Sharp Samurai, Stevens Win La Jolla Handicap
Sharp Samurai © Benoit Photo
Under a well-calculated ride by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, favored Sharp Samurai surged into command while five-wide entering the stretch and then withstood the last-ditch challenge of Fashion Business to win the headlined Grade III $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for three-year-olds Sunday.
Sharp Samurai, sent to the gate a solid 6-5 favorite, won by a head over the fast-closing Fashion Business, with Colonist third, another three-quarters of a length back, and almost four lengths in front of Placido at the wire. Caribou Club was scratched.
Owned by Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal and trained by Mark Glatt, Sharp Samurai, a son of First Samurai, stepped the mile and one-sixteenth on turf in 1:41.51 to earn first money of $90,000 by virtue of his fourth success in seven starts. A winner of the Rainbow Stakes at Santa Anita June 10, the gelding now has lifetime earnings of $195,870.
With his victory, Sharp Samurai will be one of the favorites in the Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Derby at nine furlongs Sunday, September 3.
Across the board, Sharp Samurai paid $4.40, $3 and $2.40. Runner-up Fashion Business returned $7.20 and $4, while Colonist paid $3.20 to show.
In Sunday’s supporting feature, the $100,000 Graduation Stakes for California-bred two-year-olds, recent Hall of Fame inductee Victor Espinoza guided well-supported Continental Divide to a game triumph.
Continental Divide, a son of Animal Kingdom who had finished second in a maiden race in his career debut at Del Mar July 21, unleashed a rally around the far turn to take command entering the stretch and then held off the late bid of Smokem to score by three-quarters of a length in 1:05.27 for the five and one-half furlongs.
Drizzy, the lukewarm 3-1 favorite in the field of nine juveniles, closed well to be third, two and three-quarter lengths behind Smokem and a half-length in front of Cono. Scratched from the race were Sir Valentine and Don’t Stalk Me.
Continental Divide, owned by DP Racing and trained by Jim Cassidy, returned $9.20, $4.60 and $3 as a co-third choice. First money was $57,000. Runner-up Smokem paid $4.20 and $3.20, while Drizzy paid $3.20 to show.
GARY STEVENS (Sharp Samurai, winner) – “That was – as they say in Europe – a messy race. Nothing was happening the way it was supposed to. The horses I thought would go didn’t go. It didn’t unfold at all like I thought it would. My horse was relaxing, but then Kent (Desormeaux on Double Touch) came up fast outside me and my horse engaged him. I got him to settle again and I could see that Flavien (Prat on Colonist) down on the rail was loaded, so I wanted to keep him down there. I had to make my move a little earlier that I normally would. Then after I made my run, here came Talamo (on Fashion Business) in the lane. Good thing I saw his shadow out of the corner of my eye. He (Sharp Samurai) was pressed all the way and got it done.”
JOE TALAMO (Fashion Business, second) – “I thought I was in good shape. I was saving ground and I saw Gary’s horse (Sharp Samurai) was wide all the way. I got through there and he came running. I thought I’d get him. That’s a tough beat.”
FLAVIEN PRAT (Colonist, third) – “Good trip. I got through on the turn. It was a good run for him.”
MARK GLATT (Sharp Samurai, winner) – “It turned out to be a wise decision (to pass on the Oceanside and wait for the La Jolla). This horse wants more ground to run on and I thought it would be too quick to run him in both (Oceanside and La Jolla). We just stayed patient and it looks like it paid off. Hopefully he’ll come out of it good and it looks like we’ve got a legit shot in the Del Mar Derby. This race didn’t quite unfold like we thought it might. Gary made a smart move down the backside not to go with the horse that made a premature move. Instead of going with that horse to keep his position he waited. It meant going a little wide on the turn, but he said in the paddock ‘He’s the best horse in the race and I’m going to ride him like he’s the best.’”
FRACTIONS: :23.24 :48.29 1:12.26 1:35.76 1:41.51
The stakes win was the second of the meet for rider Stevens and his third in the La Jolla. He now has 96 stakes wins at Del Mar, tying him for third place all time with Laffit Pincay, Jr.
The stakes win was the second of the meet for trainer Glatt and his first in the La Jolla. He now has four stakes wins at Del Mar.