Masterfully-rated on the lead by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, 5-2 favored Ashleyluvssugar held on desperately in the final strides to nose out rallying Metaboss and win the G2 $250,000 Del Mar Handicap on the day of the G1 $1 million TVG Pacific Classic.
Ashleyluvssugar, runner-up in the mile and three-eighths grass event a year ago, went to the front shortly after the start, was well in hand while setting a slow pace under Stevens, but was forced to go all out to prevail by the narrowest of margins. Longshot Texas Ryano was third, a length behind Metaboss, who rallied from last under Rafael Bejarano to just miss, while another longshot, El Huerfano was fourth in the field of a dozen older horses.
Ashleyluvssugar earned a berth in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Nov.5 since the Del Mar Handicap is a “Win and You’re In” qualifying event.
Ashleyluvssugar, a son of Game Plan owned by Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing and trained by Peter Eurton, ran the distance in 2:16.11 and paid $7, $4 and $2.80 while recording his sixth win in 22 career starts. The $150,000 first money increased the horse’s earnings to $727,504.
Meta Boss paid $5.20 and $3.80, while Texas Ryano returned $15.20 to show.
DEL MAR HANDICAP QUOTES
GARY STEVENS (Ashleyluvssugar, winner) – “He was waiting on horses. I tried to stay busy on him, but he was waiting. They (the other riders) know it and know him. They came at him out in the middle of the track. He never saw them. I knew we were going slow and I knew I saved all (the ground) I could. There were some photographers near the seven eighths (pole) and he propped from them. Wish they wouldn’t let them be there.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO (Metaboss, second) – “Son of a ……. I hate to get beat like that. Hate it. My horse was flying. I thought sure I’d won.”
JOE TALAMO (Texas Ryano, third) – “Great trip. Sitting in the right spot. He fired. Can’t ask for more than that.”
PETER EURTON (Ashleyluvssugar, winner) — “That was so close. The other horse was so far from ours to the outside that I really couldn’t tell if we’d won or not. Gary (Stevens) just rode an amazing race. God that was great. That was a Hall of Fame ride. I didn’t tell him anything (strategy wise); that was all Gary.”
FRACTIONS :25.27 :49.62 1:14.58 1:39.49 2:03.87 2:16.11
The stakes win was the third of the meet for rider Stevens and his first in the Del Mar Handicap. He now has 93 stakes wins at Del Mar, seventh best all time.
The stakes win was the second of the meet for trainer Eurton and his first in the Del Mar Handicap. He now has seven stakes wins at Del Mar.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club