Abbondanza Racing’s Free Rose led all the way in Saturday’s Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap, holding off all challengers by three-quarters of a length at the wire. The sophomore son of Munnings, ridden by Joe Talamo, covered 1 1/16 miles over Del Mar’s firm turf course in 1:40.73 for trainer Richard Baltas, surprising a field of nine other 3-year-olds at odds of 28-1.
Moonlight Drive broke very sharply, but it was the inner-most Free Rose who won the race to the first turn under Joe Talamo, rushing to the lead. Free Rose was immediately pressured by Mr. Roary along his outside, streaking through a first quarter in :22.29. Mr. Roary carried wide on the first turn, allowing Free Rose a slight breather in the second quarter mile to mark the half in :46.59 with a one-length lead. Mr. Roary continued to track from second, while it was another two lengths back to Moonlight Drive and Monster Bea. Approaching the second turn, the field began to close in on Free Rose’s lead, though Talamo never panicked, guiding his mount through another 24-second quarter mile to mark three-quarters in 1:10.97.
Mr. Roary headed Free Rose briefly late in the far turn, but at the top of the lane Free Rose had rebounded to hold a half-length lead. Moonlight Drive and Monster Bea picked up the chase as Lucky Bryan slipped through a hole on the inside to mount his challenge. Free Rose found a bit more, stretching toward the wire and crossing it about three-quarters of a length in front of Lucky Bryan. It was another half-length back to Moonlight Drive in third, and Monster Bea was just behind him in fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by Nathan John McCauley, Free Rose is out of a winning daughter of El Prado. The La Jolla was his first venture into stakes company off a pair of solid third-place finishes in allowance company. Overall, Free Rose boasts a record of 3-1-2 from 10 starts, with earnings of over $ 160,000.
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