Curlin Road, claimed for $40,000 last April at Santa Anita, declared a generous dividend on his new owners’ investment with a courageous triumph in the featured Grade III $100,000 Cougar II Handicap at the marathon distance of a mile and one-half over Del Mar’s main dirt track Wednesday.
Sent postward at 9-1 under jockey Flavien Prat, Curlin Road engaged 6-5 favored Hard Aces in the upper stretch and outfought that rival in an exciting duel to win by a nose in 2:31.74 for the distance.
Noble Nick, at 19-1, was a distant third, six and one-half lengths behind the first two and a half-length in front of fourth place Infobedad. Big John B, the 5-2 second choice and 2015 Cougar II victor, was sixth in the seven-horse field.
Santiago Gonzalez, rider of Hard Aces, who won the Cougar II a year ago, claimed foul against the winner, alleging interference. However, his claim was disallowed by stewards after viewing videotape of the stretch run.
Curlin Road, a four-year-old gelded son of Curlin owned by R3 Racing, Calara Farms and ERJ Racing and trained by Doug O’Neill, earned $60,000 with his fourth triumph in 24 career starts. He won a mile race at Los Alamitos ten days ago. His pari mutuel payoff today was $21.40, $8 and $5. Runner-up Hard Aces paid $3.20 and $2.60, while Noble Nick returned $6.20 to show.
There were no perfect tickets in Wednesday’s Pick Six. Thursday’s program will have a Pick Six carryover of $271,496 with a single ticket Jackpot carryover of $126,816. Post time for the first race will be 2 p.m.
FLAVIEN PRAT (Curlin Road, winner) – “My horse was game. He wanted to win that race. We (he and second-place finisher Hard Aces) came together, but I thought that was mostly him pushing on me. It worked out for the best.”
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ (Hard Aces, second) – “He ran really well. The bumping cost me. If I don’t get bumped, I think I win.”
WILLIAM ANTONGEORGI (Noble Nick, third) – “He ran his race. Good try for sure.”
LEANDRO MORA, assistant to Doug O’Neill (Curlin Road, winner) – “When he stepped into our stable we knew he was a special horse. All we needed to do was make him healthy and happy enough, and he’s paying us back. We were right this time (bringing him back on 10 days rest); it was a decision by the owner and Doug.”
FRACTIONS: :24.70 :49.35 1:14.28 1:40.22 2:06.01 2:31.74
The stakes win was the second of the meet for rider Prat, but his first in the Cougar II. He now has 12 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for trainer O’Neill and his second (2013 Richard’s Kid) in the Cougar II. He now has 35 stakes wins at Del Mar.
Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club