BEST PAL STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 6 1/2 FURLONGS
Trainer Mike Puype celebrated his 47th birthday with a victory by favored Alberts Hope in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes for 2-year-olds Aug. 4 at Del Mar.
It was the second win on the program for the Phoenix, Ariz. native, who saddled the the unbeaten son of Run Away and Hide for Jaam Racing. Puype also won the first race with Blues and Silvers.
Jockey Alonso Quinonez snapped an 0-for-31 streak at the Del Mar meet as he guided Alberts Hope to a half-length victory over a game Celtic Moon in a time of 1:16.71 for 6 ½ furlongs on Polytrack. Guns Loaded finished third in the field of six juveniles.
The fast-improving Alberts Hope is 2-for-2 after tallying in his debut at odds of 33-1 over maiden special weight rivals at five furlongs July 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park. He won his Cushion Track bow by three-quarters of a length.
Bred in Kentucky by R. Kirk, J. Bates, G. McDonald, M. Riordan, and S. Whisenant, Alberts Hope was originally sold for $20,000 at the 2011 Keeneland November sale to Keith Dickey by consignor Denali Stud. He then brought $40,000 at Barretts fall yearling sale last October when sold through consignor Pelican State Thoroughbreds.
The Best Pal is a major prep for the Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on closing day Sept. 4.
"I was kind of surprised by his first time out [win] because I had never really pushed on this horse," said Puype, best known for his training of the outstanding fillies Turbulent Descent and Mizdirection.
"I think there's a little bit more even than you've seen today," Puype added. "Obviously the next step is on to the Futurity. We'll give it a shot and see if he's good enough. He doesn't owe anyone anything after this win [considering] what we paid for him."
Sent off the 5-2 choice, Alberts Hope went four paths wide for Quinonez leaving the turn as Celtic Moon squeezed through an extremely tight opening at the rail to challenge pacesetter Alpine Luck for the lead. Alberts Hope appeared to be in command approaching mid-stretch but Celtic Moon, with urging from jockey Edwin Maldonado fought back to get his head in front. Alberts Hope lengthened stride in the final yards and inched clear before the wire.
Quinonez said Alberts Hope was always traveling well.
"On the turn I had thoughts of dropping down on the inside, but I saw how tight things were down there so I gave up the ground and went wide," he said. "It worked for the best. When [Celtic Moon] came to him, he fired again. Maybe even bigger and better for him next time."
It was 2 ¼ lengths back to Guns Loaded, the 3-1 second choice ridden by Joe Talamo.
Alpine Luck, winner of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship in his most recent start, went directly to the front over Guns Loaded and spit out swift early fractions of :22.46 and :45.60 and fought between horses into the stretch before yielding.
A bay gelding, Alberts Hope is out of the unraced Saint Ballado mare Accepting Fate. The 10-year-old dam has had two winners from three starters.
Alberts Hall, who earned $90,000 for the victory, paid $7, $4.80, and $3.40. He topped an $81.40 exacta with Celtic Moon, who was moving from the turf following a maiden victory last month for trainer Peter Miller. The Florida-bred ridgling son of Denis of Cork returned $9 and $4 as the longest shot on the board. Guns Loaded, who won his maiden debut at Del Mar July 20 for trainer Cody Autrey, paid $3.20. He was the only starter in the field with a race over the track.
Ontology finished fourth after a poor start from the rail, followed by Alpine Luck, and Skydreamin.