With a sustained moved in the final three furlongs, Street Hero's 3-year-old colt Gabriel Charles rolled to a length and quarter win in Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2), giving the WinStar stallion his first North American graded stakes winner and third stakes winner of 2013.
Gabriel Charles came into Sunday's race off an unlucky second in Del Mar's opening day Oceanside S. on July 17, when he came flying from far back to just miss.
Mike Smith, who was aboard in the Oceanside, was determined not to get in a similar trap in the 1 1/8-mile Derby on the Del Mar turf. Sent off the 9-5 favorite in the field of 10, Smith kept Gabriel Charles in the clear for the first six furlongs, running along in seventh while well off the rail.
Smith gave the bay colt his cue on the final turn, coming some five wide into the stretch to roll to the front by the time he arrived at the eighth pole. With the whip put away, Gabriel Charles responded to Smith's hand ride to draw away in the end. The final time on the firm turf was 1:46.94.
“Jeff (trainer Jeff Mullins) and his crew have done a wonderful job turning this colt around,” said Smith. “They took the blinkers off and got him to settle. He’s always had a nice turn of foot, but he used to fire it early. Now they’ve got him waiting and firing at the end. I had a good trip today and it all worked out right. When we came through the lane, I just waved the stick at him. The other day (in the Oceanside) when I hit him, the first time he responded. But then the next time he just got mad. So I let him do his own thing today.”
“Mike made about two or three moves in there, but he said he was doing it comfortably and that made his job easy, “said Mullins. “It’s gratifying to know he’ll go two turns. I don’t know if it was by design the way Mike rode him last time, but he figured out something about him and it sure worked."
Owned by Michael House and Sam Britt, Gabriel Charles is now 3-2-0 in seven starts. His previous stakes win came in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint Preview.
House was the winning bidder for Gabriel Charles 2012 OBS Spring 2-year-old auction in April, going to $160,000 for the Kentucky-bred colt out of the stakes-placed mare Star of Atticus.