Photo: Del Mar / Benoit Photo
Kretz Racing’s Cabo Spiritback in the crowd for the first half of the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla Handicapput on the blasters late and reeled them all in from the outside to capture the Grade 3 stakes by a half-length Sunday at Del Mar.
The Kentucky-bred by Pioneer of the Nile had been gelded since his previous start, and the surgical procedure certainly seemed to have a positive effect for the youngster. He turned back five 3-year-old rivals in the 82nd edition of the race, which was first run at the seaside track in its inaugural year 1937.
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Asked if he thought Cabo Spirit’s being gelded had an effect, winning jockey Joe Bravo said, “I don’t know, but I think I’d probably have been better if I’d been gelded a while back for sure.”
Cabo Spirit, trained by George Papaprodromou, picked up a winner’s share of $90,000 from the gross purse of $150,500 to push his total earnings to $312,560.
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“I was little worried he got kind of far back, but Joe rode him patiently and nicely and then made a move on the turn, and he just exploded,” Papaprodromou said. “We decided to geld him to get him to relax and obviously you can see (what happened). He got a little tense and hot, but he got to relax a little more than before.”
The La Jolla was his first graded stakes win in his 13th start. He ran the race on Del Mar’s Jimmy Durante turf course in 1:42.28. The early fractions at each quarter-mile were 23.04, 47.66, 1:12.47 and 1:36.37.
“I wasn’t really where I wanted to be going into the first turn, and I could tell they were really slowing it down up front,” Bravo said. “But he made a big move on his own around the (far) turn, and then in the stretch it was all him.”
Finishing second in the La Jolla was Gary Barber’s Perfect Flight, who had three-quarters of a length on Perry or Ramona Bass’ Sumter, the race favorite at 9-5.
Cabo Spirit paid $7.40, $4.20 and $2.80 across the board. Perfect Flight returned $11.20 and $4.60, while Sumter paid $2.80 to show.
The La Jolla was the second of three turf stakes run at the session for 3-year-olds. The Oceanside on opening day was the first. The climactic race in the series is the Del Mar Derby (G2) on Sept. 3. It carries a $300,000 purse and is run at nine furlongs.
Papaprodromou indicated the Del Mar’s Derby would be his horse’s next start.
The stakes win was the second of the meet for Bravo but his first in the La Jolla Handicap. He has eight stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes victory was the second of the meet for Papaprodomou but his first in the La Jolla Handicap. He has four stakes wins at Del Mar.
Ruston Kretz of Las Vegas was the winning owner.