Hobeau Farm’s homebred Delightful Kiss continued his terrific recent form, as he opened his 2009 campaign with an eye-catching, last-to-first victory in the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) Jan. 3 at Gulfstream Park. It was the third graded stakes score in the past five months for the 5-year-old gelding.
Ridden by Calvin Borel, Delightful Kiss found himself well back of the leaders in the early going. The son of Kissin Kris—Deputy’s Delight (by French Deputy) was last in a field of 14 after pacesetter Finallymadeit ran a quarter-mile in :23.80 and half-mile in :46.51.
Delightful Kiss was still in 12th after six furlongs, then began to make up ground while swinging wide entering the stretch. He continued his devastating move while gaining command of the tiring leaders inside the eighth-pole and won by three lengths going away.
The final time on a ‘fast’ main track was 1:36.16 for the one-turn mile. Bullsbay, also coming from off the pace, was a length better than third-place Famous Patriot. Anak Nakal was fourth.
"Ah, boy what I can say about this baby,” Borel commented. “He just kept giving me more and more. If everything goes well we'll be right back here for the Sunshine (Millions Classic, Jan. 24).
“I felt a little pressure down the backstretch (being so far back), but he found another gear coming home. I'll tell you I never lost faith. This is quite a nice vacation present.”
Delightful Kiss, who won the Ohio Derby (gr. II) and Iowa Derby as a 3-year-old, was on a five-race winless streak when he entered the Turfway Park Fall Championship (gr. III) Sept. 6. But he won the Polytrack event while being ridden by Borel for the first time and three weeks later scored by a length in the All American Stakes (gr. III) on the Tapeta at Golden Gate.
The gray/roan gelding closed out his 2008 campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita and a game, runner-up performance against Einstein in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
“He was extra sharp today, but I was worried that he was too far back down the backstretch,” said trainer Pete Anderson. “He impresses me every day.
“I told Calvin with the (Sunshine Millions) coming up to keep him in the clear and out of trouble. Well, he ended up almost out in the parking lot when he made his run. Calvin rides this horse with a lot of confidence. He just likes this horse.”
The Florida-bred is now 7-4-2 from 23 lifetime starts with earnings of $882,873. He is a four-time graded stakes winner.
The winner paid $12.40, $5.80 and $4.40 as the lukewarm favorite. The exacta (4-13) returned $118.60, while the $1 trifecta (4-13-5) with 65-1 Famous Patriot netted $1531.10.
Fearless Vision finished fifth, followed by It’s a Bird, Cuba, Finallymadeit, National Pride, Bribon, True Resurgence, Now a Victor, Rexson’s Rose and Storm in May.