Island Sand, the only grade I winner in the field, stormed past Two Trail Sioux in mid-stretch and registered a powerful victory in Saturday's $1 million Delaware Handicap (gr. II), the richest race in Delaware Park history.
The 6-5 favorite Isola Piu Bella, looking for her third graded stakes win of the season, reared in the gate, dislodging jockey John Velazquez just before the start. Once settled down, the Chilean-bred was flat-footed at the break and got away slowly. She stalked the early leaders and was in position to make a move late but lacked a response, finishing eighth.
Racing's newest millionaire, Island Sand last won in the 2004 Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park as a 3-year-old and had lost eight straight races since then. She won Sunday's 1 1/4-mile event for fillies and mares by 3 3/4 lengths over Two Trail Sioux. Personal Legend was third, another three lengths behind. The final time was 2:02 4/5 on a fast track.
After showing breathing problems in her next race following the Acorn, surgery was performed to correct an entrapped epiglottis. Complications from the surgery kept her out of racing for nearly five months. Winning trainer Larry Jones said the troubles his horse went through made this win even sweeter.
"It's a dream come true. It's what you dream about but don't think you could ever accomplish. And everybody in the barn is just as excited as we are. It's a total team effort."
Island Sand's next scheduled start will be $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 26.
With Jerry Bailey aboard her for the first time, the daughter of Tabasco Cat eased over from her outside post in the 12-horse field and was able to save some ground as Two Trail Sioux set a lively pace (:23 2/5, :47 1 /5, 1:11 4/5 and 1:37). Island Sand gradually moved up along the inside and then angled out for her challenge. She edged in front by the eighth pole and finished under urging from Bailey without a further threat.
"My first priority – save some ground," Bailey said. "I was able to do that. They told me she wasn't a real quick filly, that she was kind of a grinder, so if anything, I was worried I got to the lead too soon."
Island Sand finished sixth, 4 1/2 lengths behind Two Trail Sioux, in Churchill Downs' Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) June 18. Two Trail Sioux was the second choice Sunday at odds of 3-1.
Island Sand, who was making her first start beyond nine furlongs. Jones noted that his filly has encountered plenty of trouble in her most recent starts.
"They came by the stands the first time and she was about eight wide and I said, 'Here we go again.' But (Bailey) got her tucked in about three wide – I don't know how. I'm really thankful."
Island Sand's fifth win in 17 lifetime starts was worth $600,000 to owner B A Man Inc. and more than doubled her career earnings to $1,159,277.
Richard D. Maynard bred the winner, who is out of the Forty Niner mare Sue's Last Dance, in Kentucky. She was an $82,000 buy at Keeneland in 2002.
Island Sand paid $13.20, $8 and $5.40. Two Trail Sioux, with Pat Day aboard, returned $5.20 and $3.80. Personal Legend's show was $4.60 with Rafael Bejarano riding.
Friel's for Real finished fourth, followed by Strategy, Saintliness, India Halo, Isola Piu Bella, Silmaril, Becky in Pink, and Racing Luck. Silent Siren scratched.