French-bred Blackdoun unleashed his powerful late run to nip Toasted and Laura's Lucky Boy by a neck in the $400,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) and remain undefeated in three United States starts for trainer Julio Canani.
Owned by Marsha Naify and Christina Naify Zilber's Woodside Farms LLC, Blackdoun joined the Canani-trained Ladies Din (1998) as the only horse to sweep Del Mar's 3-year-old turf series – the Oceanside, the La Jolla (gr. IIT) and the Derby.
Last through much of the 1 1/8-mile event while about a dozen lengths off the pace, the heavily favored Blackdoun began picking off rivals on the far turn. He wound his way through traffic under the guidance of Corey Nakatani, running down Toasted and Laura's Lucky Boy in deep stretch with an easier-than-looked winning performance. Toasted nosed out Laura's Lucky Boy for second. The final time was 1:46 3/5 for the 1 1/8-mile turf test.
"He's a monster," Nakatani said. "He's a very special horse. I rode him today with absolute confidence. I was going to save something for the next race. Watching guys like Shoemaker and Pincay and Delahoussaye all these years, I learned you've got to save something for the next time. Sure, I was dead last early, but I wasn't sweating it. I knew what I had. I just had to get him in position to do his thing."
Canani admitted he was concerned about Blackdoun's early position. "It's a long race, but the track is narrow and it's a full field. But he has the ability and the quality to overcome things like that. He's a great horse and he's owned by great people."
Tyler Baze, aboard Semi Lost, made an early move in the stretch and took up when he felt squeezed in the stretch by Blackoun and Toasted as they thundered toward the wire. Baze, who regained his Del Mar riding lead from Nakatani heading into the final day of the meeting Wednesday, lodged a rider's objection after finishing sixth, but stewards made no change in the order of finish.
"On that first turn they all were going wide and I was down in there saving all (the ground) I could," said Rene Douglas, who rode Toasted. "I was following Gary (Stevens on Laura's Lucky Boy) all the way around. You've got to follow a good rider in a race like this. When I asked my horse to fire he went great. We just got beat by a better horse today."
Stevens was reported to be very "light headed" in the jockeys' room following the race. He was treated by track emergency personnel, who administered oxygen, and was removed to the track's first aid room. He was subsequently moved to Scripps La Jolla Hospital for observation as a precautionary measure.
"I got hit on both sides (in the stretch)," Baze said about his objection. "They came in and squeezed me. I had to take up for three jumps and I only got beat a nose for fifth. They banged me and it cost me."
A son of Verglas, Blackdoun would need to be supplemented if his connections decide to run the flashy gray/roan colt in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.
Lucky Pulpit took the early lead, opening up by three lengths on the backstretch after early fractions of :24 and :47 3/5. He gave way to Laura's Lucky Boy and Stevens on the outside after completing six furlongs in 1:11 2/5. Laura's Lucky Boy led in the stretch as Semi Lost and Toasted launched their bids. Blackdoun, who took up slightly on the far turn and appeared to be having traffic problems, suddenly ranged into contention at the eighth pole and was overpowering once he found room under left-handed urging.
"We were in tight around the turn," noted Nakatani, who won his meet-leading 10th stakes race. "Victor (Espinoza on Fast and Furious) and I were both in tight. But when the hole opened I had half a length on Victor and enough horse to go through. I knew I'd win. In fact, at no time did I think I wouldn't win this race."
Terroplane was fourth, a half-length behind Laura's Lucky Boy, followed by Fast and Furious, another French-bred colt who was making his first U.S. start. He nosed Semi Lost for fifth. Place Cowboy, Bedmar, Lucky Pulpit and Sujimoto trailed.
Blackdoun earned $240,000 for his sixth win in 14 starts and pushed his bankroll to $477,76. The victory was Canani's fourth in the Del Mar Derby.
Sent off at 9-10, he paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.20. Toasted, ridden by Rene Douglas, returned $4.80 and $3.80. The show on Laura's Lucky Boy's show was $3.80.
In the day's supporting features before a holiday crowd of 25,560,, Top Money and Isaias Enriquez won the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds and paid $5.20 and Our New Recruit and Baze won the $76,325 Pirate's Bounty Handicap, running the fastest six furlongs of the meeting, 1:08.25, and returning $9.20.
With only Wednesday's racing program remaining of the 2004 Del Mar season, Baze, who tripled Monday, leads Nakatani by a single winner, 52-51.
There were no perfect tickets in the Pick Six, so there will be a carryover of $295,875 with a mandatory payout for Wednesday's closing-day card featuring the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) for 2-year-olds.