Spring House earned a repeat victory in the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) when he came from far off the pace Aug. 30 in the fog to catch the outsider Sir Dave by an extremely short nose on the turf.
Owned by R.D. Hubbard and trained by Julio Canani, the 7-year-old Spring House went over the $1 million mark in career earnings and gained an automatic berth in the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
The Del Mar Handicap is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series. Spring House ran ninth in last year's John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf following a 1 1/2-length win in the Del Mar Handicap.
This time, Alex Solis guided the Chester House gelding to victory in the 1 3/8-mile event in 2:12.61 on "firm" going. That was off the course mark that Spring House established in last year's race of 2:11.14. Spring House became the first two-time winner of the Del Mar Handicap since Navarone, who won it in 1992 and '94 for trainer Rodney Rash and owner R.E. Hibbert.
The late-running Spring House saved ground until angling out on the final turn and closing four wide into the lane. He got a great pace to run at when Ghetto and Black Astor sprinted away from the 10-horse field to set ridiculous fractions of :22.69, :45.46, and 1:101.10.
"This horse just loves Del Mar," Canani said. "He wins here. I lost them in the fog (on the far turn), and when I heard Trevor (Denman) say Spring House was coming, I was thinking he had to hurry because the wire was coming up. The early pace surprised me. It was like they were trying to escape from Alcatraz."
Both of the pacesetters were backing out of it with three furlongs left to go as Temple City took over on the turn and led the field into the stretch. Sir Dave, on the outside with Joel Rosario aboard, had first run on Spring House and favorite Artiste Royal as they charged home at the middle of the track, and took a short lead from Temple City in deep stretch. But Spring House kept closing and managed to get up over Temple City, who was finishing between horses, in a terrific finish.
"To be honest, I wasn't sure," Solis told TVG when asked if thought he had won. "the last part I felt my horse got his head down. I was very happy with the pace; he was very relaxed. He runs like he always does. He's tough."
"The old boy's still got it," Solis said later. "I wanted to keep him clear; keep him out of trouble. I knew he was going to make his run and I wanted to be able to let him do it."
Canani said Hubbard is considering a race in Hong Kong later this year and may skip the Breeders' Cup.
Temple City and Michael Baze held on for third by a nose over 9-5 choice Artiste Royal, ridden by Garrett Gomez. The were three-quarters of length behind the first two finishers.
Spring House, coming off a second-place finish in the July 19 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park, posted his third win of the year in seven starts. He previously triumphed in the Golden Gate Fields Turf (gr. IIIT) and the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT). The dark bay owns a lifetime mark of 10-7-11 in 43 starts. The winner's share of $150,000 pushed his career total to $1,121,284.
Bred in Kentucky by Hubbard, Rio Claro Thoroughbreds and C Sczesny, Spring House is out of the Brazilian mare Spring Star, by Itajara.
Sent off as the second choice, Spring House toted top weight of 120 pounds and paid $7.60, $4.60, and $3.80.
Sir Dave, seeking his first stakes victory for trainer Jack Carava and La Canada Stables, returned $10 and $5.80 and was part of a $2 exacta worth $81.40.
"I knew it was close and I thought I might have won," Rosario said after his ride on the runn-up. "Tough one. But it was a good race and a good effort for my horse. He ran really well."
Temple City, scratched from the Aug. 29 Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT) by trainer Carla Gaines to run in this spot, paid $5.40 to show.
"This was his first time going this far," Baze said of Temple City. "They just came and got him late."
Artiste Royal, who rallied from ninth, was followed by Unusual Suspect, Obrigado, Porfido, Itsnotjustagame, Ghetto, and Black Astor. Quarter Moon and Racketeer scratched.