DEL MAR : Nakatani Regains His Stakes Touch After Getting Word of Suspension
After winning about every stakes or feature race the first two weeks of the Del Mar meeting, jockey Corey Nakatani had been quiet since Bruho’s victory in the Bing Crosby Handicap Aug. 3.
Nakatani’s added-money silence ended aboard heavily favored Soviet Sojourn in Wednesday’s $78,225 Sorreno Stakes.
Dispatched at 2-5 against three 2-year-old rivals, the Leo Castelli filly trailed early, then came through along the rail to win by 1 1/4 lengths. It was the third victory in five starts for Soviet Sojourn and her second stakes victory of the meeting. She had won the Junior Miss at 2-5 on July 26.
What made the victory sweeter for Nakatani was some bad news he had received earlier in the day. He was handed a five-day suspension, beginning Saturday, for an incident in Monday’s seventh race.
Stewards Dave Samuels, Ingrid Fermin and Mort Lipton ruled that Nakatani had caused interference by crossing over without proper clearance going into the first turn aboard Moratempo. Moratempo finished second in the race behind Maroon Buck but wasn’t disqualified.
Considering that Nakatani was on the prohibitive favorite in the Sorrento, it seemed rather odd that he chose a more difficult maneuver inside, but he had his reasons.
“She was packing a lot more weight (121 pounds) than those other fillies,” he said. “That was a concern, and she was running against some pretty good fillies, too. But she has a lot more seasoning than them.”
Although Soviet Sojourn’s margin of victory might not have been particularly impressive against recent maiden winners Her Elegant Ways, La Spia and She’s Tops, the final time of 1:22 1/5 was only a fifth off Lite Light’s stakes record set last year.
“I think she could be the next Lite Light,” Nakatani said. “That’s a lot to say, I know, but I think she can. The track wasn’t playing all that quick, but she went fast.”
Next for Soviet Sojourn is the Del Mar Debutante at one mile on Aug. 31.
“I leave it up to Corey,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s riding with so much confidence, too. She was up against some tough fillies, so hopefully, this will set her up for the Debutante.”
La Spia finished second, a little more than a length ahead of She’s Tops, who had the lead through some very tepid fractions (23 seconds for the first quarter) and Her Elegant Ways was last. Navajo Pass was scratched.
Winning for the first time since her U.S. debut Jan. 9, Vieille Vigne rallied and won the $61,500 Bayakoa Stakes.
Though she had placed in several stakes, the 4-year-old Fabulous Dancer filly hadn’t won since beating three rivals in an allowance race at Santa Anita before the one-mile Bayakoa.
Fourth with a furlong to run, the 2-1 second choice ran down favored Heart Of Joy and won by nearly two lengths in 1:36. Nasers Pride, the longest shot in the field at 26-1, defeated Heart Of Joy by a head for second.
The victory capped a double for trainer Jude Feld, who had taken the first race with $31 upsetter Nyssa.
"(Vieille Vigne) is a nice filly,” Feld said. “The race set up great for us. She can run any way, off the pace or on.”
Making her first start on the dirt, Heart Of Joy relaxed for Chris McCarron off the pace, drew clear entering the stretch, but fell apart late.
“She relaxed today when I took a hold of her early,” McCarron said. “Then she pulled me to the lead on the turn. She just didn’t fire. It wasn’t there. I don’t know why.”
Stark South, winner in the second division of the opening-day Oceanside Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:14 1/5 Wednesday morning preparing for Sunday’s Del Mar Derby.
The final leg in Del Mar’s three-race grass series for 3-year-olds, the Derby is also expected to attract Repriced, winner of the other division of the Oceanside, La Jolla Handicap hero Track Monarch, Soweto, River Traffic, June’s Reward and Hokusai, who will be making his first American start for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Horse Racing Notes
Julio Garcia will have to meet with the Del Mar stewards before he is allowed to resume riding. Apparently, Garcia, who left for his native Puerto Rico early last week because of personal problems, contacted agent Tony Matos and said he wanted to be named on horses today for Saturday’s program. Steward Dave Samuels said, however, that Garcia will have to meet with him, Ingrid Fermin and Mort Lipton before he can be named on any horses.