Horse Greeley, a homebred son of Mr. Greeley
, charged to the lead coming out of the turn and won the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) on closing day Wednesday at the seaside Southern California track.
Under Victor Espinoza, Horse Greeley stalked Stormello down the backside as Caped for Flight settled into third. Prime Ruler, co-favored at 8-5 with Great Hunter, broke poorly from the inside and was never in the hunt.
The field went the opening quarter in :22.32 and the half in :44.84. Horse Greeley moved easily to the lead as the field rolled out of the turn and was never threatened down the stretch. He ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.93.
Great Hunter - who had moved to third in the turn, closed to get second - and Stormello held on for third.
"He broke just a tiny bit slow," Espinoza said. "That worried me a little bit, so I made sure he was up in the race. He did it easy. He's still a baby; still learning. But he's such a big, strong horse and he's got that quick acceleration. When I asked him he went right by the leader without much effort. He was part of a wonderful meet for me. So special."
The stakes win was the 11th of the meet for Espinoza and his 53rd stakes winner overall at Del Mar. It was his 64th win of the 43-day meet, easily giving him the riding title.
Espinoza was the leading rider of the meet and just a few days earlier won six straight races on a card, seven for the day including the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I).
"I've always liked him," trainer Richard Mandella said. "He was born at Claiborne Farm and Seth (Hancock) always liked him. I raced his mother. She had some funny looking babies early, but she put it all into this one. I think he's really good. You look at him in the paddock and he looks like a man playing with boys.
"He got off in a little bit of a tangle. I think he just got nervous in the gate and just got tangled up with himself. After a couple of steps, he put himself right in the race and there wasn't much else to it."
The winner was bred in Kentucky by his owners, Martha and Ray Parfet. He is out of the Storm Cat
mare Chile Chatte. The juvenile colt made his first start going 5 ½ furlongs at Del Mar July 22, finishing second, and then returned three weeks later to break his maiden by four at 8 ½ furlongs.
Horse Greeley paid $8.40, $3.60, and $2.80, while Great Hunter, who has run second in four of his five career races, returned $3 and $2.60. Stormello was worth $3.80 to show.