(Express Train / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)
From the Del Mar Media Team:
CRK Stable’s Express Train stayed close early, then fired strongly late to capture the 80th running of the $250,000 San Diego Handicap Saturday at Del Mar in 1:43.37 for the mile and one-sixteenth distance on the main track.
Juan Hernandez positioned the 4-year-old Union Rags colt just off the leader until the quarter pole, then urged him to the front and got him to hold well late for a half-length tally. The $500,000 yearling purchase is conditioned by John Shirreffs.
Finishing second in the Grade II headliner was Hronis Racing’s Tripoli, who had three-quarters of a length on race favorite Royal Ship, owned by Fox Hill Farms or Siena Farm.
Express Train, who was winning for the fourth time in 12 starts, earned $150,000 for his victory and pushed his career bankroll to $659,300.
Express Train returned $7.80, $4.60 and $2.80 across the board. Tripoli paid $7.80 and $4.20, while Royal Ship returned $2.60 to show.
The San Diego is considered one of the key prep races for Del Mar’s foremost offering – the Grade I, $750,000 TVG Pacific Classic which will be run at a mile and a quarter on Saturday, August 21. Trainer Shirreffs indicated in quotes following the race that that race would be the next target for Express Train.
Earlier on the card, George and Martha Schwary Racing’s Ippodamia’s Girl captured the $80,000 Osunitas Stakes, an overnight offering for older fillies and mares by half a length. The 6-year-old homebred daughter of Stormy Atlantic raced mid-pack for most of the trip, then swung very wide on the turn and ran strongly through the lane under Joe Bravo. Richard Baltas trains the winner, who returned $14.80 for a $2 bet.
The track’s new 20¢ Jackpot Pick Six wager proved very lucrative for a player at the Maryland hub who was the only one to tab all six winners on the Saturday card. His return was a healthy $291,409 on his $3,953 ticket.
Racing resumes at Del Mar Sunday with first post at 2 p.m.
JUAN HERNANDEZ (Express Train, winner) – “He broke real sharp today and that was the key. I stayed aggressive with him; he likes it and runs well when you do. We had a good spot until the quarter pole and then I really got after him. He was responding well and then those other horse came up on him and he dug in again. He’s a tough one.”
JOHN SHIRREFFS (Express Train, winner) – “I thought he was in a good spot the whole way, right off Rushie and then when he was asked in the stretch he responded well. The Pacific Classic, that would be the goal if everything works out.”
FRACTIONS: :22.97 :47.16 1:12.23 1:37.20 1:43.37
The victory in the San Diego Handicap is the first in that race for rider Hernandez, but his eighth stakes win at Del Mar.
The score in the San Diego Handicap is the second for trainer Shirreffs (Giacomo in 2006) and his 18th at Del Mar.
The winning owners are the CRK Stable of Lee and Susan Searing of Arcadia, CA.