Gufo and Decorated Invader, he represents a major threat in what will be only his fifth-lifetime race. I do slightly prefer the other favorites, as he needs to validate his last while he comes to new surroundings at Del Mar, but it would come as absolutely no surprise if this talented runner found the winner’s circle again.

Decorated Invader

Like Smooth Like Strait, he has already accomplished plenty in his racing career. A winner of a 5-of-9 lifetime, he has accounted for stakes, including a Grade 1 win. Even in his four defeats, he has always made his move to be in the picture late. Beaten as the heavy favorite in his last two, he might finally offer some value while making his second career start in California. Like Gufo he is a Clement-trained son of the Declaration of War, and he also has a big chance in here. While that one will likely make the last run, Decorated Invader will likely make an earlier run at the leaders. Dismiss him at your own peril.


This Paynter gelding has really turned things around in his last three starts. After finishing a troubled sixth in his turf debut, he came right back to score two sharp victories over the Del Mar Turf. Off those wins, he moved up to the Grade 2 Twilight Derby, where he again encountered some trouble along the way before rallying nicely to be second behind Smooth Like Strait. He’ll tangle against that one again, and several good ones from the East, but his current trajectory, as well as his likely attractive odds, have me liking him as an interesting wagering alternative to some of the favorites.

Get Smokin

Go right to the lead and see how far you can take them has been the racing motto of late for this gelded son of Get Stormy. While it has only connected twice in ten starts, he has turned in a couple of strong efforts in his last three, including a runner-up behind Decorated Invader in the English Channel (G2) at Saratoga, and then turning the tables on that one last time in the Grade 2 Hill Prince. Mike Smith picks up the mount on Saturday and should have him in his usual position early. I don’t like his chances to go all the way in here, but he wouldn’t shock me either.

Storm the Court

It’s been a tough year for the 2019 2-year-old champion. The Peter Eurton trained son of Court Vision has run in six consecutive graded stakes this season and has yet to find the winner’s circle again. It’s not that he’s running poorly, including a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby last time, just not quite good enough to beat the solid competition. Look for the Hollywood Derby to continue that trend as he tries turf for the second time. In his grass debut, he was second best behind Smooth Like Strait. A minor award looks likely again.

Ever Dangerous

Rocked the tote board last time at Keeneland, taking home the Bryan Station at odds of 74-1. After winning his career debut impressively, the son of Kitten’s Joy was a non-factor in three straight against strong competition, but perhaps he is starting to figure things out. Before the shocker last time, he led all the way in a Belmont Park allowance. He’ll have attractive odds once again, but off the two-race winning streak, I cannot throw him out. The George Weaver-trainee is my top longshot in here.


Proving that he could handle the Del Mar turf, he earned his first stakes victory when he snuck up the rail to get the job done last time in the local Let it Ride at one mile. It was a good performance, but this only gets tougher as he stretches out another furlong and faces a much stronger group. He is a consistent runner for trainer Doug O’Neill, but the Hollywood Derby looks like it might be a bit too tough for him this time around.

Lane Way

He was one of the ones just edged out by Strongconstitution last time in the Let It Ride as the 2/1 favorite. Since switching to the grass four starts ago, the son of Into Mischief has been a consistent performer for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and looks like he has a future, but on the other hand, he has won only one of the four, so this would be an awfully tough spot to expect a second career turf victory.

California Kook

The only filly in the field, this hard-knocking late runner from the barn of Peter Miller has been competitive in a series of graded stakes without breaking through. Most recently, she shipped to Keeneland for the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II where she was beaten just three lengths by the topnotch filly Harvey’s Lil Goil. Unfortunately, for California bred, she has found another very tough spot in here. It wouldn’t shock me if she rallied up for a piece, but I prefer others.


Another one who cannot be completely dismissed, he made a very good turf debut two starts back when a late-running second in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. He was off the board in his second turf start, the Bryan Station at Keeneland, but was still only beaten less than two lengths. Back in Southern California, he’ll need better against this bunch, but the son of Twirling Candy is not without hope if he can get a clean trip in the big field.


This Mandella trained gelding could very well go off as the longest shot in the field, which points out the excellent depth of the Hollywood Derby. He is a stakes winner, but that came up north against cheaper at Golden Gate Fields. There is hope, as he rallied for second in the Oceanside at Del Mar three starts back, but his last two efforts look a full cut below what he’ll need to make serious noise on Saturday.

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]