DEL MAR, CA – Owner/trainer Mark Glatt’s Sharp Samurai showed all kinds of speed and desire to take Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 La Jolla Handicap.
Under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, Sharp Samurai fought against him down the length of the back stretch as he saw Double Touch and jockey Kent Desormeaux come past his outside. Meanwhile, Placido set early fractions of :23.24, :48.29, and 1:12.26 with Pioneer Lad and Monster Man to his outside.
Entering the far turn, Stevens finally loosened the reins on the 3-year-old gelding, who promptly began to swing around the outside of the lead pack. Exiting the far turn five-wide, Sharp Samurai gained the lead and held off a late charge from Fashion Business and jockey Joe Talamo, completing the 1 1/16-mile turf race in 1:41.51.
“That was – as they say in Europe – a messy race,” Stevens said. “Nothing was happening the way it was supposed to. The horses I thought would go didn’t go. It didn’t unfold at all like I thought it would. My horse was relaxing, but then Kent came up fast outside me, and my horse engaged him. I got him to settle again, and I could see that (jockey) Flavien (Prat on Colonist) down on the rail was loaded, so I wanted to keep him down there. I had to make my move a little earlier that I normally would. Then after I made my run, here came Talamo in the lane. Good thing I saw his shadow out of the corner of my eye. (Sharp Samurai) was pressed all the way and got it done.”
Colonist held on for third, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Placido. A neck back was Pioneer Lad, with Offshore a nose further. Double Touch and Monster Man completed the order of finish. Caribou Club was scratched.
The win was Sharp Samurai’s third in his past four starts and was his first graded stakes victory. The son of First Samurai’s record improved to 7-4-0-0 with career earnings of $195,870.
Sharp Samurai paid $4.40 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Fashion Business paid $7.20 to place and $4 to show, while Colonist paid $3.20 to show.