Rockingham Ranch's Nucky emerged from a turbulent beginning of the $300,000, Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity Sept. 2 at Del Mar unscathed, sailing home to win the seven-furlong race for juveniles by 2 ¾ lengths.
Two riders lost their mounts shortly after the start of Monday's race. Just after the break, 1-2 favorite Eight Rings ducked in sharply, throwing Drayden Van Dyke to the ground. Storm the Court, racing along the rail, bumped with Eight Rings and also unseated Flavien Prat. The horses were later caught by outriders.
With the rest of the field unscathed by the incident, it was Garth who found an early opening just off the rail and took command early, ticking off fractions of :21.89 and :44.90 for the half-mile.
Ginobili skimmed the rail to edge Garth as they entered the turn. Out of gas, Garth yielded to the new leader and dropped back allowing Nucky to angle further in on the outside and challenge Ginobili.
Dueling neck-and-neck at the top of the lane, Nucky, ridden by Norberto Arroyo Jr., drifted inward again and bumped briefly with Ginobili. Undeterred by the impact, Nucky dug in and opened up his lead, crossing the wire in 1:25.52.
Never a real threat, Peter Miller-trained stablemate Wrecking Crew got up to take second a by a half-length over Defense Wins in third. A claim of foul was lodged by trainer Richard Baltas following the race, who believed his horse, fourth-place finisher Ginobili, had been interfered with by Nucky in the stretch run. No changes were made to the order of finish following a review by the stewards.
"What a way to end the meet," said Arroyo Jr. "I don't deserve this. But somebody wanted me to have it. I thank the Lord up above. My aim was to track the No. 2 horse (favored Eight Rings). My horse broke good and I was looking for the No. 2. By the four and a half (furlong pole) I couldn't see him (the No. 2) at all and I knew something must have happened. Then I just went to riding my horse. He responded well. I don't know if he was the best horse in the race to start, but he was the best to finish. He responded well at the end."
Sent off at post-time odds of 35-1, Nucky improved his record to 2-1-0 from five starts with earnings of $217,750.
"It was obviously unfortunate," said Miller. "You never want to see any horse or rider go down. My first thoughts are with the horses and the riders. I don't know what happened, but after that, we won clear. I wasn't worried (about the inquiry). They bumped slightly, but the No. 4 (Ginobili) was tiring. To finish 1-2 in the Del Mar Futurity, for me, I mean it's just incredible under any circumstances."
Both Eight Rings and Storm the Court were declared unharmed following an examination by Del Mar veterinarians. Prat walked away from the incident under his own power and returned to win the final race of the day aboard Zee Drop. Van Dyke was escorted to a nearby Scripps Hospital in La Jolla for examination as a precautionary measure.