DEL MAR STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
Al Eisman and William Currin's homebred My Best Brother flashed his trademark speed and regained the winning thread in Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Derby. Just denied at the wire in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap on August 11, when he slowed it down early on the front end, the Julio Canani trainee was allowed to gun it here, and he was clearly in his element while winging it throughout.
Prior to his last-gasp loss in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla, My Best Brother had won three straight at up to a mile, including a division of the Oceanside on July 18. The question was whether the added ground in the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby would pose a difficulty, and this contributed to his going off as the fourth choice at 6-1. The full brother to Grade 1 winner Stormello, who missed by a nose in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at this distance in 2007, dismissed that out of hand.
"I told him [Martin Garcia] to ride him like he did in the Oceanside," the inimitable Canani said. "What happened in the La Jolla? He fell asleep."
Regular rider Garcia had guided him through fast fractions during his winning streak, and did so again in the Del Mar Derby. Taking charge through an opening quarter in :23 on the firm turf, My Best Brother ripped a half-mile in :46 2/5, considerably faster than his early splits in the La Jolla. He was still motoring through six furlongs in 1:10 3/5, and kept on to reach the mile mark in 1:34 2/5.
East Coast shipper Howe Great, the 5-2 favorite, took up a stalking position in third after breaking from the outside post 10. The Team Valor International runner gave chase down the stretch, but could not run down My Best Brother, who maintained a three-quarter length margin.
The wire-to-wire winner, who finished in 1:46 4/5, rewarded his loyalists with $14, $6.40 and $4.20.
"The other day [La Jolla] wasn't his day," Garcia said. "Today was. He was running hard out there. It wasn't like he was doing it easily. He went 1:10 [and 3/5] for six [furlongs] and that's not easy when you're going a mile and an eighth. He's a nice horse. The turf course is playing fast now and that worked well for him. And the extra distance might have helped, too."
Howe Great held runner-up honors by a a length from the rallying Brother Francis.
"I wish something would have gone and pushed [the winner]," jockey Mike Smith said of his view aboard Howe Great. "I knew I couldn't and still have something left. He gave me his kick and he ran good. That winner, though, he gets brave out there on the lead, that son of a gun."
Power Foot crossed the wire fourth. Next came La Jolla winner Old Time Hockey, who had a troubled trip; Tribal Tribute; All Squared Away; Smart Ellis; Midnight Crooner; and Tones. The also-eligible Desormais didn't draw into the field and has been entered in Monday's 3RD race.
My Best Brother has now won four of his last five, boasting $343,090 in earnings from an overall record of 8-4-1-0. Well beaten in his premiere over Del Mar's Polytrack as a juvenile, he did not reappear until April, tiring to fourth in a six-furlong maiden on dirt at Santa Anita.
The Stormy Atlantic colt was fifth in his turf debut at Hollywood Park, but then turned the corner once getting Garcia in the irons. He finally broke his maiden in his fourth career start on May 27, recording an authoritative victory at six furlongs on the Hollywood turf. The bay stretched out effectively in his next start, winning a one-mile turf allowance by a length on June 28, and captured his stakes debut in the Oceanside.
"This is a nice horse," Canani said. "After the La Jolla he was training unbelievable. He was keeping his weight up good, he eats every day. If after the La Jolla he would have been acting different, I might worry. But everything was good, all the time."
When asked about plans, Canani responded, "I play everything by ear."
The Kentucky-bred My Best Brother is out of the Carson City mare Wilshewed. His accomplished full brother Stormello landed the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity and Grade 2 Norfolk in 2006 and earned more than $700,000. Sadly, Stormello died early in his stud career.
This classy female family includes multiple Grade 3 winner The Pamplemousse and stakes winner American Lady, who finished fourth in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap this summer.