Irish Surf Gallops in Cougar II Handicap
Irish Surf, a royally-bred son of Giant's Causeway, ran and away and hid from his opposition Friday as he won the featured Grade III $100,000 Cougar II Handicap by 8 lengths under West Coast newcomer Elvis Trujillo.
Taking command with a mile to travel in the mile and one-half marathon over Del Mar's Polytrack main surface, Irish Surf was on cruise control the rest of the way, never giving his seven rivals a chance as he completed the distance in a track record 2:29.01.
The previous mark of 2:29.22 was set by Richard's Kid in the 2012 renewal of the Cougar.
Sky Kingdom, the even-money favorite who was runner-up in the Cougar a year ago, salvaged second money, 1 length in front of Ice Cream Truck, with Bailoutbobby fourth. Withdrawn from the original line-up were American Blend, Big John B and Soi Phet.
Irish Surf, owned by the partnership of Gainesway Stable and Thor-Bred Stable and trained by Dan Hendricks, was scoring his third triumph in 18 starts. First money of $60,000 increased his earnings to $213,660.
The winner returned $17.60, $6.20 and $4; Sky Kingdom paid $3.00 and $2.40, while Ice Cream Truck returned $5 to show.
The race was marred by the catastrophic injury suffered by five-year-old Longview Drive who was pulled up by jockey William Antongeorgi in the stretch first time past the grandstand. Longview Drive sustained major injuries to his left front foreleg and was humanely euthanized.
Two spills also marked the eight-race program. In the first race, a 5 furlong sprint, Trujillo was unseated when his mount, 6-5 favored Delaney's Joy, clipped heels on the far turn, stumbling badly and unseating the rider, who was unhurt. Delaney's Joy also appeared to be uninjured. In addition to winning the feature, Trujillo came back to win the eighth and final race aboard Sam's Sister.
In the sixth race, a five-furlong sprint on the grass. Yes She's Unusual unseated jockey Brice Blanc on the far turn when she stumbled after sustaining a serious injury, later to be humanely euthanized. Jockeys Drayden Van Dyke and Tyler Baze, aboard horses trailing Yes She's Unusual, were unseated while trying to avoid the mishap.
Blanc was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital for x-rays and examination. Van Dyke was replaced aboard his mount in the eighth race and advised to rest at his residence Friday evening before seeking clearance to compete Saturday. Baze was okayed to ride his mount in the Cougar II Handicap.
With no perfect tickets in Friday's Pick Six, Saturday's ten-race card will have a carryover of $77,661.
ELVIS TRUJILLO (Irish Surf, winner) -- "He's been doing so good in the mornings. He's just feeling good and doing great. When we started the race, I thought I was going to take a hold and sit in behind. But he started to run off on me. He just wanted to go. When they're like that, you can't fight them. He went to the front and just kept on going. In the stretch, he was even stronger. He just kept on running."
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Sky Kingdom, second) -- "My horse ran good. The winner, he just got away from us. He went to the front and never slowed down. How about that."
TIAGO PEREIRA (Ice Cream Truck, third) -- "He ran good. First time he ran that far and he tried real hard."
DAN HENDRICKS (Irish Surf, winner) -- "This is a nice, late-maturing horse. He loves this track. He ran well here as a 2-year-old and it looks like he's finally found his best surface. He had a right to be any kind of horse. After all, he's out of a champion, Surfside, and by Giant's Causeway, a great horse and a great sire. We had him primed to run in the San Luis Rey at Santa Anita but he came up with a little mucus in his system and we had to pass on the race. We were devastated.
I'm really happy for the owners (Erik and Pavla Nygaard's Thor-Bred Stables and Gainesway Stable -- the nom du course of Antony Beck). They've been very patient with us over this horse. Now, we might look at the Pacific Classic."
FRACTIONS: :25.71 :50.08 1:14.38 1:39.66 2:04.25 2:29.01 (track record)
The previous track record was 2:29.22 set by Richard's Kid in this race in 2012.
The stakes win by Elvis Trujillo was his first at Del Mar. It also was his seventh victory of the meet (on day seven) making him the current leader at the session. He then followed up that win to take the nitecap for his eighth win, giving him a two-win lead over two other riders.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for Dan Hendricks and his first in the Cougar II. It was his 13 th stakes win overall at Del Mar