Soul Driver, a 4 1/2-length winner of the Singletary S. at Santa Anita last out on June 20, ran down pacesetter Forest Blue to take Thursday’s opening day feature at Del Mar, the Oceanside S.
Papacoolpapacool, the 6-5 favorite, finished off-the-board in fifth.
With jockey Mike Smith aboard, Soul Driver ran a mile on the firm turf in 1:35.86 while just getting his head in front on the wire. The duo had bided their time in the back of the pack as Forest Blue set a moderate pace up front in :27.22, :47.95 and 1:12.19.
Papacoolpapacool settled slightly in front and to the outside of Soul Driver, and those two had only one horse beat on the backstretch. They slowly made their way through the field, with Soul Driver having to take up entering the first turn when confronted with a wall of horses.
Instead of trying to angle Soul Driver out, Smith maintained an inside track and, when the field opened up heading into the stretch, sent his mount between rivals. As Soul Driver split foes, Papacoolpapacool found himself widest of all rounding the turn.
Soul Driver set his sights on Forest Blue and gunned it to overhaul the leader by a quarter-length on the wire for trainer Jeff Mullins. He was the 5-2 second choice when the gates opened.
Jockey Gary Stevens, who piloted Soul Driver in the Singletary last out but chose Papacoolpapacool in this spot, didn’t appear to persevere with the favorite once it was obvious he was beat.
Soul Driver came five wide into the stretch before drawing off over the same distance last out in the Singletary. That was just the second win for the chestnut colt, who broke his maiden second out at Santa Anita last October.
The Kentucky-bred placed in a pair of stakes contests over the winter, including the California Derby on Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic Tapeta, and was third in the Pasadena S. on March 21 prior to his Singletary victory.
Forest Blue easily outran his odds of 8-1 in the Oceanside. The Peter Miller pupil was trying turf for the first time after taking his maiden debut and then placing in the Lazaro Barrera S. (G3) and an allowance/optional claimer.
It was tight between third and fourth, with British-bred Royal Albert Hall, who ran fourth in the Singletary last out, getting the show spot over stakes and grass debuter Tried and True.
Soul Driver photos courtesy of Benoit Photos