Abbondanza Racing and Nathan McCauley’s Free Rose held off a capacity field of 13 other sophomores to win Sunday’s Grade 2 Del Mar Derby by a diminishing neck under a well-timed ride by Norberto Arroyo, Jr. The Richard Baltas-trained son of Munnings stalked the early pace and took a three-length lead at the top of the stretch, with just enough left in the tank to hold off the late closers in a final time of 1:47.70 for nine furlongs over the firm turf.
Mr. Roary jumped out of the gates to take the early lead, streaking through solid early fractions of :22.37 and :45.92 while stretching out a two-length lead down the backstretch. Free Rose and Arroyo laid just off the leader, patiently awaiting the right moment to make their move, while Ebadan, I’malreadythere and Moonlight Drive were right along Free Rose’s heels. Approaching the three-quarters mark, Arroyo gave Free Rose his cue, moving up the outside mid-way through the far turn to take the lead.
Free Rose skipped away to a three-length lead by the top of the stretch, and Arroyo was riding hard to keep him running in the last sixteenth of a mile. Moonlight Drive was the closest as Ebadan tried to stick with him. Monster Bea had dropped back last but came with a massive run down the lane, and Ralis and Dressed in Hermes were moving quickly as well. Approaching the wire, Ralis was the closest, but Free Rose held on by a neck in the end. Ralis settled for second in a photo over Dressed in Hermes, and Monster Bea rallied for fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by part-owner Nathan McCauley, Free Rose got his first graded win last out in Del Mar’s G3 La Jolla Handicap. The Del Mar Derby makes it back-to-back graded wins for the gelding, and boosts his overall record to four wins from 11 starts with earnings of over $ 300,000.
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