DEL MAR, CA – A bold mid-race move toward the front was the difference-maker as Red King reigned supreme in Saturday’s $200,000 Del Mar Handicap Presented by The Japan Racing Association (G2).

The Del Mar Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Red King receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Turf at Keeneland this November.

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Breaking from post 7 under Umberto Rispoli as the 4/1 second choice on the tote, Red King sat back toward the rear as the field rounded the far turn for the first time.

A three-horse duel for the early lead commenced with Big Buzz on the inside, Ward ‘n Jerry on the outside, and North County Guy sandwiched between them. The trio raced through opening fractions of :25.07, :49.94, and 1:15.09.

At about the halfway point down the backstretch, Rispoli suddenly stomped on the gas pedal and sent Red King from eighth to second heading into the far turn.

Getting an early jump on the 3/5 favorite United (who was stalking just behind the front-runners), Red King swept past North County Guy near the top of the stretch and held an advantage as he straightened for home.

United put forth a steady rally, but Rispoli’s bold mid-race move proved to be a winning one. Red King held on in the late stages to win by a head in a final time of 2:15.75 for the 1 3/8-mile firm turf route.

Credit: Benoit Photo

“I didn’t like how slow they were going, so I decided to move earlier today,” said the Italian-born Rispoli, whose first trip aboard Red King came when they won the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Stakes (G3) last time out. “It takes a really good horse to do that, but I knew he had the stamina. I did this when I was riding in Europe. It was close at the finish because he was trying to pull himself up. I am very happy. This horse gave me a Grade 3 win in his last start, and today, he gave me a Grade 2. I want to keep it going with him.”

United was a 1/2-length ahead of the fast-closing trio of Originaire, Proud Pedro, and Oscar Dominguez.

Completing the order of finish came Another Mystery, North County Guy, Ward ‘n Jerry, Combatant, Big Buzz, and New Year.

Red King’s win improved his overall record to 28-7-4-7 with $398,115 earned for co-owners Little Red Feather Racing, Gordon Jacobsen, and Philip Belmonte. The 6-year-old English Channel colt gave trainer Phil D’Amato his fourth straight in the Del Mar Handicap and his sixth in the past seven runnings.

“I could see going along the backstretch that (United) was on the inside and Umberto was about to make that move on the outside,” D’Amato said. “He (Rispoli) timed it perfectly. I give all credit to him. After the last race, he was so high on this horse. He chose Red King over Originaire (whom Rispoli had ridden in his last 5 starts), and that gave me a lot of confidence that he felt the horse was climbing up the ladder, and to win this race is really special.”

Red King returned $10.60 to win, $3.80 to place, and $2.80 to show. United brought back $2.60 to place and $2.20 to show, while Originaire paid $4.60 to show.