DEL MAR, CA – Showing that the added distance meant nothing, Michael House’s Hunt stretched out in a big way to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap.
With the win, Hunt earned an all-fees-waived berth in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf on November 4 here at Del Mar.
Jockey Flavien Prat placed Hunt in a three-deep stalking position while Mr. Roary set early splits of :24.40, :49.40, 1:14.88, and 1:39.09. Going to the outside in the stretch, Hunt shot back inside and gained the lead past the midstretch, running hard to hold off the late-charging Itsinthepost, completing the 1 3/8-mile turf race in 2:14.93.
“The slow pace helped us; he like that, coming from the shorter race,” said Prat. “We were close up, too. He likes to be among horses; covered up. I followed (jockey) Gary (Stevens on Ashleyluvssugar) through the hole (at the top of the stretch), then dropped down. Had it from there.”
The 11-furlong marathon was 2 furlongs longer than any distance that Hunt had previously run, but after winning the Grade 2 Eddie Read over 9 furlongs on July 22 here at Del Mar, Prat told trainer Phil D’Amato that Hunt should be able to handle stretching out longer.
“It was a masterful ride,” D’Amato said. “Flavien just bided his time, let the race develop a little, found a seam on the inside, and turned him loose. He got it done.”
Flamboyant just missed second by a head, but the 18-1 longshot’s connections were still happy to hit the board. Prime Attraction won a four-way photo for fourth over Inordinate, Ashleyluvssugar, and Up With the Birds. He Will, Editore, Big John B, Liam the Charmer, Monster Bea, and Mr. Roary completed the order of finish.
The win improved the Irish-born Hunt’s record to 23-7-5-3, including 6-2-2-0 at Del Mar. It was Prat’s seventh and D’Amato’s sixth stakes win of the Del Mar meet, which puts each at the top of the jockeys and trainers standings.
Hunt returned $8.80 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.60 to show. Itsinthepost brought back $4.60 to place and $3.80 to show, while Flamboyant paid $9.20 to show.