Hunt completes sweep of major summer grass races at Del Mar
August 20, 2017 11:27am

Hunt’s three-quarter length victory in Saturday’s Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Handicap presented by the Japan Racing Association completed a sweep of the major grass stakes of the summer meeting. Hunt also prevailed in the Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes on the opening weekend of the meeting.

The Handicap, a “Win And You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race, was a qualifier for the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf here on November 4.

“We’ll decide if we need to run him in a prep at Santa Anita or just train him up to the Breeders’ Cup,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “He came out of it in really good order and Flavien (Prat) said he didn’t think an extra eighth of a mile would hurt him at all and might even be better for him.”

Hunt became the first horse to sweep the 1 1/8-mile Eddie Read and 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap since After Market in 2007.

“I’d be lying if I said I thought I could win the Handicap with him,” D’Amato said. “But the Eddie Read, I really thought we had a good chance. He’s a horse that has basically reinvented himself from a turf sprinter last year to a marathon horse now.”


Instead of riding Thoroughbreds here this afternoon, jockey Corey Nakatani will be riding in an open convertible on Central Avenue in Los Angeles as the Parade Marshall for the 2017 Nisei Week Japanese Festival.

“You’ve got to remember where you came from,” Nakatani said Saturday afternoon before his winning ride on Troublewithatee in the fifth race.

“This is a very big honor, one of the biggest in my life, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Nakatani wasn’t sure how many family members would be joining him in the ride, to smile and wave to thousands as a labor of love, but was sure that it would be a thrill for his 8-year-old daughter.

Nakatani’s late father, Roy, was born in a World War II internment camp and spent time at Santa Anita Park when it was a relocation camp. Corey became interested in riding after attending the races with his father. Equibase statistics show him with 3,865 wins in a 30-year riding career.

He has over 300 stakes victories and the 104 recorded at Del Mar ranks second all-time behind Chris McCarron’s 134.

The Nisei Week Japanese Festival is a nine-day event first held in 1934 and is recognized as one of the longest-running ethnic festivals in the United States.


The victory by Hunt, ridden by Flavien Prat and trained by Phil D’Amato, in Saturday’s Del Mar Handicap, was the seventh stakes of the meeting for Prat and the sixth for Phil D’Amato.

The records for stakes wins in a season are 13 in both the jockey (Rafael Bejarano, 2012) and trainer (Bob Baffert, 2000) categories. There are 15 more stakes remaining on the 2017 schedule.

“Let’s wait until we get to double figures before we talk about it (records),” said Derek Lawson, agent for Prat. “But I do think we’ve got a chance to win a lot more.”

The Handicap win moved Prat, co-champion of the 2017 meeting with Rafael Bejarano, one win ahead of apprentice Evin Roman (23-22) atop the jockey standings and gave defending champion D’Amato a three-win edge (14-11) over Doug O’Neill in the trainer race.

CLOSERS – All eyes will be on St Patrick’s Day in the ninth race maiden special when the full brother to Triple Crown champion American Pharoah makes his racing debut. St Patrick’s Day has had five workouts here, the last being a bullet six furlongs in 1:12 handily from the gate one week ago, the best of 12 at the distance on the day. Another full sibling to American Pharoah, American Cleopatra, broke her maiden here on July 31 of 2016, defeating Union Strike. The order would be reversed in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante on September 3 … The victory aboard Calvert Street ($20.00) in Saturday’sthird race was the first of the meeting for apprentice Austin Solis, ending an 0-for-22 streak…Selected works from 177 on dirt and 27 on turf officially timed on Sunday: Dirt—American Anthem (4f, :48.20), Roy H (4f, :48.80), Songbird (4f, :47.20, breezing), West Coast (4f, :48.20), Gormley (5f, 1:01.20), Ocho Ocho Ocho (5f, 1:01.20), Big Score (6f, 1:13.80) and Mercer Island (6f, 1:11.80); Turf – Bowies Hero (5f, 1:01.60), Goodyearforroses (5f, 1:00.80) and Madame Stripes (7f, 1:31.40).

Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club


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