DEL MAR, Calif.— Juddmonte’s Laurel River, a lightly raced 4-year-old who had never won a stakes race before, looked every bit of a stakes winner Saturday at Del Mar when he powered between horses at the quarter pole and pulled clear to score in the $252,500 Pat O’Brien Stakes by nearly four lengths.
The homebred colt by Into Mischief out of an Empire Maker mare was ridden by Del Mar’ top jockey, Juan Hernandez, and gave trainer Bob Baffert his eighth tally in the seven-furlong O’Brien and his 150th stakes victory at the seaside track, far and away the most by any trainer in the track’s 83-year history. He also forged into leadership as the current meet’s top conditioner with his 14 victory on Day 22 of the session.
Finishing second in the Grade II offering was Kretz Racing’s American Theorem, who had three-quarters of a length on third-place finisher Joe Peacock, Jr.’s Senor Buscador.
Godolphin’s Speaker’s Corner, who had shipped in from the east coast for the race and went favored at just over even money, flashed early speed, but fell back under pressure and finished fourth nearly six lengths behind the winner.
The Pat O’Brien was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” stakes – one of six this summer at Del Mar – that rewarded the Laurel River connections with a guaranteed spot in the B.C. Dirt Mile with all fees paid. The race will be run on November 5 at Keeneland in Kentucky.
Laurel River picked up a first prize of $150,000 for his impressive triumph and increased his earnings to $314,620 for his fourth win in his seventh start.
The bay Kentucky-bred paid $15.80, $7.20 and $6.20 across the board. American Theorem returned $5.00 and $4.20, while Senor Buscador paid $10.00 to show.
The track’s Pick Six Single Ticket Jackpot wager – after failing to be hit for the past four racing days – had a winner Saturday when an Xpressbet player with a Florida address invested $300 in a ticket and came up with the lone ticket with all the right numbers. The players reward was $461,147.
Racing resumes at Del Mar Sunday with a first post at 2 p.m.
JUAN HERNANDEZ (Laurel River, winner) – “This is a nice horse. He broke real sharp, but then he relaxed. I just tried to stay with them early. When we got to the three-eighths (pole) I asked him and he responded. It is great when that happen; when you ask and they give it to you. He went between horses without a problem. Bob (trainer Baffert) said ‘Ride him to win,’ and I did. And he responded. Could he run a mile? He can go the mile. I think so for sure.”
MIKE SMITH (Speaker’s Corner, favorite who ran fourth) – “I don’t know what was going on with this horse. He was acting up. He got real hot in the warm up. Then he was acting up again in the gate. He just wasn’t a happy horse today.”
BOB BAFFERT (Laurel River, winner) – “I just told Juan (Hernandez) ‘Ride him to win’ and that’s what he did. He just sat there and then he made that split. He has a lot of speed but he’s going to be much more effective around two turns.”
FRACTIONS: :22.41 :44.74 1:08.91 1:21.37
The stakes win was the eighth of the meet for rider Hernandez, the most by any jockey at the session. It was his first in the Pat O’Brien and he now has 23 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the third of the meet for trainer Baffert, but his eighth in the Pat O’Brien. He now has 150 stakes wins at Del Mar, making him the leader in the category by a long way.
The winning owner/breeder is Juddmonte, owned by the late Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
DMTC Press Release
Photo: Laurel Rivers wins the Pat O’Brien (Benoit Photo)