Supah Blitz, winless in nine starts this year, became a grade II winner in his first start for new trainer Doug O'Neill while all out to hold off Domestic Dispute in the $250,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap at one mile Sunday.
Supah Blitz, who hung on to win by a nose over Domestic Dispute, had not won a race in more than 13 months, a span of 11 races. The 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by Mecke, hard-ridden by a frantic Victor Espinoza in the stretch, was recently purchased by Tom and Jerry Kagele and Mark Leib and transferred to O'Neill, who is on the verge of his first Del Mar training title.O'Neill was not on hand for the winner's circle, reportedly attending his son Daniel's second birthday party instead.In an oddly run race, Supah Blitz, overtook favored During and Snorter in the stretch, opened up a sight lead inside the sixteenth pole and had just enough to edge Domestic Dispute, who had fallen well behind and then re-rallied in the lane. During was a beaten third, four lengths behind with Del Mar's leading rider Corey Nakatani aboard. The time was 1:35."Doug called me this morning and he told me since he bought this horse, he had really turned it around," Espinoza related. "I knew that Domestic Dispute was outside me and that he'd be coming. I had to work hard on him late. He almost caught me, but the wire came just in time."Domestic Dispute, the narrow 5-2 second choice ridden by Kent Desormeaux, soon found himself surprisingly pushing for the lead with During through the clubhouse turn and down the backstretch. They battled while completing solid fractions of :22 2/5 and :46. But Snorter, ridden by Tyler Baze, who had settled in behind Supah Blitz in fourth for the opening half-mile, was not content to track them any longer and made a bold move before the far turn to take over the lead while well wide. In the meantime, Desormeaux allowed Domestic Dispute to fall well off of the pace as Supah Blitz wound up his charge.Baze, who said he is riding with a small break in his foot after a gate accident Saturday, said afterward that Snorter surprised him with his sudden burst. "He just ran off with me. There wasn't anything I could do."Supah Blitz engaged During in the stretch as Snorter decided he had enough and Domestic Dispute, who may have wanted to angle out to mount a charge from the middle of the track, gathered himself for another run at the leaders. It appeared Supah Blitz would get home free after taking care of During, but as befits a horse who placed 12 times in 29 previous starts, he withered in deep stretch. Domestic Dispute, who although challenging didn't appear to be really digging in, came up just a step short as they reached the wire."I thought the winner was slipping away from me in the stretch and that I wasn't going to be able to catch him," Desormeaux said of Domestic Dispute. "But I threw a cross (of the reins) on him and he took off again. I almost got him at the end. He ran good. He ran too good not to have his picture taken."Supah Blitz won for the fifth time in 30 tries while earning $150,000 for his new connections. He has won $788,610 in his career. Previously trained by Emanuel Tortora, his last victory came in a $50,000 stakes at Calder Race Course in July 2003. He has done most of his racing in Florida, although his last two starts – a second place finish in an allowance race Aug. 9 and a third-place showing in the R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial Handicap July 17 – were both at Delaware Park. Tortora's Bee Bee Stables Inc. and Equitor Inc. bred the winner, who is out of the dam Boots'n Jackie (Major Moran).The third choice among six betting opportunities, Supah Blitz paid $10.40, $5.40 and $3. Domestic Dispute returned $4 and $2.60. During's show was $2.60.Touch the Wire, Snorter and Rushin' to Altar completed the order. Night Patrol scratched.In a supporting feature, the $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap, Tucked Away and Kent Desormeaux won by a head over 5-2 favored Test the Waters, with Ran for the Dough only another nose back in third place. Tucked Away, owned by Nico Nierenberg and trained by Paddy Gallagher, paid $12 after running the mile on the grass in 1:34 4/5. (Chart, Equibase)