Once a Triple Crown hopeful, Pam and Martin Wygod's Prospect Park may have found his true calling Aug. 9 at Del Mar, with a dominating performance in the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIIT), his first graded win in his first start on turf.
Video: La Jolla H. (G3T)
The 3-year-old son of Tapit trained by Cliff Sise blew by pacesetting 7-5 favorite Om on the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile test and pulled clear to win by 4 1/4 lengths under jockey Kent Desormeaux.
"He overmatched these horses on numbers and everything," said Sise, who also indicated Prospect Park will point to the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) Sept. 6. "Kent worked him the other day and said he works on dirt just like he does on turf, so I was hoping for this."
Om set fractions of :23.85, :48.44, and 1:12.77 through six furlongs, while Prospect Park stalked as many as three lengths back in third, with longshot Pain and Misery between them. Om held on to finish second, but was no match for Prospect Park's lightning-quick outside move. Royal Albert Hall closed well to finish third.
"He's so big, I wanted to take away that European punch that they can catch you in that last eighth of a mile," Desormeaux said of his move to the front in the final turn. "They sit, sit, and sit, and try to explode to the wire, but he's too big for that. We wanted to get him out a little sooner and try to stretch their run out—take that sprint speed away."
Prospect Park hit the wire in 1:41.54 and paid $6, $3.20, and $2.80 as the 2-1 second choice. Om brought $3.40 and $3, and Royal Albert Hall brought $4.20 to show.
Papacoolpapacool finished an even fourth, followed by Pretentious, Pain and Misery, Over Par, Hero Ten All, and Cross the Line to complete the order of finish.
Since following his maiden victory with a standout allowance/optional claiming win in January at Santa Anita Park, Prospect Park has been on the wrong end of several close calls. He drew attention when he finished second to Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), but seemed to regress with a fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Then, after being taken off the Triple Crown trail because of an illness, he had two tight second-place finishes to Gimme Da Lute in the Affirmed Stakes (gr. III) and Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II).
"This is one of those occasions where it's so good to be right, because we've been so high on this horse since I first breezed him," Desormeaux said. "He's had his issues. He's had situations at the barn, he was sick on one occasion, and all we had to do was read about American Pharoah . Well I think he's as good, so things are coming around."
Bred in Kentucky by the Wygods, Prospect Park is out of the Bertrando mare Quiet Romance and has a 3-4-1 record from 10 starts and $396,570 in earnings.