08/06/2017 7:54PM

Continental Divide wins Graduation with sweeping move

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Benoit & Associates
Continental Divide wins the Graduation at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Continental Divide rallied widest of all to win the first race of his career in Saturday’s $101,035 Graduation Stakes for California-bred 2-year-old sprinters at Del Mar, a distance well short of what trainer Jim Cassidy hopes will be his ideal trip.

The style of the win left Cassidy impressed that a colt by Animal Kingdom, who won both the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup at 1 1-4 miles earlier this decade, could be effective at 5 1-2 furlongs on dirt.

“He wants to go farther,” Cassidy said. “For him to go 5 1-2, you try him out of his element and he still wins.”

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Continental Divide ($9.20) was timed in 1:05.27, and finished three-quarters of a length in front of 3-1 Smokem. Drizzy, the 3-1 favorite, closed from last of nine to finish third, 3 1-2 lengths behind the winner.

Espinoza said he was confident Continental Divide could handle a wide trip in which he was outside of six rivals on the backstretch and three horses on the turn.

“That was a nice move, a really nice move,” Espinoza said. “He can do that. He’s talented.”

Cono finished fourth, followed by Schulace, Get Em Up Scout, Utah Ute, Bookies Luck and Hit the Seam.

Cassidy said Continental Divide may not race again at the current Del Mar meeting, which runs through Sept. 4.

“This was a nice race itself,” Cassidy said. “He needs a little more weight.”

Cassidy said the original plan was to start Continental Divide in a maiden race for California-bred 2-year-olds on Sunday, but feared the colt would not draw into the main body of the field. Continental Divide was supplemented to the Graduation for $1,500 when entries were taken on Thursday.

Owned by Deron Pearson, Continental Divide was purchased for $245,000 at the Barretts May Sale of 2-year-olds in-training at Del Mar, the most expensive hip of the sale.

Continental Divide was a game second to Smokem in a maiden race for California-breds on July 21. From two starts, Continental Divide has earned $69,000.