October 23, 2018

Hunt holds on for Seabiscuit win

Hunt and jockey Flavien Prat (right) just hold off fast-closing He Will under jockey Mike Smith to win the Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) at Del Mar on Sunday, November 26, 2017 © BENOIT PHOTO

Michael House’s Hunt bided his time on the backstretch of Sunday’s $200,345 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) at Del Mar before taking command late in the stretch and holding off a game late run from He Will to score by a nose under jockey Flavien Prat.

Pee Wee Reese tried to lead all the way home as the 3-2 favorite, quickly angling over to the rail from his outside post when the gates opened and leading the field through splits of :24.09, :47.90, 1:11.28 and 1:34.97. Om moved up to track just off his flank on the outside while Mr. Roary stalked in third behind. Hunt was in close attendance, traveling outside of Mr. Roary down the backstretch, while He Will was well behind the group.

Pee Wee Reese maintained control of the race heading into the stretch, but Prat had given Hunt his signal and the gray was closing. The Dark Angel gelding surged past Om, reeled in Pee Wee Reese, and took over with just yards remaining.

He Will was flying down the center of the track, though. The five-year-old chestnut was eating up ground fast but ran out of room as Hunt got his nose in front on the wire to finish 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:41.03.

Hunt paid $8.80 as the near 7-2 third choice. He Will had a length to spare on Pee Wee Reese in third, while Om finished that same margin behind in fourth. Win the Space and Mr. Roary completed the order under the line.

Hunt earned his third Grade 2 win of the year in this spot, all of which came over Del Mar’s turf. The Phil D’Amato-trained gray opened his five-year-old season with a fifth-placing in the American Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park on Independence Day and returned 18 days later to take Del Mar’s Eddie Read Stakes (G2) by a length. He showed up a month later to add the Del Mar Handicap (G3) to his resume, but went unplaced in his past pair, the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Fourth in last year’s running of the Seabiscuit, Hunt improved his career mark to 26-8-5-3, $668,787, with Sunday’s win in the contest.

Bred in Ireland by Michael O’Callaghan, Hunt is out of the Vettori mare Mansiya and comes from a black-type rich female family that includes multiple Grade 1 queen Magical Fantasy and Group 1 hero Al Shemali.

SEABISCUIT QUOTES

Phil D’Amato, trainer 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.”

Flavien Prat, jockey 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, jockey 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, jockey Pee Wee Reese, third

“Really good try to for him, especially coming off the layoff. He ran hard. A very good try.”

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