October 6, 2022

Havnameltdown easily withstands heat in Best Pal

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

Pace rivals tried to make Havnameltdown live up to his name in Sunday’s $202,500 Best Pal (G3), but the 1-2 favorite proved too hot to handle at Del Mar. The Bob Baffert juvenile shrugged off the pressure and kicked away by 2 1/2 lengths to remain perfect in two starts.

Havnameltdown was coming off a front-running maiden score here going five furlongs July 24, so his tactics were no secret. Breaking fast from the far outside post 10, the Pegram, Watson, and Weitman runner found company in the form of Man Child. The rail-drawn King Adrock also rushed up to make it a trio, but his attempt was beaten off after the opening quarter in :21.74.

Although the 28-1 Man Child managed to stick with the favorite a bit longer, Havnameltdown appeared to be traveling comfortably. Indeed, he was ready to assert whenever leading rider Juan Hernandez pleased.

Havnameltdown bid his attendant adieu through the half in :44.87. At the same time, rounding the far turn, Agency was on the march in hopes of picking up the baton. But the 9.40-1 shot couldn’t sustain his move, and Havnameltdown pulled clear to complete six furlongs in 1:10.22. That’s a stakes record, of the five Best Pals since it was shortened to this distance in 2018. Instagrand had set the stakes mark of 1:10.27 in the inaugural six-furlong running.

Agency was best of the rest by 5 3/4 lengths from Man Child. Pop d’Oro, like Agency a son of freshman sire Bolt d’Oro, recovered from a stumbling start to rally from last for fourth. Jin Tong, Fleet Feet, Mardukas, non-threatening 2.70-1 chnce Arman, King Adrock, and Quagmire Magic rounded out the order under the wire. Kangaroo Court was scratched.

“I was outside,” Hernandez recapped, “and my plan was to stay second or third, but he was real aggressive out of the gate. He wanted to go to the front, so I just let him run and do his thing. At the quarter pole he was getting kind of lazy, so I woke him up a bit and he picked it up really well and got to the wire.”

The Best Pal is a stepping stone to the Sept. 11 Del Mar Futurity (G1), but Havnameltdown isn’t the leading candidate from the barn. Baffert unveiled a scintillating debut winner Saturday in Cave Rock, who notched a 104 Brisnet Speed rating in his six-length rout. The $550,000 Arrogate colt is bred to stretch out. Not to be forgotten is an earlier high-profile debut winner, Newgate, an $850,000 son of Into Mischief.

Havnameltdown doesn’t have their fashionable pedigrees or auction history. By Uncaptured and out of the Put It Back mare Ashley’s Babe, he is closely related to Grade 3 heroine Two Sixty, who won at up to 1 1/16 miles. The bay was bred by Katherine S. Devall in Florida and first sold for $16,000 as an OBS yearling. Appreciating to $200,000 at the same venue in April, Havnameltdown has now earned $168,000 from his 2-for-2 record.

Baffert views him more in the mold of a sprinter.

“He is built for speed if you look at him,” the trainer said. “He is very precocious looking; his sire was very fast. That will be his kind of distance; he has been solid and that was a good group of horses.”