Afleet Eagle sprinted away from the field behind at the top of the stretch and scored an easy 2 1/2-length win in the $112,800 Oceanside Stakes (VIDEO), the opening-day feature at Del Mar July 22.
Ronald Waranch's Kentucky homebred son of Northern Afleet made his stakes and turf debut in the Oceanside, putting away a decent field of eight 3-year-old rivals at odds of 6-1. Afleet Eagle is now undefeated in three two-turn races for trainer Vladimir Cerin, completing the the one-mile test in 1:34.35 on a firm course. This was the first Oceanside in 21 years that was not run in split divisions.
Afleet Eagle was forwardly placed by jockey Tyler Baze alongside Flashmans Papers as they prompted the pacesetting Backbackbackgone through solid fractions of :23.11, :47.56 and 1:11.58. When Backbackbackgone gave way on the final turn, Afleet Eagle took command. He came off the turn in full control and soared for home on the rail, absorbing three left-handed cracks of the whip through the lane from Baze, who otherwise used steady handling all the way to the wire.
"When we were going down the backside, he was just cruising," Baze said. "He had his ears up and flipping around and he was saying ‘This is fun.’ Then when I asked him, he was gone. I just squeezed on him a little bit and he put on an amazing turn of foot. And this is off a layoff. He’s running like that off a layoff. He’s a really nice horse. He’s a Del Mar Derby type for sure.”
Favored Meteore made a brief charge from the outside on the turn but did not respond in the stretch as Mark S the Cooler and Rendezvous gave chase through the lane. Mark S the Cooler, ridden by Corey Nakatani, wound up second by a head over Rendezvous and Joel Rosario. Herr Mozart ran on for fourth.
The 3-year-old turf series at Del Mar resumes with the 1 1/6-mile La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 16 and concludes with the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) Sept. 16
“He showed he liked synthetics, so I didn’t think he’d like the grass, but this was the only place to run," Cerin said. "I’ll see how he comes out of the race and then make plans. We could run in the (Del Mar) Derby. I’d like to win that race. We have a lot of options."
Afleet Eagle began his career with a fourth-place finish in a $40,000 maiden claiming event over six furlongs at Santa Anita in March. Since then, he has done nothing but route, breaking his maiden at the $50,000 level by three lengths in a one-mile race at Santa Anita April 10. That was followed by his most recent start before the Oceanside, a 5 3/4-length romp in a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance heat over Woodbine's Polytrack May 3.
The Oceanside victory, worth $67,680 to his connections, boosted Afleet Eagle's bankroll to $118,843. The winning bay gelding is out of the Exotic Eagle mare Erna's Eagle.
Sent off as the lukewarm second choice, Afleet Eagle carried 121 pounds and paid $14.60, $7.40 and $4.20. Mark S the Cooler, coming off a seventh-place showing in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) June 20 in Virginia for trainer Doug O'Neill, returned $7.40 and $4.20 while completing a $2 exacta worth $107. Rendezvous, who overcame some early traffic issues, was $4 to show.
Herr Mozart was followed by Meteore, Flashmans Paper, Lesson in Deceit, Azul Leon and Backbackbackgone.