Last with slightly more than a quarter-mile to run, Kaigun unleashed a brilliant burst of speed in the stretch to win the featured Grade II $250,000 Seabiscuit Handicap Friday under jockey Corey Nakatani.
Kaigun, a Canadian-bred four-year-old trained by West Coast newcomer Mark Casse, was taken to the far outside entering the stretch by Nakatani and responded generously to take command inside the final sixteenth and win by three-quarters of a length.
Za Approval also closed well to be second, a half-length in front of the 3-2 favored Tom’s Tribute who went to the front in the upper stretch but was unable hold off the first two. Mr. Commons was fourth in the field of nine grass horses. Avanzare was withdrawn from the original field.
Kaigun, a son of Northern Afleet campaigned exclusively on the east coast until finishing tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, returned $9, $4.80 and $3 while earning $150,000 with his fifth win in 18 starts. He now has banked $960,220.
The gelding is owned by Gary Barber and Quintessential Racing.
Za Approval, who was piloted by Victor Espinoza, paid $6.80 and $3.60, while Tom’s Tribute, Del Mar’s top grass horse last summer after winning the Eddie Read Stakes and Del Mar Mile, paid $2.20 to show.
Time for the mile and one-sixteenth over the infield turf course was 1:41.38.
Friday’s program had a Pick Six carryover from Thursday of $47,193. “New’ money wagered Friday was $332,630 for a grand total of $379,823. There were four perfect tickets, each paying $56,223.
Attendance Friday was 8,823.
Racing resumes Saturday with Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome schedule to go postward in the Grade I $300,000 Hollywood Derby.
Post time for the first of nine races is 12:30 p.m.
COREY NAKATANI (Kaigun, winner) – “Mark (trainer Mark Casse) said this horse will place you right where you need to be. If they go slow or they go fast, he’ll be in the right spot. I worked him the other morning on the grass (Nov. 23) and he went in :46 (:46.80). He loves it. I knew he had the class and then when we hit the turn I took him wide and he went. I didn’t want to get him stopped and he fired.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Za Approval, second) – “The trainer (Christophe Clement) said ‘Save ground with this horse.’ I surely did that. We saved as much as you can save in a race and I just wish I would have gotten loose a few jumps earlier. If we had….. Ah, well, that’s racing.”
MIKE SMITH (Tom’s Tribute, third) – “Man, that race (the one his horse ran) usually wins a race like this. We were in the garden (spot) and he fired and ran great. He was laying it down out there. They just came by us. A freaky race. I still don’t know how we got beat.”
MARK CASSE (Kaigun, winner) – “I didn’t expect him to be back where he was early. But with Patrick (regular rider Patrick Husbands) or Corey, I let them figure it out. The pace the way it was I wasn’t sure he would be able to kick the way he did. But as soon as he made the lead he pricked his ears and it looked like he won with something left.”
FRACTIONS: :23.57 :47.52 1:11.65 1:35.47 1:41.38
(The winner ran the final sixteenth in :05.91.)
This is the first time the Seabiscuit Handicap has been run at Del Mar. Previously, it was run at Hollywood Park 36 times under the name Citation Handicap.
This was the first stakes win of the Bing Crosby Season for Corey Nakatani, but his 102nd stakes win overall at Del Mar, second best all time in that category.
This was the first stakes win of the meet for Mark Casse and his second stakes win overall at Del Mar.
The winning owners are Gary Barber of Los Angeles, Quintessential Racing of Tina Casse of Ocala, FL and Horse’n Around Stable of Harvey Swartz of Ontario, Canada.