08/20/2016 9:26PM

Ashleyluvssugar barely holds off Metaboss in Del Mar Handicap


DEL MAR, Calif.- By the slimmest of margins, Ashleyluvssugar is bound for the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.

Ashleyluvssugar won Saturday’s $252,415 Del Mar Handicap by a nose over a fast-closing Metaboss. The win gave Ashleyluvssugar a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf through the Breeders’ Cup’s Win and You’re In program.

Sent off favored, Ashleyluvssugar ($7) was fully extended to win the Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf after leading by as many as six lengths midway through the race.

Ashleyluvssugar raced behind the longshot El Huerfano for the opening quarter-mile before taking the lead. Jockey Gary Stevens quickly had Ashleyluvssugar in the clear through a half-mile in 49.62, and six furlongs in 1:14.58. The tactics were not what Stevens intended.

“There was no speed,” he said. “I didn’t want to be on the lead.”

With three furlongs to go, Ashleyluvssugar led by five lengths, a margin reduced to two lengths with a furlong to go. Metaboss, who was last of 12 with three furlongs to go, closed furiously to give the winner a scare.

It took three minutes to determine the result, so close were the first two finishers. Ashleyluvssugar raced on the inside through the stretch, while Metaboss raced in about the No. 5 path. The margin between the two horses across the track made it difficult for Stevens to assess the result at the wire, and for Ashleyluvssugar to fight back against his rival in the final strides, he said.

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“He never saw him,” Stevens said. “I was trying to stay busy on him.”

Ashleyluvssugar was timed in 2:16.11.

Ashleyluvssugar, a California-bred by Game Plan, races for Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable, and Joe Ciaglia and is trained by Peter Eurton.

The victory was the first win for Ashleyluvssugar since the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita in May 2015. Ashleyluvssugar was turned out last summer because of body soreness. The Del Mar Handicap was his third start of 2016.

Ashleyluvssugar has won 7 of 16 starts and earned $727,504.