Hunt Holds on to Win Seabiscuit Handicap
Michael House’s Irish-bred Hunt, piloted by Flavien Prat, offered further proof he’s definitely a horse for the Del Mar turf course Sunday as he gamely held on in the final strides to nose out the fast-closing He Will to win the Grade II $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap on closing day of Del Mar’s Bing Crosby fall racing season.
Hunt, the summer meet’s top grass horse after winning the Eddie Read Stakes and Del Mar Handicap, surged to the lead in the upper stretch and barely withstood the late challenge of He Will.
The five-year-old son of Dark Angel trained by Phil D’Amato, accomplished the mile and one-sixteenth over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course in a swift 1:41.03 for his eighth victory in 26 career starts and third in eight Del Mar races. The Seabiscuit represented a rebound for Hunt after his 13th and last-place finish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf November 4.
He Will, ridden by Mike Smith, was a length in front of the 3-2 favorite, Pee Wee Reese, with well-supported Om another length back in fourth in the field of six runners. Withdrawn from the line-up were Irish Surf, Tequila Joe and Flamboyant.
Hunt, third choice at 3-1, returned $8.80, $4.60 and $3. First money of $120,000 pushed his earnings to $668,764. He will paid $7 and $3.40, while Pee Wee Reese returned $2.40 to show.
FLAVIEN PRAT (Hunt, winner) – “The race set up and went just about the way we thought it would. I was in a good spot with him. But the finish was close; very close. He was brave at the end.”
MIKE SMITH (He Will, second) – “Oh, man, I thought I was going to get it for sure. He wouldn’t put his head down. He runs with his head up. If he put it down, he’s the winner.”
JOE TALAMO (Pee Wee Reese, third) – “Really good try to for him, especially coming off the layoff. He ran hard. A very good try.”
PHIL D’AMATO (Hunt, winner) – “To me this was in his wheelhouse, anywhere from a mile to a mile and an eighth. This is what he relishes and he also loves this turf course. I thought Flavien (Prat) gave him a great ride. That’s exactly what he wants to do, stalk and pounce, and he just barely got the job done. ”
FRACTIONS: :24.09 :47.90 1:11.28 1:34.97 1:41.03
The stakes win was the fourth of the meet for rider Prat, but his first in the Seabiscuit. He now has 23 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for trainer D’Amato and his second in the Seabiscuit (Midnight Storm, 2015). He now has 20 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The winning owner is Michael House of Rancho Santa Fe, CA.