In his graded stakes debut for Hendricks, the Irish-bred gelding won for the second time in six U.S. starts after beginning his career racing on synthetic surfaces in England.
The 10-1 shot Daytona drafted behind the pacesetting Asperity rounding the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds, then shot to the front and was in command as he reached the top of the stretch. Given a single crack of the whip by jockey Mike Smith, Daytona responded impressively and won under a vigorous hand ride. The wining time was 1:46 2/5 on a firm course.
"He's not a real big horse but just smooth and agile," said Smith, who rode Daytona for the first time. “Dan said to just keep him happy and if he’s happy, he’s got some turn of foot. Believe me, he’s got some turn of foot. When we opened up there at the top of the stretch, I was expecting somebody to come after us. We were five or six (lengths) in front and I looked over at the big screen and I said, ‘Man, this is sweet.’ There was nobody coming."
Ten a Penny, Michael Baze aloft, was last after three-quarters of a mile but rallied from out of the pack in the lane to claim second by 1 3/4 lengths over Stoneside, who was the lukewarm 5-2 favorite in the field of 10, ridden by Victor Espinoza.
The race was delayed for several minutes when 75-1 shot Star Inside, unruly in the starting stall, eventually reared and propped. After extricating the gelding from a tight spot, Star Inside was scratched.
Once the gates opened, Asperity, trained in Europe by John Gosden and making his initial stateside start, was the surprising pacesetter, taking the field along at an even pace while maintaining a one-length advantage under Alex Solis. Daytona, forwardly placed in second by Smith after leading away from the gate, went for an early run as Asperity, the 122-pound top weight, began to tire nearing the quarter pole. Once clear in the lane, Daytona won without a challenge. Fractions were :23, :46 1/5, and 1:10 1/5.
Daytona, a son of Indian Ridge--Kyka (by Blushing John) bred by the Irish National Stud and owned by James Davenport, Tom Lenner and Jess Ravich, et al., was coming off a third-place finish in a division of the El Cajon Stakes on the Del Mar Polytrack Aug. 31. His other four American starts had been on grass, including a 4 1/4-length win in an allowance/optional claiming event at 1 1/16 miles on the Del Mar grass July 20. He improved his career mark to 3-2-2 in nine tries with earnings of $161,390.
“His turf races were great," said Hendricks in explaining why he went back on grass after the El Cajon. "He doesn’t want to be fought. When he’s comfortable, he’s got a big kick. The Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) will be next. That looks like the perfect place to point to.”
The winner paid $22.60, $11.40, and $6.80, topping a $199.20 exacta with Ten a Penny, the Craig Dollase trainee, coming off a second-place showing in the Bay Meadows Derby in his last start. Stoneside ($3 to show), who ran sixth in his first American start as the 13-10 choice in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) for trainer Julio Canani, ran on late to finish third.
Unusual Suspect finished fourth, followed by the Switzerland-bred Karazi, Mostacalli Mort, Angelonmyshoulder, Senior, Augment, and Asperity.