Free Rose wins the Del Mar Derby

Free Rose wins the Del Mar Derby

Benoit Photography

Free Rose Holds Tough for Del Mar Derby Win

Munnings gelding scored second straight graded win for trainer Richard Baltas.

Abbondanza Racing and Nathan McCauley's Free Rose roared to the lead on the far turn and held on for a narrow win the $250,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) Sept. 4 as the field threatened to engulf him.

The Munnings  gelding, rating in second early before kicking strongly to the front, opened a three-length advantage into the stretch and was all out to win by about a half length from Ralis, with Dressed in Hermes just a nose back third and Monster Bea another nose away in fourth.

Free Rose, at 11-1 odds, completed 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.70 under Norberto Arroyo Jr. to earn his second successive graded win for trainer Richard Baltas. He scored in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIIT) at almost 30-1 odds Aug. 6 at Del Mar and improved to four wins from 11 career starts.

Free Rose paid $25.80, $12.80, and $8.60 and 2015 Hopeful (gr. I) ) winner Ralis returned $6.80 and $5.60. Dressed in Hermes paid $8.20 to show.

Mr. Roary spurted from the gate to lead early and set fractions of :22.37 and :45.92 while opening a 2 1/2-length advantage from Free Rose on the backstretch. With Arroyo sitting chilly as six furlongs went in 1:10.65, Free Rose was ready to roll when asked and blazed forward from outside to take control. He gamely held on to triumph.

"Richie (Baltas) said to get him out of there and see what's happening," Arroyo said. " 'If you can make the lead, make the lead. If someone wants to go, then lay second.' It worked just that way. He's a free-running horse and you can't fight him. I heard them coming up behind me and I cut him loose. I thought maybe I went for it too early, but if I'd waited another second or two, they would have had the jump on me. It worked out just right."

Ralis far back early, went six wide into the lane and closed to get second.

"I had to go wide all the way with him," jockey Mario Gutierrez said."Didn't have any choice. He ran great, though. He went real well."

Baltas said Free Rose was game in his longshot La Jolla win. 

"A lot of people discounted it because speed was good that day, but he ran some pretty fast fractions and he didn't give up when they came at him," he said. "He ran back quicker last time than he did this time. We were going to run in the (opening day) Oceanside Stakes but he didn't get in because he had run for a tag a little while before. I told Norberto that (Mr. Roary) was going to go for the lead, so he just sat second and then made a helluva move around the turn. He just kind of said 'I'll see you guys later.' I was hoping he wasn't going to get caught, and he didn't."

 McCauley bred Free Rose in Kentucky from the winning El Prado mare Birdie Birdie and second dam Dominique's Show is a half sister to European champion 2-yaer-old One Cool Cat.