May 26, 2024

Havnameltdown keeps Newgate at bay in Bob Hope

Havnameltdown and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

After finding only Cave Rock too good in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), Havnameltdown resumed his winning habit in Sunday’s $100,000 Bob Hope (G3) back at Del Mar. The 9-10 favorite stalked, asserted, and safely held stablemate Newgate to extend trainer Bob Baffert’s grip on the feature for two-year-olds.

Baffert has now won 12 editions of this race, half in its original guise as the Hollywood Prevue (G3), and an even six at its adopted home of Del Mar. Although a few of his winners went on to success over a route, notably Mastery (2016) and Mucho Gusto (2018), Havnameltdown appears to fit the usual profile of a one-turn specialist.

The Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman colorbearer had wired his first two starts here, a five-furlong maiden and the six-furlong Best Pal (G3). Havnameltdown ended up chasing the blistering speed of stablemate Cave Rock, however, in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity, where he had to settle for second-best.

The Bob Hope was held over the same distance, but with no Cave Rock to deal with, Havnameltdown found the task a lot more straightforward. Yet this time, he was still content to track early, giving jockey Juan Hernandez the feel of an increasingly professional operator. That demeanor helped him stay focused as another stablemate, Hard to Figure, could have become a problem.

Baffert’s third-stringer, Hard to Figure flashed speed from his rail draw, only to lose the plot as the field made its way from the chute onto the backstretch proper. Cocking his head, and veering right spying the gap to his left, he herded Havnameltdown et al out. Flavien Prat wrangled Hard to Figure back into line as he clocked the opening quarter in :22.23.

The second-fancied Baffert, the 7-5 Newgate, also made an error by breaking a tad inward and stumbling a stride or two out of the gate. He regrouped to attend the pace, despite being carried wider out in the chain reaction of floating briefly caused by Hard to Figure.

Havnameltdown didn’t miss a beat through it all. Advancing on his own volition, the son of Uncaptured was in control well before reaching the half in :44.36. He established separation from Newgate and fellow stalker Practical Move on the far turn, in a decisive move.

Newgate came again upon straightening, but Havnameltdown was always doing enough to maintain a 1 1/4-length margin. His final time of 1:21.68 is a new stakes record among the nine runnings at Del Mar.

“He (Havnameltdown) broke nice and easy today,” Hernandez recapped. “Before in his races, he was slingshotting out of there. Today he was more professional. Our other horse (Hard to Figure) inside of us on the rail was trying to get out into us, but my horse took it well. He’s learning how to run. After we cleared that other horse, I had a nice trip from there.”

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes was delighted with the barn’s one-two.

“He broke well and sat just off them there,” Barnes said of the winner. “Newgate was in a position where he had a good chance, and they both finished together down the stretch, so we couldn’t be happier. He’s (Havnameltdown) developed into a really nice horse, and he likes it here at Del Mar.”

Practical Move crossed the wire another 2 1/2 lengths astern in third. The maiden Mixto churned on further behind in fourth, beating only Hard to Figure. Giver Not a Taker and Lloyds Logic were scratched.

Havnameltdown improved his scorecard to 4-3-1-0, $288,000. Bred by Katherine S. Devall in Florida, the bay was a pinhook home run for Blas Perez Stables. The $16,000 OBS yearling blossomed into a $200,000 April two-year-old at the same venue.

Havnameltdown’s dam, the Put It Back mare Ashley’s Babe, is a half-sister to restricted stakes winners Jay’s Way and Who What Win. She is also a full sister to the dam of Grade 3 vixen Two Sixty, herself by Uncaptured and thus closely related to Havnameltdown.  

Earlier on the card, trainer Peter Miller also celebrated an exacta when Get Her Number mugged stablemate Ginobili in a top-caliber allowance. Ginobili, returning from a nearly year-long layoff, stalked 8-5 favorite Forbidden Kingdom and gradually wore him down, only to have Get Her Number nab them both in a three-way finish. Under a well-timed Prat ride, the Grade 1 veteran finished six furlongs in 1:08.27.