Reddam Racing’s Mrazek, the 3-5 betting choice ridden by Mario Gutierrez, drew off easily in the stretch to win the featured $100,000 Graduation Stakes for California-bred two-year-olds Wednesday at Del Mar.
Mrazek dueled for command to the upper stretch where he asserted his superiority to win by three and one-quarter lengths in a fast 1:03.77 for the five and one-half furlongs. Ralis, his uncoupled stablemate from the barn of trainer Doug O’Neill and also owned by Reddam Racing, closed well to be second, five and one-quarters ahead of Swiss Minister in the field of six juveniles. Viviendo El Sueno was fourth.
Mrazek, another talented offspring of the young stallion Square Eddie, earned $57,000 with his second victory in four starts and now has earnings of $135,810. After breaking his maiden first time out at Santa Anita May 31, the colt was second in both the Santa Anita Juvenile and the Summer Juvenile at Los Alamitos.
Mrazek returned $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10, while Ralis paid $6 and $4.40 and Swiss Minister returned $4.40 to show. The same owner-trainer-jockey combination won the Graduation last summer with Wake Up Nick.
Two summers ago, California Chrome won the Graduation Stakes and went on to fame and fortune with victories in the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and “Horse of the Year” honors as a three-year-old.
The Graduation Stakes is a steppingstone to the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 7, a race won last year by 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.
With no perfect tickets Wednesday in the Pick Six, Thursday’s program will have a carryover of $63,705. First post is 2 p.m. with the Pick Six scheduled on races three through eight.
Wednesday’s attendance was 10,757.
MARIO GUTIERREZ (Mrazek, winner) – “He’s fast, really fast. And he didn’t get that much pressure today. He was fine with it. The track has tightened up some, too. Not super tight, but tight enough to where you can use your speed if you’ve got it. He’s a nice colt and I think he’ll run a little farther.”
COREY NAKATANI (Ralis, second) – “My horse was a little green. He got some good education today. The winner is low and blocky; built to sprint. My horse is longer – a long strider. He’ll be better off when they go on.”
MARTIN PEDROZA (Swiss Minister, third) – “No excuses today. Good trip; good try.”
DOUG O’NEILL (Mrazek, winner) – “What a race. Both (Mrazek and runner-up Ralis) have been training great and both ran their races. We’re really loaded (for 2-year-olds). We’ve got some nice homebreds for Paul Reddam and some other nice ones that my brother Dennis scouted out at sales. (Regarding whether they would come back against Cal Breds or in the Futurity) It’s hard to tell, we’re blessed to have a couple nice ones for the Best Pal (Saturday) and these two, so we’ll see how they all come out of it. We’ve got a lot of options.”
FRACTIONS: :22.47 :46.05 :57.71 1:03.77
The stakes win for rider Gutierrez was his first of the meet and second in the Graduation. (The same connections – Reddam Racing, Doug O’Neill and Gutierrez won last year’s Graduation with Wake Up Nick.) Gutierrez now has six stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the second of the meet for trainer O’Neill and his third in the Graduation. He now has 28 stakes wins at Del Mar.
Reddam Racing is the nom de course of J. Paul Reddam of Laguna Beach, CA.