Shipping to Southern California for the first time, the well-traveled Banned outfought Midnight Interlude by a nose in a taut finish to the $250,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the turf Sept. 4.
La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Burns broke down on the first turn and was taken off the course by horse ambulance. The Unusual Heat gelding was later found to have suffered a suspensory and sesamoid injury to his right fore and was euthanized. Jockey Patrick Valenzuela sustained a leg strain in the incident and took off his final two mounts of the day.
Glen Hill Farm's Banned, sent off at odds of 9-10, gave trainer Tom Proctor his first win in the Del Mar Derby. Glen Hill Farm previously won the race in 1973 with Right Honorable and in 1979 with Relaunch.
Garrett Gomez rode the son of Kitten's Joy to victory in a time of 1:47.93 on a very firm Del Mar turf course.
Banned, bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, was coming off a third-place finish in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) on a yielding Arlington Park turf course Aug. 13, when he was defeated by Treasure Beach by 1 3/4 lengths. The bay colt ran second by a neck in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) at Colonial Downs prior to that.
This was Banned's first victory since he captured back-to-back graded stakes at Churchill Downs this spring, winning the American Turf (gr. IIT) May 6 and the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) June 18.
“We put him on the plane (after the Secretariat) and brought him out here," Proctor said. "We wanted to see how we was doing and had to look him over a lot, but he never gave any indication he wasn’t doing well.
“An overland trip today, but you know the horse that ran second won the Santa Anita Derby and it looked like he (Midnight Interlude) came back at him after you thought he’d put him away. You know, good horses have to overcome adversity here and there.
”It’s probably not his best race, but everything said it’s good to win. We’ve been beat in a lot of photos.”
Banned broke on top toward the outside before falling into a stalking position in fifth. He raced on the far side as Thirtyfirststreet took the early lead over Midnight Interlude, who was on the inside, and Extensive. But Midnight Interlude dueled from the inside to lead by a head in a contestest pace that included fractions of :23.75 for the opening quarter-mile, a :47.96 half-mile, and six furlongs in 1:12.43.
Midnight Interlude, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, clung stubbornly to the front over Extensive in the stretch as Banned advanced four wide to challenge for Gomez. The favorite appeared poised to sweep past the others after getting his head in front on the outside near mid-stretch, but Midnight Interlude refused to give in.
Extensive also fought on, but it came down to Banned and Midnight Interlude in the final strides, with Banned winning an exciting head bob under strong urging from Gomez.
“I was up a little closer than normal with him, but that was by plan," said Gomez, who previously won the Del Mar Derby in 2005 with Willow O Wisp. "They don’t back up a whole lot on this turf course so you have to be aware of that. I was giving up ground, but I thought I could in order to maintain my position. When I asked him to, he got after it.
"At the wire I knew it was close. Rafael (Bejarano on Midnight Interlude) asked me past the wire if I’d won it. I thought maybe I had him just by a hair. My horse’s head was down and I thought that was the difference.”
Extensive, ridden by Martin Garcia, was only a half-length back in third. The Purge gelding had been claimed for $80,000 out of his most recent start Aug. 14 at Del Mar by Vladimir Cerin from Glen Hill Farm.
The late-running Cloud Man came with a good effort but settled for fourth, another half-length behind. Then came Akkadian, Dreamy Kid, Lil Bit O'Fun, and Thirtyfirststreet.
Banned, who is out of the Capote mare Cardinalli and cost $130,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale of 2009, improved his career record to 5-1-2 in 10 stats with earnings of $599,476. All of his wins have come on turf. He ran fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) last November at Churchill Downs.
Proctor said he would probably keep Banned in California for the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Oct. 15. But the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) after that is unlikely, he said.
"The Breeders’ Cup, maybe next year if he’s still around," Proctor said. "The Breeders’ Cup is the end-all for everybody but me. I’m not a big Breeders’ Cup fan.”
Under equal weight of 122 pounds, the bay colt paid $3.80, $2.80, $2.60. Midnight Interlude, winner of the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) for trainer Bob Baffert this spring, returned $3.60 and $3.60 in his best effort yet from three starts on grass. Extensive, off at 25-1, matched his third-place effort in the opening day Oceanside Stakes July 20. He paid $6 to show.
Great Warrior scratched.