Excess Summer and jockey Julie Krone spoiled the return to competition of Gary Stevens Friday, less than three weeks after he was injured in a spectacular spill in the Arlington Million (g. IT), breezing to an easy triumph in the featured $92,825 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Stevens' mount, 7-2 second choice Fly to the Wire, loomed menacingly in the upper stretch but even-money favorite Excess Summer, trained by Jeff Mullins, spurted away down the lane under Krone's direction to win by 2 ½ lengths in 1:35 2/5 for the mile on the main track.Fly to the Wire and Stevens held onto second money by a half-length over 22-1 shot White Buck, who rallied from far back. Fourth in the field of seven sophomore runners was Marina Minister. Fly to the Wire was the only mount of the day for Stevens, who suffered a collapsed lung when unseated at the wire in the Arlington Million by Storming Home, who was only yards away from victory when he shied suddenly a few strides from the finish. "I feel like a million," Stevens said afterward. "Of course, I'd be feeling even better if I was over there (pointing to the winner's circle). But I feel good. My air is good and I'm fine. Julie just had too much horse today. I thought I might get to her, but she ran away from me at the end. I had to wait for room on the backside. I had no choice. I couldn't go six wide. But it was a good race for the horse and a good race for me. It feels great to be back. It's what I live for."Excess Summer was keen to go from the break and battled on the front end through fast early fractions of :22.09 and :45.34. Krone feared the favorite had expended too much energy."But going to the far turn the speed horse started to diminish and my horse gave himself a breather," she said. "I could feel him take a couple of breaths under me and he relaxed a bit. It was enough so that when I cracked him one time coming into the stretch he rebroke. That Jeff Mullins can train. And his horses can run."
Excess Summer, a son of In Excess owned by the partnership of Conboy, McClanahan and Wineman and trained by Jeff Mullins, earned $61,095 with his fourth win in seven starts. He returned $4. Krone, who won her sixth stakes of the Del Mar meeting, gained ground on leading rider Patrick Valenzuela by scoring her second win of the afternoon in the eighth and final race aboard French Selection, also trained by Mullins, at $8.20. With four days remaining of the 2003 Del Mar meeting, she trails Valenzuela by four winners, 47-43. Krone and Valenzuela will compete in a match race Sunday.Del Mar's attendance for its twilight card Friday was 14,573.