DEL MAR, CA – Godolphin’s homebred Elsa took command at the top of the stretch and put a freeze on anyone catching her as she ran off late to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar.
Breaking from post 3 under Joe Bravo at 11-1 odds, Elsa settled towards the rear early while Courteous posted opening fractions of :22.83, :47.07, and 1:11.37. Beginning to make her move heading into the far turn, Elsa began quickly picking off rivals and hit the top of the stretch under a full head of steam. Set down for the drive home, Elsa cleared away convincingly to win by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:35.68 for the 8 furlong event over the firm turf course.
“No sprint, no soft – just what we wanted,” said Bravo. “Michael (trainer Michael Stidham) said we’ve got to go somewhere where they’ve got some fast turf, so you know that had to be Southern California. She ran good and she was in the right spot at the finish.”
Though unable to hold off the eventual winner, Courteous finished strongly enough to head a fast-closing Pivottina, the 2-1 favorite, for second. Velvet Queen took fourth in front of Kookie Gal, while Lakerball headed Discreet Diva for sixth. Creative Instinct, Cedars of Lebanon, Monette, Italia, and Thriving completed the order of finish. Posh Holly was scratched.
Elsa’s win was her first since breaking her maiden on debut at Laurel Park in July and improved her overall record to 4-2-0-1 with earnings of $94,800. The well-traveled juvenile daughter of Animal Kingdom had made two previous stakes attempts at Laurel Park and Saratoga but finished seventh and third, respectively.
“The firm track definitely made a big difference,” Stidham said. “She didn’t like the soft ground (when seventh in her last start at Laurel in September). They went three-quarters in 16 (in Maryland), she broke sharp and then just started retreating backwards and that’s not her. We couldn’t wait to get her out here.”
Elsa returned $24.80 to win, $11.20 to place, and $7 to show. Courteous brought back $22.40 to place and $12.20 to show, while Pivottina paid $3.20 to show.