JAMES MARVIN STAKES | PURSE: $100,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 7 FURLONGS
Dennis Narlinger's Pacific Ocean could do no better than sixth against Caixa Eletronica in the Grade 2 True North Handicap on June 9, but easily schooled that rival when leading gate-to-wire in the Grade 3, $100,000 James Marvin Stakes on Saratoga's opening day Friday program. The chestnut son of Ghostzapper was making just his second start since being transferred to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., and finished seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:22 2/5.
"I told a lot of people that called me he was training so much better for this race than he was for his last race," Dutrow said. "In his last race, he had a bad post, there was a lot of speed, he was in a bad spot. Today was different. He had everything going his way. He was sitting on a race. He ran big.
"I have to see how he comes out of this race. He's not the easiest horse in the world to handle. I have to see how things are and go from there. Naturally, the race at the end of the meet here [Grade 1 Forego on September 1] makes sense. It's a big race and he likes this track."
Jockey Joel Rosario gunned Pacific Ocean straight to the front when the gates opened, and the pair set comfortable splits of :23, :46 3/5 and 1:10 while tracked by Crossbow to their outside. Caixa Eletronica was settled into a ground-saving trip along the rail, while defending champion Jackson Bend found himself running widest of all.
Crossbow moved up to challenge Pacific Ocean rounding the turn, but the five-year-old shook loose and had enough left in reserve to score the 1 3/4-length victory over Golddigger's Boy.
"That was perfect," Rosario stated. "I just tried to relax him as much as I could early and hoped nobody put on any pressure, and that's exactly what happened and he had something left turning for home. When [Crossbow] came to me, he kind of waited a little bit. I thought he wanted to go when he came to me, but he took his time. After that when [Pacific Ocean] kept the lead, I thought at that moment that the game was over."
The runner-up had stalked the pace in third throughout, and just got up to take second by one length over Crossbow. That one had just a neck to spare on 4-5 favorite Jackson Bend, who was forced to circle the field heading into the stretch, while Caixa Eletronica and Scotus completed the order under the wire. Zero Rate Policy was withdrawn.
"We couldn't get the trip," trainer Nick Zito said of Jackson Bend. "(Jockey) Rosie (Napravnik) was trying to get inside, but couldn't get there. That's what he wants to do -- run inside. It's frustrating because he was running in the end."
Pacific Ocean paid $14.20, $7.40 an $7.40 as the 6-1 third choice in the six-horse field. The chestnut was making just his second start of the year in this spot, and adds the James Marvin win to a triumph in the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in his 2011 finale last November. Pacific Ocean also placed in the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup Handicap last season, and now boasts an 8-5-1-0, $217,199 career record.
Bred in Kentucky by Swordlestown Stud, Pacific Ocean brought $300,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is out of the unraced Unbridled mare Miss Salsa and counts as a half-brother the English stakes-placed Salsa Star.
Miss Salsa is herself a half-sister to Group 2-placed and listed-winning sire Mutakddim as well as Grade 1 runner-up Smooth Charmer, the dam of Grade 3 winner Sea Chanter. Other half-sisters to Miss Salsa produced Grade 1 winner Frost Giant, South African Group 1 winner Kavanagh, last year's Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap heroine Oregon Lady and this season's Grade 3 Spiral Stakes third Heavy Breathing.
Pacific Ocean's third dam is Grade 1 victress Dance Number, who reared 1989 champion two-year-old Rhythm. Her descendants include Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Grade 1 scorers Girolamo and Bluegrass Cat, among other notable performers. Pacific Ocean's fourth dam is 1971 champion two-year-old filly Numbered Account, who produced noted sire Private Account.