Jay Em Ess Stable’s seven-year-old Rail Trip, winless for two years
and eight starts since capturing The Californian at Hollywood Park in
June of 2010, returned to glory Saturday with a hard-fought victory in
the featured $200,000 San Diego Handicap.
Ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., for trainer Ron Ellis, Rail Trip
stalked leader John Scott from the start of the mile and one-sixteenth,
closely following a slow pace of :25.13 and :49.98.
Turning into the stretch, Rail Trip edged into a narrow advantage
over a stubborn John Scott, gradually expanding the margin to a
half-length at the wire in 1:43.14, with a final sixteenth in less than
six seconds. John Scott, the lukewarm 3-1 favorite under Victor
Espinoza, held second by a half-length over 3-1 Kettle Corn, with Take
Control a rallying fourth from last in the field of seven older horses.
The San Diego Handicap is a “Win and You’re In” race qualifying the
winner for a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile division in the
championship series of races at Santa Anita in early November.
Rail Trip, a gelded son of Jump Start, went postward the fifth choice
in the wagering at 9-2 and paid $11.20, $5.60 and $3.80 after scoring
his ninth win in 20 career outings. First prize of $120,000 jumped his
bankroll to $1,253,790. The most important triumph of his career was
scored in the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup under Valdivia. Later that summer,
he was third to Richard’s Kid in the Pacific Classic.
Sent to the East coast in the fall of 2010, the speedster was
winless in five starts, finally being returned to Ellis’ barn at
Hollywood Park in December of last year. In two starts at Hollywood Park
this year, he was fourth in the Los Angeles Handicap and second, beaten
a half-length by John Scott, in an allowance race. June 28.
With his San Diego success, Rail Trip becomes a contender for the $1
million TVG Pacific Classic which will be presented Sunday, August 26.
In the day’s supporting feature, the $200,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for
California-bred three-year-old fillies, Cory Wagner’s Starlight Magic
scored by a half-length over 11-1 outsider Warren’s Amber, with 3-2
favored Willa B Awesome a well-beaten third in the field of eight.
Starlight Magic, a daughter of Marino Marini trained by Mark Glatt,
provided jockey Rafael Bejarano with his sixth stakes success of the
young meeting. The record for most stakes wins in a season is 12 shared
by Laffit Pincay, Jr., Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens and Corey Nakatani.
Starlight Magic ran the seven furlongs in 1:23.57 and returned $8.40,
$4.20 and $2.60 after her fourth victory in nine starts. First money of
$110,000 increased her career earnings to $322,900.
Warren’s Amber, who was piloted by Mike Smith, paid $9.20 and $4.60, while Willa B Awesome returned $2.60 to show.
Saturday’s attendance was 25,087.