Prospect Park, whose path to the Kentucky Derby was compromised by a series of mishaps this spring, put the past and eight rivals behind him Sunday with an impressive performance in the featured Grade III $150,000 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar.
Prospect Park was developed at Mickey Preger Jr.’s Stables on the grounds of the Camden Training Center.
With Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux patiently biding his time in a prominent close-up position on the outside, Prospect Park swept by the pacemaking 7-5 favorite, Om, turning into the stretch and continued on powerfully to score by four and one-quarter lengths in 1:41.54 for the mile and one-sixteenth over Del Mar’s infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course. He accomplished his final sixteenth of a mile in less than six seconds.
“Finally, this horse did what we knew he could do,” Desormeaux said after his winning ride. “We’ve been so high on him, right from the first time I got on him. We knew he was special. But he’s had so many things go wrong. He’s had trouble in his races, he’s gotten sick, he’s had issues ... it goes on. But today he did it.
“He’s a good one. As good as American Pharoah , maybe. I think he is.”
Considered a leading Derby contender on the West Coast early in the year, Prospect Park was sidelined with a virus after finishing fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in early April, causing the colt to miss the Kentucky Derby and other Triple Crown races. He returned to competition in June and was runner-up to Gimme Da Lute in the Affirmed and then was nosed out by the same rival in the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4. Sunday marked his debut on grass.
Prospect Park, a son of Tapit trained by Cliff Sise, earned $90,000 with his third win in 10 starts and now has a career money total of $396,570. The La Jolla was his initial stakes success.
Choral Society hits high note at the Spa: With an explosive move down Saratoga Race Course’s stretch, Choral Society seized the lead and drew away to a stunning 16.20-to-1 upset in last Thursday’s $125,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Martini Brother, who like Choral Society tarried at the back of the six-horse field into the stretch the final time, closed ground to finish second, and prohibitive 1-to-2 favorite Demonstrative finished third.
Bob Le Beau finished fourth, and early pacesetter Divine Fortune was fifth, a neck ahead of Diplomat, who led at the final fence. In all, 4 1/4 lengths separated the entire field.
Ridden by current leading jockey Paddy Young, Choral Society went off as the second-to-longest price in the top-rated Smithwick Memorial and paid $34.40 to win after running the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:51.77 on a firm inner turf course.
Choral Society scored his first victory for leading trainer Jack Fisher, who took over his management after the 2014 season, in which the now six-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Holy Bull scored two victories.
Choral Society then trained by Cyril Murphy, had one of his victories against Fisher in a Parx race in July 2014 by two lengths.
As expected, Divine Fortune jumped out to the early lead in the Smithwick and held a four-length lead turning into the backstretch the first time, with Daybreak Stables’ Diplomat following his pace in second while Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s reigning Eclipse Award winner Demonstrative was third in company with Bob Le Beau.
Divine Fortune, the 2013 Eclipse champion, led past the next-to-last fence under 2014 champion jockey and Camden’s Willie McCarthy. As he began to tire, 2015 Carolina Cup winner Diplomat spurted away to a multi-length lead under Camden’s Bernie Dalton. Robbie Walsh asked Demonstrative for his run after the next to last but did not receive the champion’s usual sharp response. Young, the four-time champion jockey well known for taking the shortest path around the race course, rallied Choral Society along the inside and nearly was on even terms with Demonstrative as they jumped the last fence.
Choral Society quickly powered past a tiring Diplomat and opened a clear advantage to the finish line. Martini Brother made a sharp move under Darren Nagle to collect second money.