The winner of the August 6 La Jolla H. (G3), Sharp Samurai completed the double as the 2-1 favorite in Sunday’s $251,725 Del Mar Derby (G2) and extended his turf record to four-for-five.
The Mark Glatt pupil sustained his lone loss on the grass after arguing through fast fractions in the May 6 Singletary over a mile at Santa Anita. He’d gotten away with that style in his turf debut in a nine-furlong allowance, where the pace was more moderate, but stakes company demanded a different tack.
With a new rider aboard – Hall of Famer Gary Stevens – Sharp Samurai found a new dimension and rallied from just off the pace in the June 10 Rainbow back up to 1 1/8 miles. The pair clicked again in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla, with the First Samurai gelding prevailing by a head, and they maintained their 100 percent partnership in Del Mar’s signature race for the sophomore turf set.
The early pace was tepid, as Monster Man showed the way through an initial quarter in :24.10 on the firm course. That was too slow for Harbour Master, who was taking a fierce hold for Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza. According to the chart, Harbour Master’s saddle slipped, and he bulled his way forward to head the leader at the half in :48.91. But Monster Man came again to regain the advantage through six furlongs in 1:12.51.
Stevens was patient aboard Sharp Samurai until the far turn, when he was determined to move before 3-1 second choice Big Score. His mount responded to the cue, surging past Monster Man and holding on stoutly as the other closers were produced. Big Score rallied on the outside, and Bowies Hero and Colonist were likewise in the fray, but they couldn’t peg back the well-timed winner.
Sharp Samurai had a half-length to spare over Big Score. Bowies Hero, the third choice at a slightly higher 3-1, was the same margin back in third, and a neck up on the 7-1 Colonist. Fashion Business, the fifth pick at 7-1, finished in that spot, rounding the top five correctly gauged by the market. Next came Ritzy A.P., Double Touch, Monster Man, Marckie’s Water, and Harbour Master. Sorry Erik was scratched.
Campaigned by Red Baron’s Barn, Rancho Temescal, and Glatt, Sharp Samurai now sports an overall mark of 8-5-0-0, $345,870. He was purchased by his trainer for $85,000, from the consignment of Glennwood Farm, agent, as a Keeneland September yearling.
Sharp Samurai was bred by Cudney Stables in Kentucky. His dam, the Woodbine stakes-winning Secret Wish, is a Street Cry half-sister to two Canadian fillies’ classics heroines – Sovereign Award champion Academic and Awesome Fire.
Since Sunday’s Del Mar Juvenile Turf winner, Encumbered, is also out of a Street Cry mare, the late Darley patriarch swept the stakes on the card as a broodmare sire.
Quotes from Del Mar
Winning trainer and co-owner Mark Glatt: “We took our time with this horse and made the right decisions. It doesn’t always work, but this is very exciting. I thought he was well placed early, in the clear which is where we wanted to be. We didn’t think they’d be going very fast and when they don’t go fast they have a tendency to bunch. Gary rode him perfectly, pushed the button exactly when he needed to and the horse responded.”
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens on Sharp Samurai: “Lot of progress with this horse. His confidence level has gone sky high and he’s really liking what he’s doing – been getting on him in the mornings and it’s all good. He likes the stalking trip and he’s been showing us a turn of foot that we didn’t realize he had.
“Mark (Glatt) asked me how I saw the race coming up and I told him I wasn’t sure. But it unfolded just about right. I got a jump on (Big Score) and that was key. Good race for him. Fun summer for me, too. This is turning out to be a pretty nice semi-retirement.”
Jockey Flavien Prat on runner-up Big Score: “He ran a winning race. The winner got a jump on me and that was probably the difference. I was down inside saving ground. Maybe if I went out instead in would have made a difference.”
Jockey Tiago Pereira on third-placer Bowies Hero: “Good race for him; a good try.”
Rafael Bejarano, who rode Colonist in fourth: “I had a good trip. I was happy with that. But the three in front today, they were better.”