Disturbingthepeace, one of the leading sprinters in California at this time a year ago, flashed some of his former brilliance with a front-running victory in the $150,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar Sunday.
The 5-year-old Bold Badgett gelding, ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Darrell Vienna, repeated in the Pat O'Brien, which was his sixth straight victory last year, the last four being grade II wins. Since that win, however, he lost six in a row.
The final time for the seven-furlong O'Brien was 1:21 2/5. Disturbingthepeace defeated Rushin' to Altar by about two lengths. Full Moon Madness was third, 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Bluesthestandard, the 3-2 favorite was a well-beaten seventh after showing good early speed.
Bluesthestandard set out on the early lead between horses, dueling with Disturbingthepeace along the inside and Full Moon Madness through an opening quarter of :22 1/5 and the half-mile in :44. Approaching the turn, Disturbingthepeace began to take control while urged along by Espinoza, establishing a firm lead on the turn for home. In the stretch, Disturbingthepeace was well clear by nearly three lengths as Rushin' to Altar and Corey Nakatani emerged along the inside to take up the chase. But the Pulpit colt never posed a serious challenge to the winner, while finishing well in front of Full Moon Madness.
"He's kind of a funny horse," Vienna said. "You really have to ask him to run. I wasn't worried about the horse, but I though Victor might get tired (working him so hard)."
After last year's O'Brien, Disturbingthepeace was supplemented to the 2002 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), but the bay finished a disappointing seventh. That began a losing streak that included a 13th place finish in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (Jpn-I) at Chukyo. In his last start, he was sixth in the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar July 26.
"I don't know about the Breeders' Cup again," Vienna said. "We had to supplement him last year and that was a disaster so I'd have to check to see what the situation is. I don't know if we would have to supplement him again."
Espinoza was encouraged by his horse's effort, but left the Breeders' Cup issue up in the air.
"He's running much better now," he said. "He just wasn't the same horse there for a while. But he was much more aggressive today. Even in the paddock, you could see he was full of himself. The other day (the Crosby at six furlongs) he wasn't on it. And he lost a shoe in the race. I don't think six furlongs is his best distance, either. But he was like his old self today."
Overall, the California bred has won eight of 22 with four seconds and four thirds. His $90,000 winner's share for owners television producer David Milch, his wife Rita, and Herrick Racing LLC. increased his career total to $662,780. Disturbingthepeace was bought back by the Milches and Jim Herrick for $300,000 at a dispersal of Milch's horses in Kentucky in November.
Espinoza, who was aboard for last year's O'Brien as well, won the race for the third straight year. He captured it with El Corredor in 2001.
Sent off as the co-second choice at 6-1, the winner paid $14.40, $7.60 and $5.40. Rushin' to Altar returned $7.40 and $5.40. Full Moon Madness' show price was $5.20.
Alex Solis, aboard the favorite, said, "He was laying good. He was feeling good. And at the quarter pole he just quit."