DEL MAR, Calif. – European veteran Umberto Rispoli made his Del Mar debut a notable one by winning three races – including the featured Runhappy Oceanside Stakes – as Del Mar kicked off its 2020 season with nary a fan in the stands.
The shore oval began its 81st season in fine fashion on the racetrack and in the counting house, but it surely missed its usual crowd of 40,000 or so party goers who traditionally make the Opener a love-in as they welcome racing back to San Diego.
“We’re racing and we’re going to continue to race this summer,” said DMTC’s CEO, Joe Harper. “We’d love to have our fans, of course, but we’re delighted to be racing.”
Rispoli, the 31-year-old Italian rider who has made a serious impact in the riding scene in Southern California in the past year, saved ground nicely with his More Than Ready colt Hit the Road, then when a slight hole opened turning for home on the Del Mar turf course, gunned him through the middle and went on to tally impressively by a length and three quarters.
“I think Dan (trainer Dan Blacker) has done a terrific job with this horse, Rispoli said. “He ran a very, very good race today. He broke really well and so I could take the rail. I had a lot of horse; more horse than I thought. Maybe I could have won this race by more. I love being in California; it feels like home.
“I’m working hard every day and having some results. Everyone told me about Del Mar and Opening Day, what a big deal it is. But we can’t have the fans now; too bad. But right now I’m still loving Del Mar. It’s a good day for me.”
The victory by Rispoli was his first stakes win at Del Mar. It was the second stakes win at Del Mar and first in the Runhappy Oceanside for trainer Blacker.
“I’m just thrilled to win a big race on opening day at Del Mar. The Oceanside is like my Kentucky Derby. It’s unfortunate that there were no fans, but that’s the way things are. Umberto (Rispoli) ran a faultless race and the horse is super talented. You can put him in a perfect spot,” Blacker said of his win.
The Kentucky-bred is owned by Daniel Koetteing’s D K Racing, Kyle Yost’s Taste of Victory Stables and Rick Gold.
Hit the Road, the 8-5 favorite in the Runhappy Oceanside, paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80 across the board.
Second was Wertheimer & Frere’s Kandrel ($13.20 and $8.60), while Peter Redekop’s Ajourneytofreedom ran third ($9.40). The splits were :22.82, :47.41, 1:11.71, 1:23.70 and 1:35.09.
2020 Runhappy Oceanside Stakes Replay
Del Mar’s total handle on the 10-race card was $15,346,805, as 3.54% increase over 2019’s Opening Day total of $14,821,720.
The overall racing was highly competitive (seven of the 10 races called for photo finishes to decide the winner) and cleanly run. The good start to the 28-day session bodes well for more good racing to follow on the track’s Friday-Saturday-Sunday weekly schedule leading up to a Labor Day Monday (September 7) finale.
First post daily will be at 2 p.m. PT, 5 p.m. ET
Listen to Jonathan Stettin and Michael Vale’s interview with Umberto Rispoli on Gate-to-Wire!
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Press Release
Photo: Hit the Road wins the Runhappy Oceanside Stakes under Umberto Rispoli. Credit: Benoit Photos/Mar Thoroughbred Club