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Casino Host Wins Del Mar Handicap

Gary and Mary West's Casino Host, given a crafty ride by jockey Joe Talamo, got the jump on Dhaamer turning into the stretch and then was able to hold off the determined late challenge of the 6-5 favorite to win the 73rd running of the Grade II $200,00 Del Mar Handicap Saturday.

Casino Host, sent postward the third choice at 7-2 in the field of eight older Thoroughbreds, rallied into serious contention between horses in the upper stretch, gained command in deep stretch and prevailed by a neck over the onrushing Dhaamer, who was piloted by Garrett Gomez.

Longshot Fire With Fire, in front in the upper stretch, held on well to be third, a length behind Dhaamer and a head in front of fourth-place Worth Repeating. Highly­regarded Interaction, the 5-2 second choice, was a disappointing fifth. Scratched from the original line-up was Temple's Door.

Casino Host, trained by Ron Ellis, had done his campaigning on the East Coast other than a trip West late last year when he was sixth in the Hollywood Derby. He prepped for the..Del Mar Handicap with a third-place finish July 21 in the Eddie Read Stakes behind Acclamation and Interaction.

The Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer, a $290,000 purchase as a yearling at Keeneland, accomplished the marathon mile and three-eighths over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course in 2:14.77 and paid $9.60, $4.20 and $3.40 after his fourth success in 15 starts. First money of$120,000 increased the four-year-old's earnings to $575,175.

Dhaamer, winner of the Sunset Handicap in his previous start, paid $3 and $2.60, while Fire With Fire returned $6 to show.

Casino Host gave Talamo his third winner of the afternoon, the young rider also taking the day's first and second aboard Indy Beauty and Street Rocket, respectively. The triple gave him 32 winners for the meeting, tying him with Gomez behind leader Rafael Bejarano(43 wins). Bejarano rode at Saratoga Saturday. Interestingly, 13 of Talamo's victories have been scored over Del Mar's grass circuit.

Since the Del Mar Handicap is a "Win and You're In" race in the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, Casino Host earned an automatic spot in the line-up for the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf Saturday, Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

Jockey Martin Garcia had two wins Saturday, leaving him only one victory shy of the 1,000-winner milestone in his career.

Saturday's attendance was 19,280.