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DEL MAR, CA – Agave Racing Stable and Sam-Son Farm’s Count Again flew last to first for a successful California debut in Saturday’s $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) at Del Mar.
Making his first start for new trainer Phil D’Amato since breeder Sam-Son Farm sold a majority interest in him and sent him west, Count Again was the 8/1 fifth choice under Juan Hernandez as he broke from post 5.
The 2/1 favorite Anothertwistafate dueled with One Bad Boy on the front end through opening fractions of :24.02 and :48.27, but One Bad Boy took an awkward step heading into the far turn and was pulled up out of the race.
Blitzkrieg inherited the lead and held command at the top of the stretch, but Flavius led the charge past him shortly after straightening for home.
Hernandez tipped out Count Again as he finished cornering and set him down for the stretch run home, collaring Flavius in the late stages before crossing 3/4 of a length ahead while completing the 1 1/16-mile firm turf route in 1:40.84.
“He’d been running longer races, and when he broke a little slow today, I didn’t rush him,” Hernandez said. “We were in a good spot on the backside and I could feel I had plenty of horse. When we hit the 3/8 (pole), I wheeled him outside and we started to pick them up. He ran hard through the stretch and we got it done.”
Flavius settled for second, 3/4 of a length ahead of Next Shares, while Anothertwistafate settled for fourth.
Bowies Hero, Spirit Animal, Majestic Eagle, Blitzkrieg, Imperador, My Boy Jack, and Camino del Paraiso completed the order of finish. Tartini was scratched.
One Bad Boy caused a minor kerfuffle while being safely pulled up and inadvertently forced Camino del Paraiso to drop back as well, but he later walked off the course on his own.
Count Again’s win was his second at the graded stakes level following the Singspiel (G3) 2 starts back and improved his overall record to 8-4-1-2 with $271,165 earned. The Ontario-bred 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding had only made 3 career starts through this past April, when Gail Cox took over his training duties for the summer.
“Gail Cox delivered this horse to me in excellent condition and I was really glad to have him,” D’Amato said. “She got him going really good and his confidence up as well, and I just kind of trained on from that. I’m just fortunate to have him. Juan followed our plan. I just told him to save all the ground and come with one run. If the race sets up for us, great; if not, we’ll stretch him out next time. He followed those instructions to a ‘T’ and he came with a monstrous run.”
Count Again returned $18.80 to win, $8.40 to place, and $5.80 to show. Flavius brought back $4.20 to place and $3.40 to show, while Next Shares paid $10 to show.
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