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DEL MAR, CA – Woodford Racing’s Catapult did exactly that in the stretch, waiting until the 1/4 pole before launching a successful three-wide bid just in time to take Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap.
Breaking from the rail under Drayden Van Dyke, Catapult soon saved ground in mid-pack while Fly to Mars tracked What a View through initial splits of :23.25, :46.71, and 1:10.09. As the early pace-setter began fading in the far turn, Fly to Mars took command and was set down for the sprint home. Behind him, Van Dyke sat chilly aboard Catapult until an opening appeared, at which point he tipped his steed out and gave chase. Inside the final 1/16, Fly to Mars shied away from a left-handed whip and drifted out into the path of Sharp Samurai, who was charging side-by-side with Catapult in the stretch when he was forced to steady. That was enough to put Catapult in the lead just before crossing the wire with a 1/2-length advantage over Fly to Mars in a final time of 1:33.40 for the mile-long turf event.
“So special,” said Van Dyke, who notched a track record-equaling seven wins from his eight mounts on the Sunday card. “I had a day up at Santa Anita recently (March 10) where I won the first four races, including a Grade 1 (the Triple Bend Stakes), and that was the best. But I think today goes past it. I had a good trip and the right horse. It was a little hairy there turning for home; I had to wait for room. But then he got out and just went. Nice horse.”
Immediately following the race, the Del Mar stewards posted the inquiry sign and reviewed the stretch run incident. Upon review, the stewards disqualified Fly to Mars from second to third for causing interference to Sharp Samurai, who was bumped up to second-place honors.
“That not only clost me the place, it cost me the win,” Sharp Samurai’s jockey Gary Stevens said of the interference. “I don’t think Drayden is going to get by me if I don’t get stopped. My horse was really coming.”
Fly to Mars’ Florida-based rider Tyler Gaffalione, in town for the long weekend, didn’t dispute the post-race ruling.
“You can see it all on the replay,” he said.
The incident also forced B Squared to steady as he was running behind Sharp Samurai, though the stewards felt that his final placing wasn’t affected and kept him in his originally-crossed fifth position behind the late-running Big Score. Three other horses also put forth moves from the back, but they each lacked the necessary kick to threaten for the win. Hunt was a nose away from fifth, while Caribou Club and Le Ken were right behind in seventh and eighth, respectively. What a View weakened in the stretch to finish ninth ahead of True Valour, while the tepid 7/2 favorite Bowies Hero failed to fire from the rear and wound up 11th, outfinishing only Next Shares and Om, third in this race a year ago.
Catapult’s win was his second straight following a similar late-running score here in last month’s Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes and improved his overall record to 15-6-3-1 with a bankroll of $621,384. The 5-year-old intact son of Kitten’s Joy completed a stellar weekend for trainer John Sadler, who one day earlier won the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes for the first time in 12 attempts.
“I’m having a dream meet,” Sadler said. “We’re winning these big races and getting good trips and I can’t ask for anything more. What’s really nice is all the horses are running well. Everything is working out. I’m very happy with Catapult. He ran a good race in the Eddie Read and I wasn’t sure I was going to bring him back here. But I figured that since he’s so good on this turf course I wanted to run him twice here. We’re hoping he’ll end up in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”
Catapult returned $12.20 to win, $6 to place, and $3.60 to show. Sharp Samurai brought back $4.60 to place and $3.40 to show, while Fly to Mars paid $5.60 to show.
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