Keith Abraham's Get Funky, claimed as a maiden by John Sadler in April for $62,500 and immediately moved to the turf, drew off mid-stretch and held on gamely to win the $400,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) on the grass Sunday.
Ridden for the first time by Jose Valdivia Jr., the lightly raced Get Funky sat just off tepid fractions and inched away from the pacesetting Rateau and Porto Santo in the stretch to take a commanding lead. That was more than enough to hold the late charging Obrigado by 1 1/2 lengths.
It has been quite a weekend for the trainer Sadler, whose unheralded 3-year-old Cindago spoiled the return of grade I winners Bob and John and Brother Derek in Del Mar's El Cajon Saturday. He earned his first Del Mar Derby win Sunday.
Sadler took blinkers off of Get Funky, who faded to third, less than a length behind A.P. Warrior and Porto Santo, after setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) in his last start Aug. 12. That move may have helped Get Funky to relax a little more in Sunday's race.
"This is a wonderful horse," Sadler said. "He has a big heart, and he's never disappointed us. He came out of the La Jolla so well, we decided to take a shot here.
"(Apprentice jockey) Martin Garcia got off this horse last time (after the La Jolla) and suggested we take the blinkers off so he could relax better. He was right."
Union Avenue took third while 9-5 favorite Porto Santo disappointed bettors for the third time in a row since coming to the U.S. from France for trainer Julio Canani. The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile event on firm going was 1:46 1/5.
The other disappointment in the race was Point Determined, who did not take to the Del Mar turf in his first try on grass. He was wide going into the clubhouse turn, fell back, and was never a factor under Jorge Chavez, finishing last. The Bob Baffert trainee's only previous out-of-the-money performance in nine starts was a ninth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Get Funky pulled a bit early and settled just off the pace of Rateau, who recorded :23 2/5 and :47 1/5 splits under Aaron Gryder. Get Funky got the lead between horses on the far turn, after completing six furlongs in 1:11, and was up for the challenge when Nonsensical made an early move on the outside. Having repelled that charge in the stretch, Get Funky continued to edge away. He prevailed under urging as Obrigado surged late.
"He was full of himself and wanted to go, but Aaron's horse had the same thing on his mind," Valdivia said. "I was OK with that because I knew we weren't going that fast. Then (Nonsensical) came up on the outside, and they had me bracketed; my horse swelled up and really got competitive. He liked that. Then when I called on him, he really gave it to me. What a horse!"
The winner, who also ran third in a division of the Oceanside on opening day of the Del Mar meet, earned $240,000 for his third win in six lifetime starts, boosting his bankroll to $318,506. Get Funky was claimed from trainer Mike Mitchell at Santa Anita April 14 and returned two months later to break his maiden on the Hollywood Park turf going 5 1/2 furlongs.
Larry Stewart bred the son of Straight Man
--Miss Popularity (Storm Bird) in Florida.
Late betting action dropped Get Funky's odds to 6-1. The fourth choice, he paid $15.20, $8.60, and $5.20, topping a $102.80 exacta.
The French-bred Obrigado, who won a division of the Oceanside for Neil Drysdale, returned $7.60 and $4.80 with Alex Solis in the irons.
"He ran a great race," Solis said. "The winner got his fractions. He got to run his race, and we had to chase him."
Union Avenue, Arlington's American Derby (gr. IIT) victor July 22 whose two-race winning streak ended, was $3.80 to show with Corey Nakatani aboard. Union Avenue finished up well to be 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Porto Santo, group I placed in France, lacked a closing kick after reaching contention with a four-wide move on the far turn for Victor Espinoza. The half-brother to standout turf mare Gorella, he had run second in both of his previous U.S. starts at short odds--losing by a head in the Oceanside at 9-10 and by a nose in the La Jolla at 13-10.
"He got very tired," Espinoza said. "He ran as hard as he could and got very tired."
He was followed by Lightning Hit, Nonsensical, Presidential Cause, Rateau, and Point Determined.
"He handled the grass OK, but it was too firm for him," Chavez said of Point Determined. "He'd like it softer."