Robert A. Alexander's favored Willow O Wisp led from start to finish to win the $400,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) on the lawn Monday in track-record time, earning his third straight graded stakes victory.
Under regular rider Garrett Gomez, the 3-year-old Florida-bred shaved .02 off the track record of 1:45.85 for the 1 1/8-mile distance. The former standard was established by Special Ring in 2003. It was the second grass mark to fall in as many days after Three Valleys broke the mile record in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap Sunday.
Gomez said the plan was to be forwardly placed, but instead Willow O Wisp went to the front on his own.
"Sure, I had to work for it some, but he was up to the task," Gomez said. "He just ran and ran and ran. He's some horse."
The victory clinched 3-year-old honors for Willow O Wisp this season at Del Mar.
Trained by Vladimir Cerin, Willow O Wisp was able to gain a daylight advantage and led by 2 1/2 lengths in the stretch after setting a solid pace. He refused to give in under urging from Gomez as several runners closed from behind him in a crowded stretch run and won by one length.
"I left it up to Garrett to make that decision (to take the lead) and he made a great one, as always," Cerin said.
Cerin said Willow O Wisp is nominated to both the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) and Hollywood Derby (gr. IT). But he said winning the Del Mar Derby was the goal for Willow O Wisp and he deserves a rest.
"He's a nose away from five wins in a row," he said of the high-strung performer. "He deserves a rest."
The German-bred Tedo finished second in his United States debut, driving through along the inside under substitute rider Felipe Martinez to nose Osidy and David Flores for the place spot. Another head back was Eastern Sand, who finished a tough fourth after tracking the pacesetter throughout.
"He made a nice move at the top of the stretch, but he hung just a little bit the last sixteenth," Flores said of Osidy. "But he ran well and he'll get better for it. He's been off more than two months, but still ran pretty well."
Tedo was squeezed at the break by Willow O Wisp and Orbits World. Martinez claimed foul, but it was disallowed.
Wiilow O Wisp set early fractions of :23 1/5 and :46 3/5.
The victory was the fourth in five starts for the son of Misnomer since transferring to Cerin's stable following a private purchase earlier this year. The bay previously trained for Michael Lightner at Calder, where he had a maiden victory to show in seven tries.
Willow O Wisp won an allowance race in his first start for Cerin on the Hollywood Park turf and then lost by a head to Osidy in the Will Rogers (gr. IIIT) May 28. Willow O Wisp captured the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) to wrap up his Hollywood Park campaign June 26 and took a break before returning to take the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar Aug. 13.
He earned $240,000 for the victory and has banked $509,240.
The winner paid $7.40, $4.80, and $3.40. Tedo, a listed stakes winner at San Siro, Italy, returned $11.20 and $6.80 to complete a $97.40 exacta. Osidy paid $4.60.
After Eastern Sand the order of finish was Becrux, Orbits World, High Limit, Shamoan, El Roblar, and Positive Prize.