My Best Brother proved he was the best 3-year-old on turf at the Del Mar meet with a smart, front-running victory in the $300,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 miles Sept. 2 (VIDEO).
The full brother to grade I winner Stormello came within a nose of sweeping Del Mar's sophomore turf series with his three-quarters of a length win in the Derby. After setting a solid pace for jockey Martin Garcia, My Best Brother extended himself through the lane to hold 5-2 favorite Howe Great safe in a time of 1:46.83 over firm going.
It was the fifth Del Mar Derby triumph for trainer Julio Canani, who already held the record for most wins in the 68-year-old fixture. Canani won the race for the first time since 2004 with Blackdoun.
Partners Al Eisman and and William Currin bred and own the son of Stormy Atlantic , who atoned for a nose defeat to Old Time Hockey in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) July 18. My Best Brother, who earned his first graded stakes win, kicked off the Del Mar meet with a victory in the stronger of two one-mile Oceanside Stakes divisions.
My Best Brother, out the Carson City mare Wilshewed, has won four of his past five starts since being switched to the grass by Canani in May at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Considered suspect at the distance after losing the lead at the wire in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla, My Best Brother was sent off at odds of 6-1.
"What happened in the La Jolla?" Canani repeated to a question from a reporter. "He fell asleep."
"This is a nice horse," he added. "After the La Jolla he was training unbelievable. He was keeping his weight up good, he eats every day. If after the La Jolla he would have been acting different, I might worry. But everything was good, all the time."
Team Valor International's Howe Great, invading from Fair Hills Training Center in Maryland for trainer Graham Motion, settled for second, with late-running Brother Francis another length farther back in third.
Soon after the break, My Best Brother quickly opened up a one-length lead on Tones, along the inside, and Howe Great, who had the far outside post in the field of 10. My Best Brother provided an honest pace for the distance, clipping off quarter mile fractions of :23.00, :46.57, and 1:10.69. The bay colt still had plenty left for the drive after being challenged on the far turn as Howe Great raised a threat for Mike Smith.
But My Best Brother never let up through the lane, leading by two at mid-stretch under right-handed urging from Garcia. Howe Great could make little impact on the winner while gradually drawing closer as they came to the line.
"I wish something would have gone and pushed (the winner)," Smith said. "I knew I couldn't and still have something left. He gave me his kick and he ran good. That winner, though, he gets brave out there on the lead, that son of a gun."
Garcia, who won the Del Mar Derby for the first time, dismissed My Best Brother's earlier loss in the La Jolla.
"The other day wasn't his day. Today was," he said. "He was running hard out there. It wasn't like he was doing it easily. He went 1:10 for six (furlongs) and that's not easy when you're going a mile and an eighth. He's a nice horse. The turf course is playing fast now and that worked well for him. And the extra distance might have helped, too."
Brother Francis, ridden by Victor Espinoza, closed from eighth on the bend to get the show spot by a half-length over Power Foot. Then came Old Time Hockey, Tribal Tribute, All Squared Away, Smart Ellis, Midnight Crooner, and the Irish-bred Tones.
My Best Brother's career mark now stands at 4-1-0 in eight races with earnings of $343,090. He earned $180,000 for the Del Mar Derby triumph.
Under equal weights of 122 pounds, My Best Brother paid $14, $6.40, and $4.20 as the fourth choice. Howe Great, coming off a win in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park July 21, returned $4.20 and $3.40. The exacta was worth $64. Brother Francis paid $4.20.
Canani did not divulge his plans for My Best Brother, who has started seven times since April 7.
"I play everything by ear," he said.
In addition to Blackdoun, Canani previously won the Del Mar Derby with Silver Circus in 1988, Ladies Din in 1998, and Val Royal in 1999.