Saturday, July 26, 2008
DIXIE UNION WINS WICKERR IN BLANKET FINISH
In a blanket finish to end all blanket finishes, One Union held on tenaciously in the final strides under jockey Victor Espinoza to win a thrilling renewal of the $92,610 Wickerr Handicap today, with the first five horses under the line separated by mere noses.
One Union, who led from the start, barely nosed out the onrushing Awesome Gem, who in turn was a nose in front of third-place Dark Islander. Worldly was a nose back in fourth and the same margin ahead of fifth-place Stoneside in the field of ten horses. Thus, the margin from the winner to the fifth-place horse was only a neck.
An outsider in the wagering, One Union, a five -year-old son of Dixie Union, paid $19.80, $9.80 and $6.
Awesome Gem, second to Student Council in last summer’s $1 million Pacific Classic and aiming for that event again this year on Sunday, August 24, lost a heart-breaker in his first race since last March. Tyler Baze was aboard Awesome Gem, who returned $4.80 and $3.60, while Dark Islander paid $6.80 to show.
Becrux, the lukewarm 7-2 favorite who won the Wickerr ‘ Cap in 2006 and again a year ago, finished eighth.
There were no perfect tickets in the Pick Six again today, meaning that $540,093 will be carried over to Saturday’s Pick Six pool.
There is also a carryover of $47,634 in the Super High 5 wager for the 10th and final race on Saturday's 10-race card.
VICTOR ESPINOZA (One Union) -- "They made me work a little hard there. But my horse was game. (Trainer Richard) Mandella has done a heckofa job with this horse. He's more settled now. He can go farther. He's older and wiser. He was just a sprinter for a while there, but now I think we can do more with him. I just let him roll out of there today. The last time (Hollywood, July 8, 6f grass sprint) I took him back and tried to come running. But today we just let him go. Right now I'd say this is his distance. A mile on the grass fits him nice."
RICHARD MANDELLA (One Union) -- "I thought Art Sherman's horse [Lang Field] would go to the lead but when he didn't, it looked like our horse was the real speed in the race. I told Victor to just take it as it came up. My horse was very on his toes in the paddock. I thought he would relax going a mile, but he broke real sharp and it turned out OK. He was pressured from both sides in the stretch and he just kept fighting. He showed a lot of heart."
What's next? "We'll point for the Del Mar Mile [$400,00, turf, Sunday, August 24]."
CRAIG DOLLASE (Awesome Gem) -- "I'm very happy. It was a good comeback race for him. That'll set him up for something."
BEN CECIL (Worldly) -- "He got nothing from that last race (June 26 Hollywood, 9 furlongs on grass -- his first start in more than seven months). That's my estimation. So today was his first race back off the layoff in my mind. It was an excellent effort for him. He should have gotten a lot out of it. We'll have to think of the Del Mar Mile off this."
NEIL DRYSDALE (Dark Islander and Becrux) -- "I was pleased with both of them. Good efforts both. Dark Islander did especially well. The Del Mar Mile. We'll have to think about it next for both of them."
FRACTIONS: :23.06 :46.82 1:10.67 1:22.42 1:34.09
There were five noses on the wire. One Union won by a nose, beating Awesome Gem, who was a nose in front of Dark Islander, who was a nose in front of Worldly, who was a nose in front of Stoneside.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for Victor Espinoza, but his 58th overall at Del Mar. This is his first win in the Wickerr, a race named for the multiple Del Mar stakes winner who raced here in the late '70s and early '80s.
The stakes win was the second of the meet for Richard Mandella. Earlier, he won a division of the Oceanside Stakes with Dixie Chatter, owned by the same man who owns today's winner --- Herman Sarkowsky. Mandella now has won 46 stakes at Del Mar. This is his first victory in the Wickerr.