The second division of the Oceanside, which is for 3-year-olds at one mile on the grass, was won by Kilderry, who nosed Moral Compass in a game finish. Each division was worth total purse money of $86,300.
The largest opening-day crowd in Del Mar history, 43,459, was on hand. It was the second largest in the seaside track's history, surpassed only by the 44,181 that turned out for the 1996 Pacific Classic (gr. I) when Cigar was upset by Dare And Go.
Owned by his breeder, Herman Sarkowsky, Dixie Chatter earned his first victory since last fall's Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meeting. Expected to compete in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), the Dixie Union colt got ill shortly before the race and had to be withdrawn. Minor injuries had delayed his return until the just-concluded Hollywood Park meeting. He ran third in the Lazaro Barrera Memorial (gr. III) in his comeback race May 18 and then was third again in the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) a month later. Both races were on Cushion Track.
Mandella did not enter Dixie Chatter in last weekend's Swaps (gr. II), opting instead for this spot.
Racing In the second division of the Oceanside, Dixie Chatter pulled his way to the front between horses for jockey Richard Migliore and led the field down the backstretch and through the final turn. The bay edged away in the stretch and drifted out in spite of right-handed urging, managing to hold on in game fashion over 14-1 shot Mr Keppel, who closed with a rush under Isaias Enriquez to just miss by a half-length.
Stewards reviewed the finish but determined that Dixie Chatter did not alter the original order of finish by drifting out. A second incident, in which Mr Keppel and Liberian Freighter were in tight, occurred after the finish, they also ruled.
Mr Keppel did not return to be unsaddled and was taken off the course by van.
Liberian Freighter (David Flores) and Tangled Tango (Tyler Baze) finished in a dead-heat for third, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Afleet Ruler, the 5-2 favorite in the field of 10, finished fifth. The final time was 1:35.81.
Dixie Chatter won for the third time in seven lifetime starts and paid $15 for the victory. He has earned $269,196.
In the earlier division, Kilderry, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, overcame his outside post in the field of 10 while bidding four wide to just nip Moral Compass and Garrett Gomez, who had to wait for room along the inside but finished willingly. Pacesetter Jungle Wave finished third, a half-length behind. The final time was 1:35.45.
Kilderry, a $100,000 claim as a maiden by Mike Mitchell off of Jack Carava at Santa Anita April 4, made his stakes debut in the Oceanside. The dark bay E Dubai gelding has won three of four starts since switching barns.
Carava also happens to train Moral Compass, who was a bit unlucky to lose.
Owned by Dan Capen and Steve, Charlene and Jeff Ustin, Kilderry won for the third time in eight starts and paid $12.60 to win. He boosted his earnings to $136,220.
Favored Ez Dreamer finished fifth.