Ballygallon Stud's Aragorn proved a popular winner of the $374,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) on the turf Saturday to run his impressive winning streak to three.
The 4-year-old Giant's Causeway
chestnut colt won while geared down by 1 1/2 lengths at odds of 2-5 after a rail-skimming ride from Corey Nakatani, who seems to have this trip perfected, especially at the seaside where the rail is often out. The final time, 1:32 3/5, was two ticks off the track record.
Aragorn seemed in danger of being trapped along the inside as Jon Court aboard pacesetter Wild Buddy did his best to hold the rail coming off the far turn. But the patient Nakatani found just enough room to get by, which gave Aragorn a big edge over 17-1 shot Hendrix, who was outside the winner on the turn. Hendrix closed willingly enough for David Flores but was forced to angle outside of horses for his stretch run and had to settle for third.
"I knew I was loaded for bear, so I just waited for my chance," said Nakatani, who has four stakes wins on the grass at the current meeting. "I watched Jon's horse getting out a little bit and when he drifted off the fence, I was gone.
"I was easing him up the last part and then he pulled himself up. He looked inside - I think he was looking at the big screen - and he sort of stopped."
Hendrix finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Wild Buddy, who set all the fractions – :23 1/5, :46 3/5 and 1:09 3/5 and fought gamely but could not match Aragorn.
"I had Corey down inside me, and I was ready to make my move," Flores said of Hendrix. "You can't go too soon with this horse. You do, and he hangs. But I got him running, and he ran great. They just ran fast, too fast late."
Trainer Neil Drysdale said Aragorn would head to the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) Oct. 7 as a final prep for the $2 million NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile Nov. 4.
Prior to Saturday's victory, Aragorn romped in both the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park and the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar and would appear to a formidable contender at Churchill Downs. Last fall's Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) winner has not been worse than second in seven U.S. starts.
"This colt is very talented and multi-faceted," Drysdale said.
With a career record of 5-4-1 in 12 starts, the Irish-bred Aragorn has earned $945,325--after collecting a winning share of $240,000 for owners/breeders Belinda and Roy Strudwick.
Aragorn paid $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10. Wild Buddy returned $6.60 and $3. Hendrix was $3.20 to show.
Sweet Return, ideally placed on the outside of the pacesetter into the stretch, lacked much punch and finished a beaten fourth. Quasimodo, El Don, and Laura's Lucky Boy trailed.
Laura's Lucky Boy, part of a Mercedes Stable entry with Quasimodo sent off at 9-2, had to steady along the inside in his first start since finishing 11th in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) last Oct. 29.
We All Love Aleyna scratched.