Just because 6-year-old Kela had never run at a distance as short as the six furlongs of the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I), didn't mean he was incapable of it. He proved that with style in the $244,000 stakes Sunday at Del Mar.
Last down the backside with Tyler Baze astride, the Mike Mitchell-trained son of Numerous launched a wide sweeping move around his nine rivals on the turn. Kela, an 8-1 outsider, won a battle with favored Pohave and John Court in the stretch by 1 1/4 lengths for his first grade I victory. The final time was 1:08 2/5.
The 56-year-old Mitchell, a leading volume trainer on the Southern California circuit who until recently wasn't a factor in top handicap races, captured his first grade I.
"It's nice to have that monkey off my back," he said. "He's been training great and he just loves it down here. It's cooler and he doesn't get all hot and worked up."
Baze, who like Mitchell won his first graded stakes race at Del Mar, said he let the trainer know he wanted to ride Kela again after they teamed for a fifth-place finish in the San Bernardino Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita April 3.
" I knew then that he didn't like the dirt (in his face)," Baze said. "The key with him was to get him outside and clear, like we did here. I wish I would have gone to Texas with him (where he won the Texas Mile), but I'm sure glad I was on board today. He's something."
Mitchell said the San Berdardino was the worst of Kela's career.
Court said Pohave did enough to win. "He did everything right. I was right where I wanted to be. When Kela came to me, I thought I was going to kick away from him. But he kicked away from me."
Pacesetter Hombre Rapido, who clicked off an opening quarter-mile of :24 2/5 from his extreme outside post, finished third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up. Revello finished fourth.
Beau's Town, who won the Bing Crosby last year, finished ninth. He was followed by the 2002 winner Disturbingthepeace, who finished last in his first race in nearly a year.
"He needed it," rider David Flores said of Disturbingthepeace. "This wasn't his race. He'll improve off of it."
Mike Smith said Beau's Town was lugging in after breaking inward at the start.
Kela was making his 22nd career start, his last win coming in the April 24 Texas Mile (gr. III) at a mile at Lone Star. He returned to Grand Prairie to finish fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Lone Star Park Handicap May 31. Most recently, Kela was 2 1/4 lengths behind Pohave while fourth in the seven-furlong Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park.
In spite of his inexperience at six furlongs, he is fond of Del Mar, where he has three wins and a pair of seconds in five starts. He banked $150,000 for owner Jay Manoogian, and has now earned $673,527. He won for the ninth time in his career.
Cypress Farms 1991 bred Kela, who is from the dam Bolshoi Comedy (by Sovereign Dancer), in Kentucky.
Kela paid $19.60, $8.40 and $4.60, combining with Pohave ($3.80, $2.80) for a $71.40 exacta. Hombre Rapido, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., was $6.80 to show.