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Azul Coast heads back to the barn after the Native Diver Stakes.
The feature race on the third Saturday of Del Mar's Bing Crosby Season was the $100,000 Native Diver Stakes (G3) for older horses going 1 1/8 miles around 2 turns of the main track. Conditions were excellent with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60's at the seaside oval. After Midcourt and Wicked Trick scratched, a field of just 6 went to post, with Eight Rings sent off as the even money favorite off his 4th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Azul Coast, 7th in the Awesome Again (G1), and two horses at 13-2, Kiss Today Goodbye, 8th in the San Diego Handicap (G2), and Established off two straight allowance wins.
Down the stretch in the Native Diver
Jockey Mike Smith sent 7-1 Ax Man to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.74, 48.41, and 1:13.18 while pressed by Eight Rings and stalked by Established. Into the lane Ax Man tired as Azul Coast, last early, came out 4 wide to sweep to the lead through 1 mile in 1.38.19. Kept to task by jockey Flavien Prat, Azul Coast held off late-running Kiss Today Goodbye to win by 1/2 a length in 1:50.55. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to favorite Eight Rings third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 Azul Coast Prat 8.40 4.60 2.60 8 Kiss Today Goodbye Desormeaux 5.20 2.80 6 Eight Rings Hernandez 2.20 Winning Time: 1:50.55 $1 Exacta 5-8 18.00 $2 Quinella 5-8 26.80 $1 Trifecta 5-8-6 60.50 $1 Superfecta 5-8-6-4 178.80
Left: Azul Coast in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "Azul runs his best races down here. He likes this track and he ran really impressive. When I ran him in the Awesome Again he just laid an egg, he was up there close and I was really disappointed, but he was chasing Medina Spirit. I had no idea how it would setup, they were all on their own. I told the jockeys (he had three horses in the race) you guys ride your own races and hopefully we'll run 1-2-3. I'm happy for the connections, the well has been a little dry lately. Main thing is that we got the W..."
Right: Azul Coast heads into the paddock. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "We were in a good spot for the whole trip. I could tell the pace was only moderate, so I moved him up closer near the three-eighth (pole). Then when we went we were in good position and he was ready. A good win."
Left: Second place finisher Kiss Today Goodbye in the paddock. The Eric Kruljac trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 1 second, and 3 thirds in 15 starts, earning $301,802 for owner John Sondereker.
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Eight Rings in the paddock. The Bob Baffert trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 12 starts, earning $426,451 for owners Coolmore Stud, Golconda Stable, Madaket Stables, SF Racing, and Starlight Racing.
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