Photo: Benoit Photo
With every horse still in front of him as the field for Del Mar's featured event came spinning out of the turn, to say race favorite Enterprising was left with plenty to do in the stretch of the Oceanside Stakes would have been an understatement. Never fear, race fans. Coming home on the far outside under Mike Smith, the son of Elusive Quality set down a blistering final quarter mile to snare victory from the jaws of defeat in the shadow of the wire on Opening Day at Old Del Mar.
In the saddle on Enterprising for the first time Smith, now a 40-time stakes winner at the seaside track, used strong left handed encouragement as the Glen Hill charge picked off horses in bunches before nailing Argyle Cut in the final jumps to win by a thrilling short neck. Argyle Cut enjoyed a crafty ground saving trip, before surging to the front under Corey Nakatani, and looked like a winner at the sixteenth pole. It was not to be for the 9-2 third choice, though, as Enterprising flew home in :22.65 for the final two furlongs. Final time over the firm Del Mar turf was a sharp 1:33.89, only two-fifths of a second off Blackdoun's stakes record set ten years ago.
Looking at his past performances, Enterprising, who was 11th and last for the first three-quarters of the Oceanside, clearly was in unchartered territory.
“I’m not sure how he was affected by those gate issues (when two different horses broke through the gate prior to the start). It’s unsettling for everyone in the race. Maybe it had something to do with my horse being farther back than I thought he’d be in the beginning. But by being farther back, he relaxed nicely. Then he came running and I hoped I’d get there. He’s a very talented colt. And I’m certainly happy to start the meet off right.”
Freshened since a 3rd place finish in Santa Anita's La Puente Stakes back in April, the victory was the 4th in 5 career turf starts for Enterprising, and his third stakes score, having earlier accounted for the Eddie Logan and Pasadena Stakes. Like yesterday's Oceanside, both of those contests were also one mile affairs on the lawn.
Topnotch turf trainer, Tom Proctor earned his first Oceanside victory, as he follows in the footsteps of his father, Willard, who accounted for this race twice. In fact, he won back-to-back editions in '91 and '92 with Major Impact and Reprized, who also carried the familiar colors of Glen Hill. Proctor was modest after the thrilling victory of Enterprising.
“It usually depends on the trip and I guess any winning trip is a good trip," said Proctor. "He was outside and in the clear. I’ve been running a lot of seconds lately so I wasn’t sure he was going to get there. But it all worked out.”
With the traditional summer meet opening feature safely in his hip pocket, the homebred and his connections can set their sights on two more stakes races for sophomores on the turf, with the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap coming on August 9, and then the prestigious Del Mar Derby landing on its’ familiar spot on the calendar, the day before Labor Day. Judging from yesterday’s performance, you’d have to think Enterprising will be in with a chance in either.