SAN CLEMENTE HANDICAP | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 2 | 1 MILE (TURF)
Guided through a smooth trip by Rafael Bejarano, Istanford led every step of the way at 10-1 odds to dominate the $200,000 San Clemente Handicap on the renovated turf course at Del Mar July 19.
The Mike Stidham-trained daughter of of Istan took advantage of a newly widened grass course that has been favoring speed, bettering 11 other 3-year-old fillies in the first graded stakes of the new Del Mar season. She completed the one-mile journey in a sharp 1:33.83.
The big dark bay or brown filly, owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash and Janet and Sam Alley, shipped in from Arlington International Racecourse, where she defeated 3-year-old males with the a front-running trip in the Arlington Classic May 24. In her most recent start June 14, she set the pace before giving way between horses in the roughly-run Regret Stakes at nine furlongs on the Churchill Downs turf.
Making her Southern California debut, Istanford improved to 3-for-3 at the one-mile distance on turf. Catalano seems to have the key in the 3-year-old filly grass division locally. The Chicago-based trainer shipped in with Room Service May 31 to take the American Oaks going away at Santa Anita Park.
Tepin, an 18-1 outsider, came on for second in the an Clemente, with her Mark Casse-trained stablemate My Conquestadory, finishing third as the narrow 5-2 second choice. Favored Diversy Harbor rallied belatedly along the inside for fourth.
Bejarano, the two-time defending riding champion at Del Mar, has been sidelined since May 10 after a bad spill at Santa Anita resulted in a broken collar bone, broken ribs, and fractures of both shoulder blades. The native of Peru returned to action when the current meet opened July 17 and has now won the San Clemente in three of the past four years.
Istanford took command through through the stretch the first time and showed the way while maintaining a comfortable advantage over Sheza Smoke Show through a half-mile in splits of :23.13 seconds and :46.70 seconds. Miss Machiavelli and Morning Fix moved into striking position aroudn the far turn as Istanford reached the quarter pole in 1:10.14. Meanwhile Diversy Harbor and My Conquestadory, unhurried in the early going, began their advance.
But Istanford remained in control at the top of the lane and showed no signs of slowing down as Tepin emerged from between horses under Stewart Elliott and gave vain chase. My Conquestadory, saddled with the far outside post and racing wide throughout for Victor Espinoza, struggled through the stretch while saving the show spot from the oncoming Diversy Harbor. The favorite came up short again after running second in the American Oaks last time out.
"In the beginning, I didn't really expect to be on the lead that fast," said Bejarano, riding Istanford for the first time. "I just played it by ear. I let her relaz and when I asked her, she just opened up for me."
Istanford, bred in Florida by Amy Tarrant's Hardacre Farm out of the winning Tale of the Cat mare Aerocat, now has four wins and two seconds from 10 starts, with earnings of $$328,365.
She was a $25,000 purchase by Ike and Dawn Thrash at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. Florida summer yearling sale in 2012, when consigned by Summerfield, agent.
The San Clemente is the major local prep stakes for the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks over 1 ⅛ miles Aug. 16.
Carrying 120 pounds, Istanford paid $22.80, $10.80, and $7 across the board, keying a $273.20 exacta. Tepin, who ran into all kinds of traffic trouble in the Regret last time and finished eighth, rebounded well to return $17.20 and $9.40 for the place. My Conquestadory, looking to recapture her outstanding 2-year-old form, was undoubtedly compromised by her post and paid $3.60 to show.