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, 6 1/2 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.
“My horse was game. He wanted to win that race,” said Prat, who was winning his second stakes of the meet. “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.”
Curlin Road, a 4-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 10 days ago. He paid $ 21.40 to win.
“When he stepped into our stable we knew he was a special horse,” said Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “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.”
There were no perfect tickets in Wednesday’s Pick 6. Thursday’s program will have a Pick 6 carryover of $ 271,496 with a single ticket Jackpot carryover of $ 126,816. Post time for the first race will be 2 p.m. PDT.
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