Photo: Benoit photo
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, competing in California for the
first time since December of 2007, won his first Del Mar stakes race in five
years as he guided J P's Gusto to a front-running triumph in the featured
$150,000 Best Pal Stakes for two-year-olds Sunday.
Ironically, Valenzuela was the regular rider of Best Pal in
1990 when that Golden Eagle Farm star won the Balboa Stakes, renamed in the California-bred
gelding's honor in 1996. Best Pal
was one of the greatest horses in California history, still ranking second among state-breds with
earnings of almost $5.7 million and victories in several important stakes,
including the inaugural $1 million Pacific Classic under Valenzuela in 1991.
J P's Gusto, a two-time stakes winner at Hollywood Park,
including the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, sped to the front shortly after
the break from his rail post
position, rated well for Valenzuela into the stretch and then resisted a stout challenge
from 3-2 favored Sway Away to score by a half-length in 1:16 61 for the 6 1/2
Sway Away, an impressive winner maiden winner at Pleasanton
in late June, was last in the field of five in the early stages and closed
resolutely under jockey Rafael Bejarano, finishing 3 1/2 in front of
third-place Western Mood, the 8-5 second choice.
Comma to the Top was fourth, with Minutesandtouches fifth
Withdrawn from the original field were Wickedly Perfect, the
filly who won the Sorrento Stakes Friday, and River's Chapel, scratched earlier
J P's Gusto, a son of Successful Appeal purchased for
$52,000 by the Gem Stable of Dr. John Walken, earned $90,000 with his third win
in four starts, his only defeat a sixth-place finish in a maiden race at
Hollywood Park in his career debut May 9. His bankroll is $187,360.
J P's Gusto, conditioned by veteran David Hofmans, went
postward the 2-1 third choice and paid $6.80, $3.20 and $2.40. Sway Away
returned $3 and $2.10, while Western Mood paid $2.20 to show.
Valenzuela won his first stakes at Del Mar 30 years ago at
the age of 17, aboard Pro or Con in the C.T.B.A. Stakes. Sunday's win marked
his 60th stakes success at the seaside track, tenth on the all-time
list for added-money triumphs. His most recent stakes win at Del Mar prior to
Sunday was a win aboard Simply Because in the 2005 C.E.R.F. Handicap.
There were no perfect tickets in the Pick Six Sunday, so
Wednesday's program will feature a carryover of $178,834. Post time for the
first race is 2 p.m.
Sunday's attendance was 15,913.