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DEL MAR, CA – Red Baron’s Barn or Rancho Temescal’s Zoffarelli, in from England just a week earlier and unable to even get a work in over the Del Mar track, didn’t let that stop him as he ran well and survived a bumping match through the stretch to be declared the winner of the $150,500 La Jolla Handicap Sunday at the seaside racing headquarters.
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The bay gelding by Zoffany actually was second across the wire, just a nose behind Yuesheng Zhang’s Sword Zorro and just a head in front of Double L. Racing or Baffert’s Hudson Ridge in a furious finish.
However, the track’s stewards reviewed film of the contentious stretch run where all three horses went through a series of bumps and came to the conclusion that Sword Zorro should be disqualified and placed third, with the other two horses each moved up a placing.
The winning time on the mile and 1/16 was 1:42.27. Drayden Van Dyke rode the winner for trainer Jeff Mullins.
“If I don’t get banged that last time, I’m going to go on by and win it on my own, but (Sword Zorro) kept constantly drifting out and out,” Van Dyke said. “It was the right call. I knew this horse was going to run big today. I did my homework. I was over at the barn with Jeff the other morning watching this horse’s races in England. The owners know what they’re doing when they go over to Europe and buy one. They got another good one here.”
Zoffarelli, who last raced June 30 at Bath in England, earned $90,000 for his victory moving his bankroll up to $110,325. He had won a race and was second 5 times in 7 starts in England as a 2- and 3-year-old.
“I’ve only had him for 8 days; no works,” said Mullins, who also won the 2018 La Jolla with River Boyne in a similar off-the-airplane effort. “They worked him before he came and we just kept him happy. I wasn’t that confident (during the inquiry). I’ve been on the wrong side of them a lot before. It looked legitimate, but you never know.”
Zoffarelli returned $17.80, $6, and $3.80 across the board. Hudson Ridge paid $3.40 and $2.40, while Sword Zorro returned $3.60 to show.
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