Sidelined since capturing the January 31 Arcadia (G2) at Santa Anita, Avanzare defied a nearly seven-month layoff in Sunday’s $201,250 Del Mar Mile (G2). And he did so by turning over a new tactical leaf for Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens.

The position of dedicated front runner was left vacant with the scratch of Obviously. As last season progressed, and as he stepped up in class, Avanzare had tended to do his best work on the front end. But drawn out wide in post 10 here, Stevens elected to take back. In an even cleverer move, he contrived to position Avanzare to the inside of the late-running Talco, who actually left the gate from post 2. It’s as though Stevens had reversed their post positions. Talco’s ground loss may have been decisive, for he ended up losing by a half-length — much less than the 22 extra feet he covered, according to Trakus.

Meanwhile, stretch-out sprinter Marchman led the way through moderate fractions of :23.38, :47.77 and 1:11.52 on the firm turf. Bal a Bali, the 3-2 favorite, was within striking range on the rail, but the lack of serious pace meant that the field was bunched up. The Brazilian celebrity was well and truly trapped down the stretch, as Avanzare and the wide-traveling Talco launched their bids.

Avanzare moved a trifle quicker, aided by not having to cover as much territory as Talco, and he never relinquished that tactical edge. A testament to the artful training of Tom Proctor, no less than Stevens’ ride, Lanni and Youngblood’s colorbearer crossed the wire in 1:35.22.

Bal a Bali finally found room late, but didn’t accelerate enough and checked in fifth, in a blanket finish with third-placer Di Giorgio and fourth Kulik Lodge (Proctor’s other runner, who was also on hold in traffic). Bal a Bali moved ahead after it was academic, on the gallop-out. He would have been closer with clear sailing. Still, considering that he won over as far as 1 1/2 miles on heavy ground in his homeland, perhaps Bal a Bali could use a step up in trip as well.

Avanzare remains a lightly raced five-year-old with a record of 13-7-3-2. Proctor was confident going into this assignment, a sense that Stevens shared after guiding Avanzare in a recent work at Del Mar, and there’s likely more to come.

Sadly, the book has closed on the talented Pure Tactics, who was pulled up approaching the far turn. The chart notes that he was vanned off, and the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s Ed Zieralski reported that Pure Tactics was euthanized. The Doug O’Neill trainee was a five-time stakes winner, most recently in the July 22 Wickerr at this course and distance. RIP.

Benoit Photos: (top left) Avanzare holds Talco at bay; (above right) Pure Tactics after his Wickerr triumph.