Hunt Wins Marathon Del Mar Handicap
Hunt © Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Michael House’s Irish-bred Hunt, victorious in the Eddie Read Stakes a month ago, confirmed his quality Saturday by winning the 78th running of the Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Handicap on the day of the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic.
Perfectly placed by jockey Flavien Prat in the early stages of the mile and three-eighths contest over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course, Hunt darted between horses in the upper stretch to take command, but then was forced to go all out to resist the late challenge of the strongly-closing Itsinthepost, the 5-2 favorite ridden by Tyler Baze.
Flamboyant, an 18-1 longshot, was third, a head behind the second horse, with Prime Attraction fourth in the field of 13 runners.
The Del Mar Handicap is a “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf which will be run at Del Mar Saturday, November 4, the winner earning an automatic berth.
Hunt, trained by Phil D’Amato, accomplished the distance in 2:14.93 and, as a co-second choice at 3-1 with the 2016 Del Mar Handicap winner Ashleyluvssugar, returned $8.80, $4.60 and $3.60 while earning $150,000 with his seventh success in 23 starts. The five-year-old son of Dark Angel now has earnings of $548,419. Ashleyluvssugar finished sixth after being prominent early under Gary Stevens.
Itsinthepost returned $4.60 and $3.80, while Flamboyant paid $9.20 to show.
FLAVIEN PRAT (Hunt, winner) – “The slow pace helped us; he like that, coming from the shorter race. We were close up, too. He likes to be among horses; covered up. I followed Gary (Stevens on Ashleyluvssugar) through the hole (at the top of the stretch), then dropped down. He had it from there.”
TYLER BAZE (Itysinthepost, second) – “He was way the best horse; way the best. I had to wait, wait, wait on the turn. If I could have gotten him out, we would have come running.”
BRYCE BLANC (Flamboyant, third) – “If I could have gotten out sooner, it would have helped. I would have been closer. I don’t know that I could have won it, but I would have been closer.”
GARY STEVENS (Ashleyluvssugar, sixth) – “My saddle slipped. I couldn’t ride him like I wanted to.” +
PHIL D’AMATO (Hunt, winner) – “It was a masterful ride. Flavien (Prat) just bided his time, let the race develop a little, found a seam on the inside and turned him loose. He got it done.”
FRACTIONS: :24.40 :49.40 1:14.88 1:39.09 2:14.93
The stakes win was the seventh of the meet for rider Prat, the most of any jockey at the meet. It was his first in the Del Mar Handicap, but his 17th at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the sixth of the meet for trainer D’Amato, the most of any conditioner at the meet. It was his third in the Del Mar Handicap and his 19th overall.