El Corredor, shown winning the Cigar Mile, returned to the races with a win at Del Mar Sunday.

El Corredor, shown winning the Cigar Mile, returned to the races with a win at Del Mar Sunday.

Associated Press / NYRA / Adam Coglianese

El Corredor Successful in Return

Hal J. Earnhardt's El Corredor returned from a lengthy layoff to win the $150,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap (gr. II) on Sunday at Del Mar. El Corredor pressed the pace, then held off Swept Overboard in the stretch to earn the 1 1/2-length win, completing the seven furlongs in a quick 1:20.42 on a fast track.

Blade Prospector set the early fractions (:22.69 and :44.71) after Figlio Mio lost several lengths due to a poor start. El Corredor kept right with the leader and to his outside as Elaborate also pressed the leader from the inside. El Corredor rallied to the lead into the stretch as Swept Overboard searched for running room. Under Victor Espinoza, El Corredor then completed the final furlong in just over 12 seconds while maintaining a 1 1/2 length lead over the runner-up.

"You ride a horse like this with a lot of confidence," said Espinoza. "Bob (trainer Bob Baffert) said 'Take it easy with him.' I don't think he thought he was fully ready. So I let him just run away from there on his own. That speed he showed was strictly on his own. I didn't really ask him to run until the stretch. Then I got after him. You don't want to take a chance in a race like this. There were some nice horses in there and you don't want to get beat. But I had lots of horse turning for home and he just kept on going."

Swept Overboard finished a length in front of third-place finisher Ceeband. Blade Prospector, Figlio Mio, Indiahoma, and Elaborate completed the order of finish. Lexicon was scratched.

El Corredor last raced in November, winning the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct. He raced at Del Mar twice last year, scoring wins in an optional claiming race and the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) before finishing second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Jerome Handicap (gr. II). He earned $90,000 for the win, his sixth in eight career starts. Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds/Liberation bred 4-year-old El Corredor (Mr. Greeley--Silvery Swan, by Silver Deputy) in Kentucky.

The 3-2 favorite, El Corredor returned $5, $3, and $2.40. Swept Overboard paid $2.80 and $2.20. Ceeband was worth $3 to show. The $1 exacta paid $5.60. (Chart, Equibase)