DEL MAR — Rancho Santa Fe resident Michael House had horses in two Del Mar Thoroughbred Club races Nov. 26 and both won their competitions including 5-year-old gelding Hunt, who took first place in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap.
Hunt and jockey Flavien Prat won the 1 1/16-mile turf race for horses 3 years old and upwards by overcoming a 1 1/2-length deficit entering the stretch and defeating second-place He Will by a nose.
“He laid back,” House said. “Flavien rode him perfect.”
Six horses contested the Seabiscuit Handicap. The horse Pee Wee Reese, who like Hunt is trained by Philip D’Amato, took the initial lead. After the first quarter-mile Hunt was in fourth, trailing Pee Wee Reese by three lengths and third-place Mr. Roary by one length. The horses maintained their order through the half-mile point, although after the first four furlongs Hunt only trailed Pee Wee Reese by three lengths and Mr. Roary by half a length. The positions were also unchanged three-quarters of a mile past the starting gate, when Hunt was 2 1/2 lengths in back of Pee Wee Reese and half a length behind Mr. Roary.
During the next two furlongs Hunt passed Mr. Roary and Om. Hunt entered the stretch a length and a half in back of Pee Wee Reese, half a length in front of Om, and 2 1/2 lengths ahead of fourth-place He Will.
“I think he was in the right spot,” D’Amato said of Hunt.
Hunt and Prat overtook Pee Wee Reese (who was ridden by Joe Talamo) in the stretch, but He Will and jockey Mike Smith made their final charge and passed both Om and Pee Wee Reese. A photo finish determined that Hunt had crossed the finish line prior to He Will. Hunt had a winning time of 1:41.03.
“We had a good trip and he made a nice move around the turn,” Prat said.
The win was the third for Hunt in six starts this year, and all three of those wins were in Grade 2 stakes races at Del Mar. During the summer meet Hunt won the Eddie Read Stakes race July 22 and the Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 19.
“He loves this course,” House said.
The three wins were all on Del Mar’s turf course but involved different distances. The Eddie Read Stakes race was 1 1/8 miles and the Del Mar Handicap was a 1 3/8-mile race.
The Seabiscuit Handicap was Hunt’s eighth overall win in 26 career starts. The $120,000 first-place share of the $200,000 total purse brought Hunt’s career earnings to $668,764. Hunt’s race prior to the Seabiscuit Handicap was his only Del Mar loss of 2017 but was in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf race Nov. 4 in which Hunt finished 13th.
Hunt was foaled in Ireland on April 2, 2012. He was sired by Dark Angel out of Mansiya.
House does not expect Hunt’s next race to be in the immediate future. “We’re going to give him a break,” House said.
Nov. 26 was Closing Day for Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Season meet. The Seabiscuit Handicap was the day’s third race, and in the fifth race House’s 3-year-old filly Fizzy Friday finished first in the one-mile turf race for fillies and mares 3 years old and upwards. Fizzy Friday won the 12-horse race in 1:35.94 and finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of second-place Del Mar Ann.
Del Mar’s other two stakes races Nov. 26 were won by horses under the training of New York trainer Chad Brown; Off Limits not only won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes but set a stakes record of 1:34.37 for the one-mile race and Analyze It prevailed in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes which concluded the fall meet. Assistant trainer Jose Hernandez rather than Brown made the trip to Del Mar.
“We feel really comfortable to have come in here and won these two races,” Hernandez said.
The two races won by Brown’s horses were also on the turf course. The Matriarch Stakes was the day’s seventh race and the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes was the ninth race Nov. 26. The eighth race, which was the meet’s final race on the dirt course, was won by Allianna to give trainer Peter Miller his 19th win of the meet and his third Bing Crosby Season meet trainer’s championship in the fall meet’s four years.
“It’s always an honor to win the title here at Del Mar,” Miller said. “It’s been a magical meet from start to finish and a dream come true from the Breeders’ Cup all the way through the month of November.”
The 16-day fall meet began Nov. 1. “It’s been a great year for summer and fall, a good safe profitable year for old Del Mar,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club general manager Joe Harper.