DEL MAR, Calif.— The 2-year-old colt Havnameltdown was just too quick for his nine rivals Sunday at Del Mar in the 52nd running of the $202,500 Best Pal Stakes, outfooting them in stakes record time of 1:10.22 for the six-furlong headliner.
A $200,000 purchase at a 2-year-old sale in Florida earlier in the year, the bay by the Lion Heart stallion Uncaptured made every pole a winner and finished up two and a half lengths to the good in the Grade III test that is seen as the major prep for Del Mar’s top juvenile race, the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity on Sunday, September 11, the track’s closing day.
Leading rider Juan Hernandez was aboard Havnameltdown – it was one of four scores on the day for the track’s leading rider – and was met in the winner’s circle afterward by trainer Bob Baffert, who was capturing the Best Pal for the ninth time. Five of the conditioner’s previous Best Pal winners have gone on to take the Del Mar Futurity, including 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky in 2009, who was owned by the same trio of owners who race Havnameltdown. The win was Baffert’s second of the current meet and his 149th overall at the seaside oval, the most (by far) of any trainer in track history.
Havnameltdown is now two-for-two in his brief career and with the $120,000 winner’s share of the purse he’s moved his current bankroll to $168,000.
Finishing second in the stakes was Muir Hut Stables’ Agency, who had nearly six lengths on third finisher Man Child, owned by California Racing Partners, Ciaglia Racing or Pearson, et al.
As the 1/2 favorite in the Best Pal, Havnameltdown returned $3.00, $2.40 and $2.40 across the board. Agency paid $5.00 and $4.00, while Man Child returned $6.00 to show.
Havnameltdown’s final time of 1:10.22 was just a shade better than the stakes record of 1:10.27 set by Instagrand in winning the 2018 edition of the race.
The track’s Pick Six Single Ticket Jackpot wager carried over for the fifth day in a row and fans coming out on Thursday for the next day of racing will start with a pool of $336,355 in the exotic bet. First post that day is 2 p.m.
JUAN HERNANDEZ (Havnameltdown, winner) – “I was outside and my plan was to stay second or third but he was real aggressive out of the gate. He wanted to go to the front so I just let him run and do his thing. At the quarter pole he was getting kind of lazy so I woke him up a bit and he picked it up really well and got to the wire.”
BOB BAFFERT (Havnameltdown, winner) — “He is built for speed if you look at him. He is very precocious looking; his sire was very fast. That will be his kind of distance; he has been solid and that was a good group of horses. He looked great in the paddock and has been training well… Happy we got the W.”
FRACTIONS: :21.74 :44.87 :57.35 1:10.22
The stakes win is the seventh of the meet for rider Hernandez, but his first in the Best Pal. He now has 22 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win is the second of the meet for trainer Baffert and his ninth in the Best Pal. He now has 149 stakes wins at Del Mar, the most by any trainer.
The winning owners are Mike Pegram of Scottsdale, AZ, Mr. Vernon, WA and Del Mar, CA; and Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, both of Tucson, AZ.
DMTC Press Release
Photo: Havnameltdown captures the G2 Best Pal under Juan Hernandez (Benoit Photo)