Beginning its sixth week, Del Mar attracted 13,706 fans Wednesday. But it only seemed like all of them were in the winner’s circle after Sensational Star’s victory in the $108,025 Pat O’Brien Breeders’ Cup Handicap.
There was barely room for the 6-year-old gelding amid the mob of owners and their entourages after his nearly three-length beating of Frost Free, the 5-2 favorite.
Surprisingly in the lead throughout the race, Sensational Star, who was claimed for $32,000 by trainer Bill Spawr two years ago, put away Sam Who after a half-mile, then drew off to win in 1:20 3/5 for the seven furlongs.
Victorious for the third time in four 1990 starts and successful in 12 of 35 races overall, Sensational Star isn’t the first Spawr claim to go on and win a stakes. Mister Gennaro and Restage also did, but the trainer said this just might be his best purchase. A month earlier, the California-bred had scored a 14-1 upset in the Bing Crosby Handicap.
“He’s something, isn’t he?” said Spawr, consistently one of Southern California’s high-percentage trainers. “He’s so good now, I can’t believe it. I knew he’d fire another big shot here. He’s doing so fabulously.
“He’s the best he’s ever been. I told Rafael (Meza) to let him roll out of there. I thought if Frost Free went to the front, we could lay right on him. I wasn’t surprised at all the way the race went.
“He might be the best claim I ever made. Oh, heck, he is the best claim I ever made. He’s a gentleman to be around. He’s a classy, classy horse.”
Sensational Star also gets along well with Meza, who rode him in his last four victories.
“It didn’t look like there was a lot of speed in there,” Meza said after his third stakes win of the meeting. “My main concern was to run our race and not worry about anybody else. I just wanted to get a good break, and he broke super.
“I saw they took Frost Free back, and Sam Who was inside of me, and we were going pretty comfortably (in 22 flat, then 44 1/5 for the half-mile). The way he was going early, I knew he’d be tough at the end. It felt like he was galloping early. He’s better at seven furlongs than six.”
Frost Free finished three-quarters of a length in front of a troubled Earn Your Stripes. Timeless Answer was fourth; then came Due to the King, Sam Who, Movinglikeawinner, Trebizond and Flying Continental.
“I either wanted to be on the lead or where I was,” said Gary Stevens, although many would argue that his mount, Frost Free, is effective only when he’s in front. “I wanted to make sure I had something to finish with. I went after (Sensational Star) at the three-eighths pole and hoped to flatten him out. But the other horse is real good now . . . Give him all the credit.”
Sensational Star earned $49,275 for owners Tony Calhoun, Larry Risoldi and John Sullivan.
Not eligible to the Breeders’ Cup, Sensational Star’s agenda calls for starts in the Ancient Title on Oct. 10 and the California Cup Sprint on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting, with a possible try in the Aprisa at Fairplex Park next month.
With Prized, Golden Pheasant and Classic Fame aiming for the Arlington Million and with Petite Ile injured, Monday’s $300,000 Del Mar Handicap is not shaping up as one of the year’s attractive races.
The starting highweight for the stake, at 1 3/8 miles on the turf, is Live the Dream with 118 pounds, followed by Great Communicator, who has definitely seen better days, with 117.
Ten of the 12 invitees in the race, won last year by Payant, are probable starters. Besides the two mentioned, the likely participants are Deliorman, Rial, Eddie Read Handicap winner Fly Till Dawn, Chief’s Image, Lowell, Mashkour, Soft Machine and Mehmetori. Putting, who wasn’t invited originally, is a strong possibility.
Rather than go to New York for Sunday’s Maskette Stakes at Belmont Park, Bayakoa will stay home and run in the $150,000-added Chula Vista Handicap here Saturday.
Set to carry 127 pounds, Bayakoa will be spotting from 13 to 16 pounds to her five possible opponents--Patches, Estrella Fuega, Rosadora and the Gary Jones-trained duo of Formidable Lady and Fantastic Look.
“If we sent her to New York, we don’t know who we’re going to run against,” trainer Ron McAnally said. “Here we know.
“We also would have to either leave her back there a month for her next start in the Spinster (on Oct. 6 at Keeneland) or bring her right back and take her back again. This way we can keep her here for at least three weeks, where we know the weather will be good, then take her to Kentucky and on to the Breeders’ Cup (on Oct. 27 at Belmont).”
Although last in the 1989 Chula Vista when heavily favored, Bayakoa worked seven furlongs in 1:23 3/5 last Saturday, preparing for her first start since being upset by Quiet American in the San Diego Handicap on Aug. 4.
Horse Racing Notes
Jockey Corey Nakatani, who has been out a month with a broken hand, will return to action Saturday. Nakatani broke his hand in a fight with fellow rider Orlando Garrido at Los Alamitos.
Preparing for the Molson Export Challenge at Woodbine on Sept. 9, Kansas City worked a mile in 1:37 between the second and third races Wednesday. With new rider Chris McCarron aboard, the 3-year-old Habitony colt went 23 3/5, 47 1/5 and 1:11 4/5 en route to his final clocking.
Del Mar will play host to an All-Star Jockey Challenge on Sept. 9. Local riders Laffit Pincay, Eddie Delahoussaye, Pat Valenzuela and Kent Desormeaux will be pitted against Pat Day, Jorge Velasquez, Randy Romero and Earlie Fires. The competition will consist of three races with eight horses in each race. There will then be a second challenge on Sept. 30 at Arlington Park.