Favorites appear vulnerable in Let It Ride Stakes
The favorites have flaws Saturday at Del Mar, and skeptical horseplayers might consider Afleet Ascent and Prince Earl both vulnerable in the $75,000 Let It Ride Stakes.
Or maybe the imperfections are trivial. Perhaps one mile is within reach for distance-challenged Afleet Ascent. Maybe a 2-for-2 campaign is adequate preparation for unseasoned Prince Earl in his stakes debut.
Vulnerable or otherwise, Afleet Ascent and Prince Earl are key contenders in the Let It Ride, a restricted race for 3-year-olds at a mile on turf. Other entrants include stakes winner Choo Choo, potential pacesetter Calexman, improving Fight On, Risky Proposition, and Extrordinary Jerry.
Jerry Hollendorfer trains Afleet Ascent, the most accomplished in the field with three wins from 11 starts including a second-level allowance sprint win last out against older. Afleet Ascent, runner-up in the Oceanside Stakes during the summer meet, also has proven form on the Del Mar turf.
“He ran great at Del Mar,” assistant Dan Ward said, adding one qualifier. “A mile might be about his tops.”
It might be too far. Afleet Ascent is 0 for 6 at one mile or more and lost ground to the winner every time.
Hollendorfer also starts Choo Choo, who was turned out after going off form in spring. Choo Choo won a maiden turf race at Del Mar last fall, and the California Derby on synthetic in January. The Let It Ride is his first start since May.
Prince Earl is the most interesting entrant, having won both starts including a highly rated turf mile last out. The 5-2 favorite by track linemaker Russ Hudak, Prince Earl did not begin his career until May of his 3-year-old season.
“He wasn’t a 2-year-old, he was a big old grass-looking horse that needed time to mature and get to the races,” trainer Phil D’Amato said.
The wait was worth it. Prince Earl won his debut in a turf sprint, followed by a sharp victory in a first-level allowance turf route at Del Mar. He entered the Grade 2 Twilight Derby last weekend at Santa Anita but scratched.
A good effort Saturday could put Prince Earl in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Dec. 1, though the class hike is steep. Two of the four winners of the Let It Ride at Del Mar ran back in the Hollywood Derby, but neither was a factor. The 2016 Let It Ride winner, Defiantly, finished last in the Derby at 57-1; the 2015 winner, Crittenden, finished 12th at 73-1.
Afleet Ascent, by Northern Afleet Last 3 Beyers: 90-89-89
◗ His allowance sprint win last out was flattered when third-place Brando the bartender returned to win a stakes race for California-breds.
Prince Earl, by Paddy O’Prado Beyers: 93-87
◗ His 1:34.33 victory two months ago was the fastest “rails-at-12-feet” turf mile of the Del Mar summer meet, and fifth-fastest overall.
Calexman, by Midshipman Last 3 Beyers: 82-89-88
◗ The expected pacesetter, he is uncertain to carry his speed two turns.