Ashleyluvssugar hangs on, but Metaboss is the story from Del Mar ‘Cap

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August 21st, 2016

Alesia, Bran Jam Stables, and Ciaglia Racing’s homebred Ashleyluvssugar stole Saturday’s $252,415 Del Mar H. (G2) under a crafty ride by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Although the Grade 2 laurel, $150,000 winner’s share, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) perks for the “Win and You’re In” race are all his, it was near-miss runner-up Metaboss who emerges as the big takeaway.

Ashleyluvssugar, the 5-2 favorite, had everything his own way – a stroll in the park through slow fractions on the firm turf. Metaboss, in contrast, was in a hopeless position when about 17 lengths (!) behind at the six-furlong split in 1:14.58. Stone-cold last rounding the final turn, Metaboss spun out widest of all in what had to be a forlorn hope of catching the front runner.

But no one explained all of that to Metaboss, who exploded down the stretch. His legs scurrying so fast as to call to mind cartoon characters, Metaboss turned in an improbable rally to make up almost seven lengths inside the final furlong. A few strides from the wire, Ashleyluvssugar still looked safe, but that illusion dissipated with every jump from “Mighty-boss.”

Ashleyluvssugar and Metaboss crossed the wire virtually in unison, although the leader likely never saw the furious closer streaking so far out on the course. The angle also made it difficult for observers to detect who won. Track announcer Trevor Denman, formerly confident that Ashleyluvssugar had it sewn up, had to inject a note of uncertainty as they flashed by together.

The photo-finish revealed that Ashleyluvssugar held on by a whisker in a final time of 2:16.11 for 1 3/8 miles, but Metaboss gained in stature. According to Trakus, Metaboss covered his last three-eighths in :34.71, almost two seconds faster than the winner (:36.62), while recording an average speed of 39.4 mph for that segment. His peak speed of 40.8 miles/hour likewise exceeded Ashleyluvssugar’s 38.8 mph.

Metaboss had stamped himself one to follow with his victory in the 2015 El Camino Real Derby (G3), only to be sidelined following his disappointing sixth in the Spiral (G3) for Jeff Bonde. Transferred to Michael Dickinson, he mounted a comeback in Maryland this spring, but failed to win in three starts. Metaboss decamped to Phil D’Amato in Southern California, and promptly bounced back with a smart allowance score at Del Mar July 23. The Del Mar ‘Cap marked his second start for the barn, and his first beyond nine furlongs. As a lightly raced four-year-old, Metaboss has much more to offer.

Ashleyluvssugar doesn’t have that many miles on the clock himself, as a five-year-old with a lifetime mark of 16-7-2-3, $727,504. Improving throughout the first half of 2015 for trainer Peter Eurton, the California-bred captured the San Luis Rey (G2) and Charles Whittingham (G2). Ashleyluvssugar’s form didn’t translate to the East Coast, where he tired to sixth after chasing the pacemaker in the United Nations (G1). But back home, he returned to finish a more characteristic second in last summer’s Del Mar ‘Cap.

Not seen again until this summer, Ashleyluvssugar resurfaced with an excellent third in the June 11 Crystal Water over an inadequate mile at Santa Anita. The gelded son of Game Plan moved forward in the July 17 Eddie Read (G2) at nine furlongs, looming boldly before missing by a half-length to Midnight Storm. The Del Mar ‘Cap was his third start off the layoff, and he peaked to go one better than a year ago.

Of the rest, Texas Ryano ran fairly evenly in third, but deserves credit considering Trakus reports he covered 62 extra feet along the way. El Huerfano, who held the early lead before being passed by Ashleyluvssugar after a sauntering quarter in :25.27, held fourth. Finnegans Wake continues to race as though he’s lost a step in sixth.

Flamboyant ran well below his best in eighth. His wide trip (52 extra feet) didn’t help, but this was nonetheless a substantial regression off his prior form. Perhaps a cut back in trip would suit. Conversely, marathoner Quick Casablanca, who dead-heated for 10th with Patentar, would appreciate a longer distance.