CRK Stable’s Express Train stayed close early, then fired strongly late to capture the 80th running of the $250,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) on July 17 at Del Mar in 1:43.37 for the 1 1/16-miles distance on the main track.
Juan Hernandez positioned the 4-year-old Union Rags colt just off the leader until the quarter pole, then urged him to the front and got him to hold well late for a half-length tally. The $500,000 yearling purchase is conditioned by John Shirreffs.
“He broke real sharp today and that was the key,” Hernandez said. “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.”
Finishing second in the race was Hronis Racing’s Tripoli, who had three-quarters of a length on race favorite Royal Ship (BRZ), owned by Fox Hill Farms or Siena Farm.
Express Train, who was winning for the fourth time in 12 starts, earned $150,000 for his victory and pushed his career bankroll to $659,300.
The San Diego is considered one of the key prep races for Del Mar’s foremost offering – the Grade 1, $750,000 TVG Pacific Classic which will be run at a mile and a quarter on August 21. Shirreffs indicated following the race that that race would be the next target for Express Train.
“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,” Shirreffs said. “The Pacific Classic, that would be the goal if everything works out.”