DEL MAR, CA – Rockingham Ranch’s Nucky took control at the top of the stretch and never surrendered to upset Monday’s eventful edition of the $300,000 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity Stakes (G1).
Dismissed by bettors as he broke from post 7 at 35/1 odds under Norberto Arroyo, Jr., Nucky was forwardly-placed along the outside of a four-wide wall. Garth‘s head was most prominent among the group that also included Ginobili along the rail and Fore Left.
Garth gave way midway through the far turn, and Fore Left soon followed, giving Nucky the chance to cross over. He bumped slightly with Ginobili at the top of the stretch, but the contact didn’t deter him.
Clearing away in the stretch, the Peter Miller trainee beat his closing stablemate Wrecking Crew to the wire by 2 3/4 lengths. Nucky completed the 7-furlong sprint over the fast main track in a final time of 1:25.52.
“What a way to end the meet,” said Arroyo, Jr. “I don’t deserve this, but somebody wanted me to have it. I thank the Lord up above. My aim was to track the 2 horse (Eight Rings). My horse broke good and I was looking for the 2. By the 4 1/2 (furlong pole), I couldn’t see him at all and I knew something must have happened. Then I just went to riding my horse. He responded well. I don’t know if he was the best horse in the race to start, but he was the best to finish. He responded well at the end.”
After trailing toward the rear for the early part of the running, Wrecking Crew came on strongly enough in the stretch to take second by a 1/2-length over Defense Wins. Ginobili faded to fourth after the contact, and despite trainer Richard Baltas claiming foul against the winner, no change was made to the original order of finish. Fore Left and Garth were the last to cross with riders aboard.
The 1/2 favorite Eight Rings broke in a bit from post 2, making contact with Storm the Court and jockey Flavien Prat along the rail. After straightening out under Drayden Van Dyke, Eight Rings seemed fine – until he crossed the gap where the chute meets up with the main track. Eight Rings suddenly ducked in without warning, making contact with Storm the Court that resulted in both Van Dyke and Prat being dismounted. Both horses continued running riderless without incident, and Eight Rings even swept past the winner after the wire. All humans and equines were later reported to be relatively unscathed.
Nucky’s win was his second straight following a maiden-breaking effort here on August 21 while running for a $100,000 tag. The 2-year-old son of Ghostzapper now sports a record of 5-2-1-0 with $217,750 earned.
“I don’t know what happened (at the start), but after that, we won clear,” Miller said. “To finish one-two in the Del Mar Futurity, for me, I mean it’s just incredible under any circumstances.”
Nucky returned $72 to win, $26 to place, and $13.40 to show. Wrecking Crew brought back $8.60 to place and $5.20 to show, while Defense Wins paid $13.60 to show.