In spite of an awkward start, the 7-5 favorite Principle Secret kicked away from the rallying Great Hunter in the stretch to win the $150,000 Best Pal (gr. II) for 2-year-olds impressively at Del Mar Sunday.
The dark bay made it back-to-back victories to begin his career for trainer Christopher Paasch and would be a standout in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) on Sept. 6 if he runs there.
Paasch said after the race that he could send Principle Secret to the Belmont Futurity (gr. II) on Sept. 23 instead and run his maiden winner Prime Ruler at Del Mar.
Principle Secret spotted the field about five lengths in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal when he broke nearly on his knees, but the Sea of Secrets
colt recovered nicely for Alex Solis to settle into fourth place as the field went down the backstretch. He moved up smartly while three wide to challenge for the lead around the turn and took control in upper stretch.
Great Hunter, saving ground to the stretch while racing toward the rear of the pack for substitute jockey David Cohen, edged up to within about 1 1/2 lengths to challenge on the outside. But Principle Secret shifted into another gear after Solis gave him a tap of the whip and, at the sixteenth pole, he had pulled away en route to a three-length triumph. The final time was 1:16.
"This horse doesn't need to send," Paasch told TVG after he checked Principle Secret for a possible injury following his stumbling start. "Alex just stayed with him."
Paasch said he's considering shipping to New York for Principle Secret's next race. "I have Prime Ruler already pointed to the (Del Mar) Futurity. They're both spectacular colts. I don't want to run them against each other."
Stella's Posada set a hot early pace to lead by more than two lengths after fractions of :22 1/5 and :45 1/5, when the 30-1 outsider was overwhelmed by Stormello, Principle's Secret, and Hot Flame coming off the turn.
"He's so athletic, so quick," Solis said of Principle Secret after claiming his fifth win in the Best Pal. He said he was momentarily concerned after the start, "but he felt fine, and he jumped into the bit right away. He was very impressive down the stretch. He won very, very easily."
Great Hunter ran second for Cohen, who replaced the ailing Corey Nakatani on the Doug O'Neill-trained son of Aptitude
, 2 1/2 lengths clear. Stormello, ridden by the red-hot Victor Espinoza, took third, with Hot Flame a half-length behind in fourth.
Charles Cono of San Diego reportedly bought Principle Secret from Paasch's wife, Bonnie, after the colt broke his maiden in his debut by 4 3/4 lengths at Del Mar July 22. The Kentucky-bred Principle Secret is out of Beright, a mare the Paasch's claimed a few years ago. He earned $90,000 for the win and has a total bankroll of $121,800.
Principle Secret paid $4.80, $3.20, and $2.60. Great Hunter, who ran second in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) in his previous start, returned $4 and $2.80. Stormello, an impressive maiden winner at Del Mar July 29, was $3 to show.
Hot Flame was followed by Divide and Conquer, Mr. Negotiator, Cobalt Blue, and Stella's Posada.