Launching his rally in the final turn, Big John B powered past two rivals in the stretch to win the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) by a widening 1 1/2 lengths, taking the 1 3/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and older a second straight year Saturday, Aug. 22 at Del Mar.
Video: Del Mar H. (G2T)
Michael House's Big John B raced last of eight through six furlongs in 1:15.93 by early leader Little Jerry, saving his best running for late in Saturday's race. Big John B shifted into top gear about midway through the third turn while racing in the three path under Rafael Bejarano. Under a vigorous hand ride, he then lengthened stride as he passed Ganesh and 9-5 favorite Ashleyluvssugar in the near the sixteenth pole to complete the race in 2:16.37 on firm turf.
"I knew they were going slow, but that was OK," Bejarano said. "My horse has only one pace, one way to go, and I can't change it. It all came the right way. When we hit the three-eighths I asked him to go and he really put it in. He has a great kick. He's a powerhouse. He runs so well and he ran well today."
Trained by Phil D'Amato, Big John B extended his win streak to three straight races; the 6-year-old Hard Spun gelding entered off a main track win at Del Mar in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) July 24.
"They were going so slow up front and Big John B was off the pace," D'Amato said. "I didn't know if he would have enough of a kick but he really did."
Big John B, second betting choice at 2-1, returned $6.20 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.40 to show. Two-time grade II winner Ashleyluvssugar paid $3.20 to place and $2.60 to show while Ganesh returned $3.20 to show as the South American group I winner placed in a Southern California graded stakes on turf for a third straight time.
The Del Mar Handicap is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In," race to the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), in which Big John B finished ninth last year.