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These Two Opening-Day Winners Share a Claim to Fame

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The first race veteran jockey Emile Ramsammy ever rode at Del Mar, his mount finished fifth. About an hour later Wednesday, Ramsammy rode his first Del Mar winner and his first stakes winner in California when Scooter Brown, a sharp claim by trainer John Sadler, held off several challengers to win the first half of the opening-day Oceanside Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths.

Ramsammy’s big day came on a partly sunny, 75-degree afternoon, in front of 30,007, second biggest opening-day crowd at Del Mar and third largest ever for the seaside track, which got its start in 1937. That year’s Oceanside winner earned $840.

Scooter Brown earned $52,320 for his Oceanside victory, and the second half, won by Ladies Din, was worth $51,720.

While Ramsammy is a new player in the Oceanside, Julio Canani, the trainer of Ladies Din, and jockey Gary Stevens are old hands at winning the stake. The Peruvian-born Canani, who came to the U.S. in 1963 with $600 to his name, won the 1975 Oceanside with Willmar, a horse he claimed for $20,000. That was Canani’s first stakes win in the U.S., and he won the Oceanside again in 1988 with Silver Circus, a $32,000 claim.

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Stevens, who has ridden Ladies Din to three of the 3-year-old gelding’s five wins, is a six-time winner of the Oceanside, including a sweep of another split stake in 1994.

Sadler, a week away from his 43rd birthday, has made some propitious claims over the years, including Olympic Prospect, who came out of the $50,000 ranks to earn more than $800,000, part of it via a win in the Bing Crosby Handicap here in 1988.

Scooter Brown, claimed away from trainer Bob Baffert for $62,500 at Santa Anita in February, is on his way to becoming a claim of a similar ilk. Under Sadler, Scooter Brown has four wins and one second in six starts, and a fourth-place finish in the Harry Henson Stakes at Hollywood Park can be written off because the 3-year-old gelding bruised a foot in the race.

That injury set Scooter Brown back a week, but he returned a week later, winning a minor stake on grass.

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Ramsammy had his hands full trying to keep Scooter Brown from running too fast early.

“He’s a hyper horse,” Ramsammy said. “I tried to get him to relax.”

A few horses tried to overhaul Scooter Brown in the stretch, but he had enough left to hold off Dog Watch, who finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Prevalence, the third-place finisher. The second choice, Scooter Brown paid $8.60.

Ramsammy, 35, comes from Trinidad, West Indies, but recently he’s been a fixture in Ontario, Canada, winning two titles at Woodbine. His plans to become a fixture in Southern California went awry last winter when he broke a finger and was sidelined a month.

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“When I came back at Santa Anita,” Ramsammy said, “I had lost all my business, so I had to go back to Canada.”

Ramsammy won 10 races at Santa Anita before he left for Woodbine, then returned to California and won 12 times at the Hollywood Park meet that ended Monday.

When Sadler claimed Scooter Brown, he was still a maiden, winless in four starts. Baffert exposed the horse for $62,500 after claiming him the race before (from Bob Hess Jr.) for $50,000.

“I figured that if this horse was about 20th on Baffert’s charts, he might be No. 1 on mine,” Sadler said. “Baffert has so many good 3-year-olds, horses like Real Quiet and Indian Charlie, that we sneaked in there and took this one.”

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Ladies Din ran his mile in 1:35 3/5, a fifth of a second faster than Scooter Brown. Ladies Din’s assignment was much tougher, because he was last going into the first turn. Moving up from the outside, Ladies Din zeroed in on the leaders--Prose and Opine--nearing the far turn and finished with a lot of energy, beating Success And Glory by 2 1/4 lengths. Then came Opine, beaten by a nose for second place.

Favored Ladies Din paid $3.60. He also came out of the claiming ranks, for $32,000, although Ron Ellis trained him for one race before Canani took over last fall. Since then, he has won three of nine starts, one additional victory being taken away after a stewards’ disqualification at Hollywood Park.

Under trainer David LaCroix, Ladies Din won his first race at Del Mar last July, and for Ellis he was a grass winner at a mile in September.

“Said Stevens: “I think [a mile] is too short for him.”

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Ladies Din will get more distance on Sept. 7, running in the Del Mar Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

Horse Racing Notes

In another stake, the placing judges had to squint at the photo before giving Tiffany Diamond the nod over Fontal in the $84,000 Fantastic Girl. Alex Solis rode the winner for trainer Bruce Headley, who won the same stake with the mare last year. . . . Farm Water, who broke down on the far turn in the last race and was euthanized, was claimed before the race by trainer Jeff Bonde for $16,000. Jockey Matt Garcia was not injured.


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