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Big John B Impressive in Del Mar 'Cap

Big John B Del Mar Handicap 615 X 400
Photo: Melanie Martines

Under a masterfully timed ride by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, favored Big John B swept to the lead in the upper stretch and cruised home to win the featured 75th running of the Grade II $200,000 Del Mar Handicap at the marathon distance of a mile and three-eighths on the infield grass course Saturday.

Big John B, a $50,000 claim for owner Michael House last spring at Keeneland, won by 5 ¼ lengths, with Bench Light getting up for second, a neck in front of Bright Thought. Starspangled Heat was fourth in the field of ten horses. Scratches from the line-up were Irish Surf, Quick Casablanca and Ice Cream Truck.

Big John B, sent to the gate at 8-5 on the basis of an impressive 7 ¼ length victory at the 11-furlong distance three weeks ago, was timed in 2:12 81 and earned $120,000 with his 11th career win in 28 starts. Phil D’Amato conditions the five-year-old gelded son of Hard Spun who was winning his third straight race since coming to California.

Michael Stidham was the trainer who haltered Big John B at Keeneland last April 11. After a second place finish in a $40,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs, the horse was sent West to D’Amato, former assistant to now-retired Mike Mitchell, Del Mar’s all-time leader in number of wins.

Big John B returned $5.20, $3.80 and $2.80. Bench Light paid $8.40 and $5, while Bright Thought paid $3.80 to show.

The Del Mar Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race with the winner guaranteed an expenses-paid berth in the $3 million  Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita November 1.

The win makes Big John B eligible to take on some of the best turf horses in the world – including the European big guns – in the $3-million Breeders’ Cup Turf. How does jockey Mike Smith think the horse might fit with that kind? “I think he can run with any of the horses in this country right now. Those Euros? We’ll just have to see who they send.”

There were 40 perfect tickets in the Pick Six and each paid $10,784.60.

With a carryover of $106,668 from Friday and $607,837 in “new” money, Saturday’s Pick Six pool totaled $714,505.

Attendance Saturday was 16,565.

Source: Del Mar


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