Perfectly placed by jockey Flavien Prat in fourth as longshot Mr. Roary showed the field of 13 through the early stages of the 1 3/8-mile turf contest, Hunt tracked slow quarter-mile fractions of :24.40, :49.40, 1:14.88, and 1:39.09 for a mile before he darted between horses in upper stretch to take command.
“The slow pace helped us; he liked that, coming from the shorter race,” Prat said. “We were close up, too. He likes to be among horses; covered up. I followed Gary [Stevens on co-second choice Ashleyluvssugar] through the hole [at the top of the stretch], then dropped down. He had it from there.”
“It was a masterful ride,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “Flavien just bided his time, let the race develop a little, found a seam on the inside, and turned him loose. He got it done.”
Hunt was all-out to resist the late challenge of 5-2 favorite Itsinthepost and jockey Tyler Baze by three-quarters of a length, while 18-1 longshot Flamboyant finished third, a head back.
“He was way the best horse; way the best,” Baze said of Itsinthepost’s narrow loss. “I had to wait, wait, wait on the turn. If I could have gotten him out, we would have come running.”
The Del Mar Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, and the victory guaranteed 5-year-old Hunt an automatic berth in the Nov. 4 race at Del Mar.
Hunt finished the Del Mar Handicap distance in 2:14.93 and returned $8.80, $4.60, and $3.60 across the board.