Stalking No Problem grabbed the lead in deep stretch and held even-money favorite Alright Alright at bay in the final strides to win the $100,000 Bob Hope (gr. III) in his stakes debut at Nov. 15 at Del Mar (VIDEO).
No Problem was ridden to victory in a terrific finish by Victor Espinoza at odds of 17-1 for P and G Stables and trainer Michael McCarthy, who earned his first graded stakes victory since going out on his own this year. The former assistant to Todd Pletcher was credited with four graded stakes wins in 2007 when subbing for Pletcher, who was serving a lengthy suspension at the time.
"Take nothing away from the little horse," McCarthy said. "He's very gritty, does everything right in the mornings, loves to train and loves his job. He persevered here going into the final turn, got bumped around a little bit, but was game enough to hold on."
The result was a good one for the 8-year-old Ashford Stud stallion Munnings , who sired both the winner and the second-place finisher as part of his initial crop. No Problem was timed in 1:23.48 for seven furlongs on Del Mar's Polytrack, winning by half a length.
The upset helped trigger a three-day carryover of $599,483 into Sunday’s Pick Six at Del Mar.
The field for the Bob Hope, formerly the Hollywood Prevue when it was hosted by Hollywood Park, was reduced to eight 2-year-olds by the scratch of morning line favorite Prime Engine by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The Gottstein Futurity winner is being aimed instead at the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) Nov. 22.
That left Alright Alright, coming off a sharp debut maiden win Oct. 25 at Santa Anita Park, as the solid choice with Drayden Van Dyke aboard.
But it was All Indians, the only horse in the field with a win over the Del Mar surface, who set a swift pace as No Problem rated and Alright Alright settled toward the rear. All Indians opened up by a couple of lengths as he stepped the opening quarter mile in :22.04 and the half in :44.67 while chased by Every May, with No Problem third and Sebastian's Heart and St. Joe Bay forwardly placed as well. Alright Alright was sixth or seventh in the early going while racing off the rail.
All Indians was in deep water rounding the turn as No Problem took a narrow advantage in upper stretch along the inside with St. Joe Bay between them and the favorite progressing on the far outside. Those three battled gamely and were heads apart at the furlong marker before St. Joe Bay gave way slightly. Alright Alright appeared to have the momentum, poking his head in front in the charge for the wire but Espinoza urged on No Problem, who fought back at the rail and surged in the final yards to prevail.
"He surprised me, this horse. He's a fighter," Espinoza said. "He's just a little horse but he runs big.
"When we got into the stretch he put his ears down and he fought. He didn't want to let them by."
Alright Alright settled for second, and it was one length back to St. Joe Bay in third.
Under 116 pounds, No Problem paid $36.20, $11.20, and $5.80 as the second-longest shot in the field. He keyed a generous $110.40 exacta with Alright Alright, who returned $3.20 and $2.40. St. Joe Bay, ridden by Elvis Trujillo, was $2.80 to show.
No Problem was coming off a 4 1/2-length maiden victory at the $75,000 claiming level at Santa Anita Oct. 26 after finishing eighth in his debut a month earlier against maiden special weight company. He earned $60,000 for the Bob Hope win and has now banked $81,250.
The chestnut colt was bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Marc Ferrell out of the unraced Orientate mare Brief Tears.
Originally a $22,000 weanling buy at the 2012 Keeneland November sale, No Problem was purchased by his owners for $30,000 when consigned by Top Line Sales at the 2103 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. August yearling sale. He was offered again at Ocala as a 2-year-old in April by Eddie Woods, agent, but did not meet his reserve on a $72,000 bid.
Sebastian's Heart finished fourth in the Bob Hope, followed by Diamond Majesty, Every May, All Indians, and Story to Tell.