CRK Stable LLC's EXPRESS TRAIN turned in a gutsy performance Saturday afternoon, fighting off all challengers to his inside, outside, as well as those who surged late, holding on to his lead and crossing the line first to win the $250K San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar.
Sent off odds of $2.90-to-win, and ridden by jockey Juan Hernandez, EXPRESS TRAIN broke beautifully and rushed to the front, joined by RUSHIE to set early fractions of 22.97 and 47.16.
Through the backstretch, EXPRESS TRAIN raced on the two-path, to the outside of RUSHIE, while MO MOSA raced furthest of them all, on the three path to their outside.
"He broke real sharp today and that was the key," said Juan Hernandez. "I stayed aggressive with him; he likes it and runs well when you do. We had a good spot until the quarter pole and then I really got after him. He was responding well and then those other horse came up on him and he dug in again. He's a tough one."
Turning for home, EXPRESS TRAIN stuck a neck out in front of RUSHIE, but was immediately joined by MO MOSA to their outside. EXPRESS TRAIN shook clear of both foes, but it wasn't over. He now had 8-5 favorite ROYAL SHIP to contend with, who was racing up the rail. And TRIPOLI too, who commenced his rally from the back of the pack.
In the final eighth of a mile, the resolute EXPRESS TRAIN put his game face on. He dug deep and repelled both TRIPOLI's final surge and ROYAL SHIP's inside bid, securing the victory by half a length. TRIPOLI would have to settle for second, ROYAL SHIP stayed on for third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth on dirt was 1:43.37.
EXPRESS TRAIN paid $7.80 to win, $4.60 to place, and $2.80 to show. He is by UNION RAGS out of I'M A FLAKE by MINESHAFT. He's now won 3 of 4 tries at Del Mar, pushed his earnings to $659,300, and earned his second Grade 2 victory.
"I thought he was in a good spot the whole way, right off Rushie and then when he was asked in the stretch he responded well," said winning trainer John Shirreffs. "The Pacific Classic, that would be the goal if everything works out."
Source: Equibase, DMTC