06/09/2012 6:39PM

Arlington: Nikki's Sandcastle finds way to win Sea O Erin

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Nikkis's Sandcastle, with Diego Sannchez riding, wins the Sea O Erin.

Nikki's Sandcastle made five starts during the Gulfstream Park meeting this winter and spring and had tough trips in four of them.

"And I thought it was happening again," trainer Dave Kassen said after the $66,800 Sea O Erin Stakes on Saturday at Arlington.

Instead, Nikki's Sandcastle and jockey Diego Sanchez found a tiny gap at the rail through which a decisive stretch kick might be launched. Squeezing through it, the pair went on to win the Sea O Erin by 1 1/4 lengths over favored Mr. Vegas. Middie finished a neck behind the runner-up in third, while Lil Bit O'Fun was another head back in fourth. The other three - Taptowne, Quite a Handful, and Macho Bull - made no late impact.

Macho Bull, though, did contribute to Nikki's Sandcastle's temporary predicament. As Mr. Vegas set fractions of 24.58 seconds and 49.15 for the first quarter- and half-miles, Nikki's Sandcastle raced third, drafting along in the pocket. Sanchez appeared to have plenty of horse under him turning for home, but with Lil Bit O'Fun blocking an outside move, he had nowhere to use it. Mr. Vegas, fully exerting, finally drifted slightly off the fence in midstretch, and there went Nikki's Sandcastle, bustling through.

Winning time for 1 1/16 miles over firm turf was 1:43.38. Nikki's Sandcastle, the second betting choice, paid $8 to win. A 5-year-old Castledale gelding bred and owned by Richard Sherman, Nikki's Sandcastle is no star, but he's a solid turf miler who tries hard and seems especially fond of Arlington: His victory Saturday gave him three wins from as many starts on the course.