Skimming (right) holds off Futural in the San Diego Handicap.

Skimming (right) holds off Futural in the San Diego Handicap.

AP/Benoit Photo

Skimming Repeats in San Diego Handicap

Juddmonte Farms' homebred Skimming set all the pace Sunday in winning Del Mar's $250,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) for the second consecutive year.

Under Garrett Gomez, Skimming set fractions of :23.02 and :45.98 while tracked by Freedom Crest as Captain Steve and Futural settled in the back of a tightly bunched pack. Sensing trouble with the pace scenario, Chris McCarron guided Futural up the rail on the backstretch to move into contention. At the top of the stretch, Futural inched closer to Skimming but the frontrunner dug in, holding on to win by a length. Futural finished second in a reprise of the one-two finish these two provided in the Californian Stakes (gr. II) earlier this year at Hollywood Park. The San Diego marks the third time these two have filled the exacta in a graded stakes this year, with the first instance coming in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap (gr. II), which Futural won by a length over Skimming. On a fast track, the winner completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.62.

"I heard a horse (Futural) come up outside me near the five-sixteenths and so did Skimming," said Gomez. "He responded to the other horse, more so than he did to me. He's a fighter; he'll dig in when it is time to fight. You don't want to choke this horse down. I know that for sure now. He's a free-running horse. He doesn't necessarily have to have the lead, but he wants to be allowed to run his race."

"I thought I could win the race all the way until the last 50 yards," said McCarron. "Then I could tell I wasn't gaining on him (Skimming). But my horse ran good. He runs hard every time and he certainly did that today. We just got beat. There's another race for him here, though ($1-million Pacific Classic, gr. I, Aug. 19)."

Futural finished five lengths ahead of third-place Captain Steve. Budroyale, Dig For It, Freedom Crest, and Spicy Stuff completed the order of finish.

"I don't have any excuses for him today," said jockey Gary Stevens of the 9-5 favorite Captain Steve. "He just wasn't enthusiastic. He didn't make much of a run at all."

The win marks the fourth graded stakes win for Skimming and his third at Del Mar, a track he seems to relish. After winning the then grade III San Diego last year, he went on to win the Pacific Classic (gr. I), giving trainer Bobby Frankel his fifth win in 10 renewals of the track's premiere race. After sweeping the San Diego and Pacific Classic last year, Skimming was shipped to Belmont Park – site of this year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) – where he was soundly beaten in both the Woodward (gr. I) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Stakes.

The win marks the third in a row in the San Diego for Frankel and his fifth San Diego win overall.

Skimming earned $150,000 for his seventh win from 18 starts. A 5-year-old son of Nureyev--Skimble, by Lyphard, Skimming is inbred 2x3 to Northern Dancer, displaying a familiar Juddmonte Farms breeding pattern of inbreeding to Northern Dancer on both the tail-male and broodmare sire lines.

Skimming returned $6, $3.40, and $2.60. Futural paid $3.20 and $2.60. Captain Steve was worth $2.80 to show. The $1 exacta paid $8.10. (Chart, Equibase)