Encoder, the 3-5 favorite owned by Hronis Racing and trained by John Sadler, overhauled a game Billy Batts in the final strides to win the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf Sunday at Del Mar.
Encoder, a Kentucky-bred son of English Channel who won his career debut impressively August 7, rallied in the stretch under leading rider Flavien Prat, collaring Billy Batts and jockey Drayden Van Dyke in the shadow of the wire to score by a head in 1:35.31 for the mile over the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Ardenlee Star was a distant third, six and one-half behind Billy Batts, with Commander fourth in the field of five two-year-olds. Scratched were Croughavouke and Hit the Road.
Encoder provided the Hronis brothers, Kosta and Pete, with their seventh stakes success of the Del Mar season; Sadler with his personal best ninth added money victory in a Del Mar season and Prat with his tenth in a stakes this summer. It was the fourth successful collaboration of owner, trainer and rider in a stakes this meeting.
Encoder returned $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10 while earning $60,000 for the triumph. Runner-up Billy Batts paid $2.80 and $2.20, while Ardenlee Star returned $3.20 to show.
FLAVIEN PRAT (Encoder, winner) – “Across the line, I knew I'd won. But (coming down the stretch) I didn't think I was going to get there. I had a perfect trip and it turned out right.”
DRAYDEN VAN DYKE (Billy Batts, second) – “We slowed it down as much as we could. Almost….”
FLORENT GEROUX (Ardenlee Star, third) – (On his horse's slow break) “He's a European (making his first U.S. start after a pair of outings earlier this year in England). It's not unusual for those horses to be away slowly over here. He ran well. The two in front of us at the end were superior.”
JOHN SADLER (Encoder, winner) – “I thought it was a very good race for him. He just put his head down and was determined. I don't think there'll be any problem for him with more distance. Pace in front is always going to help him because he relaxes so nicely. He's not speedy but he has a nice turn of foot. First and second starts so we don't know much about him but he's definitely a nice colt headed the right way.”
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