Trainer John Sadler did the right thing by scratching Christmas Boy from a $65,000 allowance race here Friday night, opting for the tougher spot in Sunday's $170,600 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Christmas Boy broke alertly under Corey Nakatani, made the lead and stayed there for a five-length win in the six-furlong Crosby, which has occasionally been an springboard for the Breeders' Cup Sprint in the fall. Christmas Boy was not nominated, however, and would have to be supplemented, at a cost of $120,000, in order to run in the $1-million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Gulfstream Park on Nov. 6.
A 6-year-old gelding wearing a big blue shadow roll, Christmas Boy reached the wire in 1:08, a solid time over a resurfaced Del Mar track that's been playing slower than a year ago. The only horse to win the Crosby in a faster time in the last 21 years was Bad 'N Big in 1978.
The third betting choice, Christmas Boy paid $7.60 as he won his sixth race in 12 career starts. When Christmas Boy broke his maiden, winning by 12 lengths at Hollywood Park in May 1997, he could have been claimed out of the race for $25,000. His win Sunday was worth $96,360 and increased his purse total to $254,128. His owners, Lawrence Opas and Frank Sinatra, also won the 1988 Crosby with the Sadler-trained Olympic Prospect, who was twice unsuccessful in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Son Of A Pistol, winner of last year's Crosby, ran second Sunday, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Expressionist. Big Jag, the 7-5 favorite who had won eight of his last nine, finished fourth in the six-horse field. Big Jag was next to last midway down the backstretch and had moved up only slightly, still 5 1/2 lengths behind Christmas Boy, with an eighth of a mile to go. He was beaten by 10 lengths.
Christmas Boy had run only once this year, ending an 8 1/2-month layoff with a third-place finish a month ago in the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park. The winner carried 114 pounds Sunday, including three pounds of Nakatani overweight, and was spotted nine pounds by Son Of A Pistol and seven by Big Jag.
Trainer Warren Stute's Memoranda, a 35-1 shot, was scratched at the gate, but his Bright Magic led most of the way to win the $110,500 Fleet Treat Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths over Sulaymondo. Kinky Kinky was third in the seven-furlong race for 3-year-old California-bred fillies.
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Bright Magic came home in 1:22, paying $18.20. Bred and owned by Clement Hirsch, vice president of Del Mar, Bright Magic is a daughter of Prized, who also sired Domination, winner of a division of the Oceanside Stakes on Thursday's opening day.
Sea Of Ice, the even-money favorite, was in contention until the top of the stretch before finishing seventh.
Horse Racing Notes
Horses owned by Frank Stronach, the new owner of Santa Anita, won a $500,000 race Sunday in Delaware and ran third in a $212,000 stake in Canada. At Delaware Park, Stronach's Tap To Music, ridden by Pat Day for trainer Joe Orseno, defeated favored Keeper Hill by 1 1/2 lengths in the Delaware Handicap. At Fort Erie, Gandria, at 13-1, won the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg in the Canadian Triple Crown, with the Queen's Plate winner, Woodcarver, running second, ahead of Stronach's Euchre, who was ridden by Emile Ramsammy. . . . Gary Stevens rode Dark Shell to a third-place finish in Dusseldorf, Germany. The winner in the Group I race was Ungaro.