Rendezvous, a 22-1 outsider, tagged favorite Battle of Hastings at the wire to win the $350,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) by a nose at the seaside track Sept. 6.
With meet-leading rider Joel Rosario winning his third race of the day, Rendezvous angled off the rail and charged furiously in the final furlong to surprise Battle of Hastings, who appeared headed for victory. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds was a swift 1:46.88 over firm going.
Battle of Hastings, looking for his third consecutive grade II victory under Tyler Baze, had finally dispatched the stubborn pacesetter Acclamation mid-stretch. He had the measure of Meteore, who was racing along the inside, but he could not account for the late-surging challenger.
Rendezvous, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, capped a solid Del Mar meet with the unlikely victory. The son of Victory Gallop ran third in the opening-day Oceanside July 22, beaten by the victorious Afleet Eagle by 2 1/2 lengths. He returned with a runner-up showing in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 15, finishing only 1 1/2 lengths behind Meteore.
But with the presence of Battle of Hastings, returning to action after winning back-to-back grade II stakes at Colonial Downs in Virginia, and Triple Crown contender Papa Clem , the winner was all but ignored in the wagering. Rendezvous earned his first stakes win for owners Team Green, George Todaro, and Hollendorfer.
"I was surprised at the odds, because he's been running well here," said Hollendorfer after winning his first Del Mar Derby. "Joel was in a zone today, so I just told him to ride his race, and he surely did."
After bumping and steadying at the start, Rendezvous was held up early in eighth by Rosario and saved ground as Acclamation and Afleet Eagle went to the early lead with Papa Clem stalking in third. Fractions were reasonable for the first half mile (:23.36 and :46.93) when Papa Clem moved up three wide to challenge for the lead. After completing six furlongs in 1:11.11, Afleet Eagle, who had dropped back a bit at that point, was pulled up abruptly by Corey Nakatani.
Battle of Hastings, never far off the pace, moved into contention on the outside leaving the final turn and eventually wrested the lead from Acclamation. But Meteore and Rendezvous were within striking distance to Battle of Hasting's inside. Battle of Hastings, whose victories in Virginia both came while rallying late to win at the wire, may have reached the lead a little too early and he came up just short. Rendezvous, who angled out past mid-stretch, rallied under left-handed urging to get up in the final stride.
"When I went into the first turn, they closed it down on me and I had to take a hold," Rosario said. "I was way back. Then when we came up past the quarter pole I tried to go down inside but I got cut off again. I had to take another hold. But I found a way around that and got him running. He closed really well, really fast."
"He ran his race," Baze said of Battle of Hastings. "A really tough beat. He was picking them up and then when he makes the lead he wants to hesitate and look around. His ears went up a little today. He eased up just a bit and he got beat. So tough."
Acclamation held on for third under Joe Talamo, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up. Meteore was a half-length farther back in fourth.
"The steal sign was on," Talamo said. "He ran great. If he doesn't get pressed (by Papa Clem), I think we win it."
Afleet Eagle, who was removed from the course via ambulance, suffered a bowed tendon to his left foreleg, according to a track report.
"I felt something amiss over on the far turn and I took a hold," Nakatani said. "I felt I had to pull him up. I'm going to trust they got him back to the barn OK and that he'll be all right."
Rendezvous picked up his fourth win in 13 lifetime starts. The winning purse of $210,000 boosted his career total to $334,505. The chestnut colt won for the first time since taking a $32,000 optional claiming/allowance race at one mile on Golden Gate Fields' Tapeta racing surface Jan. 16. He had lost six in a row.
After breaking his maiden on the Calder grass in a $40,000 claiming race last November, Rendezvous has not been out of the money in five turf starts.
Hollendorfer said Rendezvous will be pointed toward the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.
Bred in Kentucky by Lee Christian, Bill Nicholls, and WinStar Farm, Rendezvous is out of Halo Babe, by Southern Halo.
The Del Mar Derby winner paid $46, $14.40, and $8.80, keying a $2 exacta worth $173.40. The 2-1 choice Battle of Hastings, who has won four of six starts this year with two seconds for trainer Jeff Mullins, returned $3.80 and $3. Acclamation was $10.60 to show in his stakes debut for trainer Donald Warren.
Meteore was followed by Oil Man, Gretsky, Papa Clem, and Midnight Mischief.