Saturday, August 6th, 2016   ( 2 years ago )

Champagne Room Wins Sorrento, Free Rose Takes La Jolla 'Cap

Champagne Room © Benoit
Champagne Room, the 6-5 favorite under Mario Gutierrez, won the first race of her young career in style Saturday with a well-earned triumph in the Grade II $200,000 Sorrento Stakes, prelude to the title-deciding Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Debutante on September 3.
In the co-featured Grade III $150,000 La Jolla Handicap, 25-1 longshot Free Rose led from wire-to-wire under skilled rating by jockey Joe Talamo to win by a half-length over the fast-closing Lucky Bryan, with Moonlight Drive another half-length back in third. Fourth in the field, another half-length removed, was Monster Bea, the opening-day Oceanside Stakes winner who went postward the 2-1 favorite.
Champagne Room, a daughter of Broken Vow, was a $2,000 supplementary entrant in the 6 ½ furlong Sorrento and rewarded her connections’ confidence with her length and one-quarter win over an unlucky Miss Southern Miss, who was bumped soundly in the first few strides leaving the gate. Miss Southern Miss, piloted by Kent Desormeaux, gamely recovered,  eventually to take the lead entering the stretch, but was unable to hold off the winner in the final sixteenth.
Champagne Room, second in a maiden race in her debut July 16, stepped the Sorrento distance in 1:16.35 and returned $4.60, $2.60 and $2.10 while earning first money of $120,000. Miss Southern Miss paid $2.60 and $2.20, while third-place Aunt Jenn returned $2.60.
Peter Eurton trains Champagne Room, a $310,000 purchase at a two-year-old in training in sale in Florida last April, for the ownership combine of Alesia, Ciaglia Racing and Exline-Border Racing.
Free Rose, owned by Abbondanza Racing and trained by Richard Baltas, took command shortly after the break in the La Jolla,  set legitimate fractions and gamely prevailed in a long stretch drive over the onrushing Lucky Bryan in a quick 1:40.73 for the mile and one-sixteenth over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Free Rose, a son of Munnings, returned $59.80, $23 and $11.60 after recording his third win in ten starts. First prize of $90,000 pushed the gelding’s bankroll to $164,760. Lucky Bryan paid $7.40 and $5.20, while Moonlight Drive returned $4 to show.
The La Jolla Handicap is the major steppingstone to the Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Derby at nine furlongs on the turf Sunday, Sept. 4.
Straight Fire, a two-year-old colt by Dominus, showed he could be a serious contender in the closing-day Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 5 with a brilliant performance in breaking his maiden by ten and one-half lengths in the eighth race. With Kent Desormeaux in the saddle, Straight Fire ran 6 ½ furlongs in a fast 1:14.94. As the favorite off a second to the talented Chasing Aces two weeks ago, Straight Fire paid $3.80.

JOE TALAMO (Free Rose, winner) – “First time I ever got on the horse. Scotty (agent Scotty McClellan) said he was a last-minute pickup. That’s why I can’t let him retire. Richie (trainer Richard Baltas) just said ‘Go to the front and try to win.’ We were going fast, but his ears were up and he was relaxed. The key to the race was at the three-eighths pole. A horse came up alongside, but then he let us go. My horse took a couple of breaths and then he went. Felt good.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Lucky Bryan, second) – “Good trip for me and he ran well. I think he likes it better outside, but they had me on the inside today. Still, he was game and he ran well.”
FLAVIEN PRAT (Moonlight Drive, third) – “My trip was fine and he ran a good race. He was a little aggressive with me on the backside and I wish I could have gotten him to settle a bit better. But he ran good.”
GARY STEVENS (Monster Bea, fourth) – “He ran his race. A good effort. It seems the turf (course) has changed some. Seems like it is favoring speed a bit more. But my horse ran a good one; no doubt.”
RICHARD BALTAS (Free Rose, winner)  “I got the horse late at Santa Anita, so I’ve had him for almost two months. He looked like a nice horse on the turf (in races at Churchill Downs and Keeneland). I didn’t think he could be this kind to begin with, but his last race (July 23 at Del Mar) he ran a very good race when third against some tough older horses. Today he controlled the pace and he really gutted it out when he was challenged.”

FRACTIONS:  :22.29   :46.59   1:10.97  1:34.64  1:40.73
The stakes win was the second of the meet for rider Talamo and his second in the La Jolla. He now has 43 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the second of the meet for trainer Baltas, but his first in the La Jolla. He now has seven stakes wins at Del Mar.