Front-running Enriched proved a determined winner in the $190,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO), refusing to yield to challenger Meteore in the stretch run to post a three-quarters of a length victory Aug. 28.
Leading Del Mar trainer Doug O'Neill saddled the slight 2-1 favorite Enriched, a half brother to multiple grade I winner Lava Man, for owners W. C. Racing, Westside Rentals.com, and Neil Haymes. The 5-year-old gelded son of High Brite--Li'l Ms. Leonard, by Nostalgia's Star, registered his first graded stakes win in 1:34.83 over a firm course.
The race is designated as a "Win and You're In" event for the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, although Enriched is not currently nominated.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Enriched made an easy lead from the outside over Bruce's Dream, the close second choice in the field of six with Garrett Gomez aboard. Enriched opened up by two lengths while clicking off early fractions of :23.97, :48.53, and 1:12.32.
Meteore, third for a half-mile, made his bid at the quarter pole and challenged on the outside for Rafael Bejarano as they reached the homestretch. But they could not get past Enriched, who inched away along the inside to hold on gamely under urging from Rosario.
"I rode him with confidence, a lot of confidence," said Rosario, who won his third consecutive race on the program with Enriched. "I've ridden this horse before and I know how good he is. He broke really well today and I wasn't going to hold him back. He was just going along there easy and I let him go.
"Then when we turned for home he went perfect. I asked him for what he had and he was perfect. He finished strong and he galloped out strong, too. He's a nice horse. No doubt about it. He's a nice horse."
Meteore edged Bruce's Dream, who was in close and off heels near mid-stretch, for second by a neck.
"I had to force the issue or the leader was just going to walk home," Bejarano said of Meteore. "If my horse had something to run at, different story."
Gomez blamed himself for Bruce's Dream's problems.
"I told him (trainer Mike Puype) that this one was on me," Gomez said. "When Bejarano's horse (Meteore) came up outside, I could have gone with my horse. And the way it turned out, I wished I would have. But I sat down in there and waited. I thought he'd fire and we'd be all right. But the leader just had it too easy. If I'd have ridden him like a regular horse, we might have won this thing. But I waited and it probably cost us."
Blue Chagall finished fourth, 1 1/4 lengths back, followed by Scenic Blast and Moudez.
Enriched has enjoyed a solid Del Mar meet, finishing third behind The Usual Q. T. in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) and third again to Dakota Phone in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) over Polytrack. When both The Usual Q. T. and Dakota Phone entered the $1 million Pacific Classic Presented by TVG (gr. I), O'Neill opted for this spot for Enriched
Now four-for-seven at the one-mile distance on turf, Enriched earned $105,000 for the victory, boosting his career total to $494,656. His overall career mark stands at 7-5-5 in 21 races.
A total of $60,000 from the original purse reverted to the Breeders' Cup fund.
Enriched was claimed for $32,000 Nov. 1, 2009 at Santa Anita. His half-brother, Lava Man, was also claimed (by trainer O'Neill), though he was claimed for $50,000 at Del Mar in 2004. Since being claimed, Enriched has run 12 times with three victories and earnings of $340,676.
Lava Man ranks as the greatest claim in Thoroughbred racing history, winning $5,170,103 after switching barns.
Carol Lingenfelter bred Enriched in California.
Enriched paid $6.40, $3.80, and $2.60. Meteore, looking for his first win since the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar one year ago, returned $6.20 and $3.20 and completed the $32.80 exacta. Bruce's Dream was $2.60 to show.
Golden Mexico was scratched.