Conclude rallies to upset Classical Cat in $100K Oceanside Stakes, denying trainer Doug O’Neill his fourth win of the day
The opening day numbers at Del Mar were solid Friday.
Attendance: 21,733, topping last season’s opening day sellout of 21,682.
But maybe the best number of the afternoon was turned in by Robert Marston.
Asked how he was doing, Marston replied: “I haven’t placed a bet yet, but I’m down around 45 and I’m feeling pretty good.”
How he could feel good about being down 45?
“I’m from Arizona,” Marston said. “It’s 118 over there right now.”
It was a cool 70 degrees at the seaside track just before 6 p.m. Friday as Conclude came home 1 1/4 lengths ahead of favorite Classical Cat to give defending champion trainer Phil D’Amato a 1-2 finish in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes.
The D’Amato sweep denied trainer Doug O’Neill a fourth win on the day.
Jockey Hector Berrios rode the 3-year-old son of Collected to his third career win in five starts, passing fading leader Game Time at the three-quarter pole and pulling away from Classical Cat and Umberto Rispoli in the stretch. Classical Cat had been fifth entering the stretch.
“He broke really well, perfect,” Berrios said of Conclude. “I was in a good spot right away and when I took a hold, he just let me. We waited and waited and then when I asked him to go, he went for it.
“Perfect trip. It all worked out right.”
“When he opened up a length or two at the top of the lane, I thought he was the horse,” said D’Amato, who won the Oceanside on Opening Day a year ago with Balnikhov.
“Classical Cat was coming pretty good. But I think when Conclude felt him, he just sprinted out again. I’m proud of both my horses.”
Conclude paid $11.40, $5.20 and $4.20. Favored Classical Cat paid $4.00 sand $3.40. O’Neill’s Ah Jeez finished third.
Opening Day got off to a popular start when Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith won the first race for O’Neill aboard Settecento ($16.80). That also set the stage for the day as favorites scored only two wins.
Smith and Berrios each won two races. Smith also scored with Sir Atticus ($9.80) in the ninth while Berrios scored his second win aboard the favored Twist ($6.00) in the finale.
“Overall, a terrific, safe day of racing,” said Del Mar president and chief operating officer Josh Rubinstein. “The crowd was capacity and we’re expecting strong turnouts for the rest of the weekend.
“The fans really seemed to be enjoying themselves. It’s about customer experience and we got a lot of positive feedback.”
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