Unraced since last December, Prince Earl made an auspicious return to competition Sunday with a sparkling come-from-behind victory in the featured Grade II $200,000 Del Mar Mile.
Patiently handled in striking position by jockey Geovanni Franco, Prince Earl was able to slice through between horses in deep stretch to take command and then withstood the late challenge of Sharp Samurai to score by three-quarters of a length.
Sharp Samurai nosed out Grecian Fire for third money, with Ohio fourth another three-quarters of a length away. Bowies Hero, the 7-5 favorite, checked in fifth in the field of ten runners. Bombard was withdrawn.
Prince Earl, a four-year-old son of Paddy O'Prado owned by the Old Bones Racing Stable of Andrew Molasky of Las Vegas, Nevada and Todd Marshall of Minersville, Utah, is trained by Phil D'Amato. The gelding ran four times as a three-year-old, winning his first two races, then was fourth in the Let It Ride Stakes and fourth again in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar before being sidelined.
Prince Earl stepped the mile distance in a quick 1:33.13 and returned $21.60, $11 and $7.60 while earning $120,000. Runner-up Sharp Samurai paid $6.80 and $4.40, while Grecian Fire returned $6.40 to show.
Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza was the day's riding star, booting in three winners, two of them big upsets. Espinoza clicked with Flagstaff at $3.60 in the fourth, It's Fitting at $37.60 in the sixth and Midcourt at $31 in the eighth.
With no perfect tickets Sunday, there will be a carryover in the Pick Six to Wednesday of $117,253. Post time for the first race Wednesday will be 2 p.m.
GEOVANNI FRANCO (Prince Earl, winner) – Phil (trainer Phil D'Amato) said 'He's going to run big; just be patient.' I had the good post (No. 1) to save ground on the grass and it worked out just that way. He was very responsive to me all the way around. When I asked him, he had a nice kick. It was a lovely ride.”
JOSEPH TALAMO (Sharp Samurai, second) – “I had a perfect trip. Sat behind the leaders, then he cut it loose in the lane. I thought I was going to win it there for a bit, but could only get second.”
KENT DESORMEAUX (Grecian Fire, third) – “I could have used some climate control. We were in tight all the way and the horse outside me pushed me down inside for most of the trip. Other than that, it was good.”
PHIL D'AMATO (Prince Earl, winner) – “I thought a lot of him as a 3-year-old. He had some unlucky trips in some pretty strong races his last two as a 3-year-old. We gave him plenty of time off, did a minor throat procedure on him and he's come back with a vengeance as a 4-year-old. We decided to take a big shot here and got a great ride by Geovanni Franco.”
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