07/26/2017 9:32PM

Curlin Road scores first stakes win in Cougar II Handicap

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Benoit & Associates
Curlin Road (outside) edged favored Hard Aces by a nose in Wednesday's Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Curlin Road, claimed for $40,000 in April, won his first stakes in Wednesday’s Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on dirt at Del Mar.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Curlin Road ($21.40) closed from fifth in a field of seven to finish a nose in front of 6-5 favorite Hard Aces. The outcome was not confirmed until the stewards conducted a review of the race after Santiago Gonzalez, who rode Hard Aces, lodged a claim of foul against the winner alleging interference in the stretch.

The two runners did make contact, but the stewards disallowed the claim.

“It was two or three bumps, but I think it was him coming out more than I did,” Prat said.

Prat gave Curlin Road a patient ride, keeping the 4-year-old gelding well behind pacesetter Infobedad. Curlin Road was positioned on the rail until the turn when Prat moved his mount to the outside to engaged Hard Aces, who took the lead on the turn.

“As soon as I got clear, he made a nice move,” Prat said.

There was little separating the two in the final furlong. Hard Aces, who won the 2016 Cougar II Handicap, finished 6 1/2 lengths clear of 19-1 Noble Nick, a shipper from Northern California.

Infobedad was fourth, followed by French Getaway, Big John B and Giant Influence.

Curlin Road earned $60,000 of the $100,690 purse. Curlin Road has won 4 of 24 starts and earned $231,750 in his career. He has earned $100,440 since being claimed.

Curlin Road races for the partnership of R3 Racing, Calara Farms and ERJ Racing and is trained by Doug O’Neill. By Curlin, Curlin Road has won two of four starts since being claimed. He was third and fourth in optional claimers on turf at Santa Anita in May and June before winning an optional claimer on dirt at Los Alamitos on July 16.