Eastern invader Rusty Slipper, piloted by England’s champion jockey of 2015, Silvestre de Sousa, in his Del Mar Debut, accelerated powerfully in the stretch to win the Grade III $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap Saturday.
Well-placed in the early stages of the mile and three-eighths marathon over Del Mar’s infield grass course, Rusty Slipper unleashed an impressive rally in the final furlong to score by one and one-half lengths over the 5-2 favorite, Elektrum, ridden by Victor Espinoza. The latter claimed foul after the race, alleging interference turning into the stretch the first time. However, after studying the videotape, the claim was disallowed by the board of stewards.
Third in the field of eleven fillies and mares was the race’s 2014 winner, Three Hearts, who was one and three-quarter lengths behind the runner-up after setting the pace until the final quarter-mile and a nose in front of fourth-place Trophee. Soresca was scratched from the also-eligible list.
Rusty Slipper, trained by H. Graham Motion for the RMJ Stables of Zanim Meahjohn of Trinidad, West Indies, accomplished the distance in 2:15.34 and returned $14.20, $6.40 and $4.60 after her sixth victory in 17 starts. The five-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid earned $60,000 to boost her bankroll to $326,393.
Elektrum, winner of the John C. Mabee Stakes last summer, paid $4.40 and $3, while Three Hearts returned $4.20 to show.
Rafael Bejarano, Del Mar’s leading rider last summer, booted in three winners Saturday to gain a tie for the top spot in the standings with Santiago Gonzalez, tied at 15 winners each. Bejarano scored aboard Rocket Heat at $15 in the fourth, Jeremy’s Legacy at $15.40 in the sixth and Stealth Drone at $4.80 in the seventh. Gonzalez had a single victory, on Zip the Monkey at $7.80 in the second.
Trainer Doug O’Neill moved within a single win of the 2,000 mark for career victories in the sixth race with Jeremy’s Legacy. O’Neill is scheduled to run six horses on Sunday’s card.
With a carryover of $41,442 from Friday, $336,077 was wagered in “new” money Saturday for a total Pick Six pool of $377,519. And, there were 13 perfect tickets, each worth $16,972.80.
SILVESTRE de SOUSA (Rusty Slipper, winner) – “I had a great trip around there. I’d spoken to the trainer (H. Graham Motion) and he was very confident. He said he thought he had the best horse in the race. He told me to come away from there and get a good spot. I was concerned about the post (No. 11 in an 11-horse field), but she came away well and we got a good spot. Then she went on from there.”
(This was the first time that de Sousa, a native of Brazil who was England’s champion jockey last year, has ridden at Del Mar. He was asked if he was planning on going back to England or staying on in California? “It’s up to the trainers,” he said.)
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Elektrum, second) – “She (the winner) really got me right out of the gate. At the three-eighths pole. He dropped over on me big time and I nearly clipped heels. It cost me the race. She should have come down.”
JOE TALAMO (Three Hearts, third) – “He (trainer Neil Drysdale) said to go for it. To put her in front. The fractions were easy; we were going good. She just got outquickened at the end.”
ALICE CLAPHAM, assistant to H. Graham Motion (Rusty Slipper, winner) – “She broke well out of the gate, settled well and was given an excellent ride. Recently we had been thinking about bringing her out here for the Matriarch (one mile, turf), but we liked the distance of this race and she likes firm ground. You’re more likely to get firm turf out here than you are back east at this time of year.”
FRACTIONS: :24.81 :48.44 1:13.55 1:38.92 2:03.39 2:15.34
This is the second time the Red Carpet has been run at Del Mar. Previously it had been run 48 times at Hollywood Park under the name Beverly Hills Handicap.
The stakes win was the first at Del Mar for rider de Sousa in his first day of riding at the shore oval. He had finished third earlier in the day on his one previous mount.
The stakes win was the second at Del Mar for trainer Motion. He won the 2011 Del Mar Oaks with Summer Soiree previously.
The winner is owned by RMJ Stables, which is the nom de course for Zanim Meahjohn of Trinidad, West Indies.
Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club