Updated on 09/16/2011 8:10AM

Congaree best at Del Mar

Congaree wins the $250,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap on Monday.

DEL MAR, Calif. - A change of blinkers, jockeys, and distance proved a winning combination for Congaree, who made a triumphant return to the winner's circle following Monday's $250,000 .

Congaree had not raced at a distance as short as a flat mile since his maiden victory in February 2001. He was ridden in the Grade 2 race for the first time by Mike Smith, who is increasingly becoming entrenched with trainer Bob Baffert. And Baffert removed the blinkers that Congaree had worn in his most-recent start, when he faded to third after setting a hot pace in the San Diego Handicap.

On Monday, Congaree again set out for the lead, but he was hounded early by Prodigious and Pie N Burger. Congaree set swift fractions of 22.08 seconds, :45.42, and 1:10.25 for the first six furlongs.

Kela, who dropped far back early, rallied wide on the turn to loom a threat, with Reba's Gold and Euchre also in hot pursuit. But Congaree staved off all challengers and won by one length over Kela. Reba's Gold was a head farther back in third, a neck in front of Euchre.

Congaree ($4.80) was timed in 1:36.34 on the fast main track.

Congaree has now won six times in 12 starts, but the 4-year-old son of Arazi will embark on a new career beginning next month, according to John Adger, the general manager of Bob and Janice McNair's Stonerside Farm, which owns Congaree. Because he seems most effective at a mile, and because the only Breeders' Cup race at that distance is on turf, Congaree will switch to the grass for his next start, the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 5 at Santa Anita.