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Del Mar season starts with strong opening weekend

CRK Stable’s Express Train leading Tripoli (outside) in the Grade II, $250,000 San Diego Handicap.
CRK Stable’s Express Train leading Tripoli (outside) in the Grade II, $250,000 San Diego Handicap.

(Kelley Carlson)

Del Mar kicked off its opening weekend with several stakes races, including the Grade II, $250,000 San Diego Handicap on July 17 (pictured above). CRK Stable’s Express Train took the lead in the stretch and held off Tripoli (outside) to win by a half-length, while race favorite Royal Ship was three-quarters of a length back in third.

Express Train, with Juan Hernandez in the saddle, covered 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:43.37. “I thought he (Express Train) was in a good spot the whole way, right off Rushie, and then when he was asked in the stretch, he responded well,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “The Pacific Classic (on Aug. 21), that would be the goal if everything works out.”

Earlier that day, Ippodamia’s Girl won the $80,000 Osunitas Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf. Additional winners during the first three days of the summer meet include Tizamagician (Grade III, $100,500 Cougar II Stakes), Flashiest ($100,000 Runhappy Oceanside Stakes) and Neptune’s Storm ($85,500 Wickerr Stakes).

The races were part of a successful weekend for Del Mar, as the track marked an Opening Day record handle of $21,339,643 on July 16. The previous all-time high had been $16,500,914, set in 2016. “You can’t get much better than this,” Del Mar Chief Executive Officer Joe Harper said in a statement about the weekend. “I’d have to say it was nothing short of terrific.”


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