Only a head separated Sharp Samurai and Fashion Business when the duo were last seen running in the La Jolla Handicap (G3) at Del Mar August 6, and the pair return Sunday for another match up in the $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2).
Sharp Samurai was the benefactor of that head score as the 6-5 favorite in his fourth turf try. The Mark Glatt trainee began his career on dirt, even breaking his maiden by 9 1/4 lengths against maiden claimers, but has really come to life on the grass.
After taking a nine-furlong allowance/optional claimer at Santa Anita Park on April 6, the First Samurai gelding was a close fourth while making his stakes bow in the Singletary Stakes going a mile. Stretching back out to 1 1/8 miles, Sharp Samurai captured the Rainbow Stakes a month later and took a brief break before returning for his rallying score in the La Jolla.
Gary Stevens piloted the bay sophomore in both his stakes wins and stays in the saddle Sunday.
Fashion Business hopped at the start of the La Jolla and put in a game run to just miss on the wire. The Philip D’Amato-trained son of Frankel will be looking to turn the tables on Sharp Samurai in this spot.
He actually made his first two starts in England, breaking his maiden over the synthetic surface at Lingfield on January 27, before shipping stateside. The British-bred gelding was eighth in the Singletary in his U.S. debut and seventh in the Rainbow Stakes two races later. Fashion Business has shown vast improvement since then, just missing by a head in his past pair, and gets Joe Talamo in the irons on Sunday.
Colonist also returns here after completing the top three in the La Jolla, just three parts of a length behind Fashion Business. The Jerry Hollendorfer pupil was making his turf bow in that contest after rallying for fourth in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) on July 15. Rafael Bejarano will be aboard the Pioneerof the Nile colt for the first time Sunday.
Bowies Hero captured the Oceanside Stakes on Del Mar’s July 19 opening day, and returns here under Tiago Pereira. Trained by D’Amato, the Artie Schiller sophomore won the Del Mar Juvenile Turf last season and opened this season with a half-length victory in the Singletary.
Rounding out the 11-strong Del Mar Derby field are Transylvania Stakes (G3) hero Big Score, stakes winner Marckie’s Water, Rainbow Stakes third-placer Monster Man, Ohio Derby (G2) fourth Sorry Erik, Ritzy A. P., and the British-bred duo of Harbour Master and Double Touch.
Earlier on Del Mar’s Sunday card, an overflow field of 16 two-year-olds has been entered to go a mile on the grass in the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes.