Free Rose, who won the La Jolla Handicap at odds of almost 30-1 early last month, proved that triumph was no fluke Sunday as he scored a narrow victory at 11-1 under jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr. in the G2 $250,000 Del Mar Derby.
Prominently positioned in second place from the start of the mile and one-eighth grass contest, Free Rose went to the front in the stretch under a beautifully-timed ride by Arroyo and showed his courage to win by a half-length over an onrushing band of fellow three-year-olds.
Ralis, piloted by Mario Gutierrez at 6-1, nosed out 11-1 Dressed In Hermes for the place, with Monster Bea another nose back in fourth place in the field of 14. Blackjackcat, the lukewarm 3-1 favorite, finished sixth. Withdrawn from the line-up were Curlin Rules and Materialistic.
Free Rose, a colt by Munnings owned by Abbondanza racing and McCauley and trained by Richard Baltas, raced the distance in 1:47.70 and paid $25.80, $12.80 and $8.60. His effort rewarded his owners with $150,000 in first money. It was the gelding’s fourth win in eleven starts and he now has earned $314,760.
Ralis paid $6.80 and $5.60, while Dressed In Hermes returned $8.20 to show.
In the co-featured Grade II $200,000 John C. Mabee Stakes for older fillies and mares, Ramona Bass’ Avenge held on gamely in the final yards under leading rider Flavien Prat to defeat the fast-closing 12-1 longshot Finest City by a head in 1:48.82 for the mile and one-eighth over the infield turf course.
Well-placed in a stalking second position behind pacesetting Gloryzapper in the early stages of the race, Avenge took command in the upper stretch and then had enough left to barely repulse the challenge of Finest City, who was piloted by Kent Desormeaux.
Elektrum, victress in the Mabee Stakes a year ago, was a close third, a half-length back of Finest City and a length and one-quarter ahead of fourth-place Keri Belle. There was a deadheat for fifth between Sobradora Inc, the 2-1 favorite, and Havanna Belle.
Avenge, a four-year-old filly by War Front bred in Kentucky and trained by Richard Mandella, went postward at 7-1 and returned $17.60, $10.60 and $7.60. It was her fifth victory in eleven starts and first prize of $120,000 boosted her earnings to $291,996.
Runner-up Finest City paid $12.80 and $8.60, while Elektrum returned $4.60 to show.
Rafael Bejarano, Del Mar’s four-time reigning saddle champion, had a triple to move within a single winner of Prat going into Monday’s final day of the 39-day meeting. Bejarano won aboard Zip the Monkey at $24.40 in the second, Eddie’s First at $11.40 in the third and The Spiral Jetter at $9.80 in the finale tenth race. Prat, limited to his success astride Avenge in the Mabee Stakes Sunday, leads Bejarano, 37-36.
DEL MAR DERBY QUOTES
NORBERTO ARROYO, JR. (Free Rose, winner) – “Richie (Baltas, trainer) said to get him out of there and see what’s happening. If you can make the lead, make the lead. If someone wants to go, then lay second. It worked just that way. He’s a free running horse and you can’t fight him. I heard them coming up behind me and I cut him loose. I thought maybe I went for it too early, but if I’d waited another second or two, they would have had the jump on me. It worked out just right.”
MARIO GUTIERREZ (Ralis, second) – “I had to go wide all the way with him. Didn’t have any choice. He ran great, though. He went real well.”
KENT DESORMEAUX (Dressed in Hermes, third) – “He gave me his life from the quarter pole home. I couldn’t ask for a horse to try harder.”
RICHARD BALTAS (Free Rose, winner) – “His last race was very game. A lot of people discounted it because speed was good that day, but he ran some pretty fast fractions and he didn’t give up when they came at him. He ran back quicker last time than he did this time. We were going to run in the (opening day) Oceanside Stakes but he didn’t get in because he had run for a tag a little while before. I told Roberto that (Mr. Roary) was going to go for the lead, so he just sat second and then made a helluva move around the turn. He just kind of said ‘I’ll see you guys later.’ I was hoping he wasn’t going to get caught, and he didn’t.”
FRACTIONS: :22.37 :45.92 1:10.65 1:35.24 1:47.70
The stakes win was the third of the meet for rider Arroyo, but his first in the Del Mar Derby. He now has six stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the third of the meet for trainer Baltas, but his first in the Del Mar Derby. He now has eight stakes wins at Del Mar.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club