DEL MAR, CA – Hronis Racing’s Encoder fought tooth and nail late to get past a game Billy Batts at the wire to win Sunday’s $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes.
Breaking from the rail as the 3/5 favorite under Flavien Prat, Encoder tugged hard heading into the clubhouse turn but eventually settled into third. Billy Batts held initial command while posting fractions of :23.53, :47.86, and 1:11.75.
Heading into the far turn, Encoder looked poised to make a big move but had to wait for running room. Tipping out as he exited the far turn, Encoder pulled up alongside Billy Batts in mid-stretch, but his pacesetting foe fought back gamely.
In the shadow of the wire, Encoder got his head down on the wire first, winning the mile-long event over the firm turf course in a final time of 1:35.31.
“Across the line, I knew I’d won,” Prat said after winning his meet-leading 10th stakes. “But I didn’t think I was going to get there. I had a perfect trip and it turned out right.”
Billy Batts – who Prat piloted in his maiden-breaking effort here on August 10 – was 6 1/2 lengths clear in second under Drayden Van Dyke. Ardenlee Star and Commander, each making his stateside debut after running earlier this year in Europe, fought late for third, with Ardenlee Star ultimately getting it by a head. Raging Whiskey weakened steadily in the stretch after chasing the pacesetter to complete the order of finish. Hit the Road and Croughavouke (who will run in Monday’s Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes) were scratched.
Encoder’s win was his second in as many career starts, having broken his maiden here going 5 furlongs on August 7. The 2-year-old son of English Channel, purchased for $60,000 last fall, has now earned $96,600.
“I thought it was a very good race for him,” Sadler said. “He just put his head down and was determined. I don’t think there’ll be any problem for him with more distance. Pace in front is always going to help him because he relaxes so nicely. He’s not speedy, but he has a nice turn of foot. First and second starts, so we don’t know much about him, but he’s definitely a nice colt headed the right way.”
Encoder returned $3.20 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Billy Batts brought back $2.80 to place and $2.20 to show, while Ardenlee Star paid $3.20 to show.