09/01/2013 7:39PM

Del Mar: Gabriel Charles answers distance question in Del Mar Derby

Benoit & Associates
Gabriel Charles and jockey Mike Smith scored by 1 1/4 lengths in Sunday's first division of the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Gabriel Charles answered a nearly year-old question with his win in the $251,250 first division of the Del Mar Derby on Sunday: He most certainly is capable of winning top races around two turns.

With only a sprint stakes win on turf to his credit, Gabriel Charles won for the first time beyond 6 1/2 furlongs in the first division of the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, closing from eighth in a field of 10 to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Gervinho.

Trainer Jeff Mullins described the win as “gratifying.”

“We didn’t know if he would be a solid sprinter or if he could go two turns,” Mullins said.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Gabriel Charles ($5.80) ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.94. Smith gave Gabriel Charles a patient ride, stalking the pace to the turn before swinging the colt to the outside in early stretch. Gabriel Charles rallied four wide to take the lead in the final furlong.

“He looked like he made two or three different moves, but he was doing it comfortably,” Mullins said.

Gervinho, the winner of a division of the Oceanside Stakes on July 17, finished a head in front of pacesetter Redwood Kitten. Procurement was fourth, followed by Outside Nashville, Pure Loyalty, Chief Havoc, Saw Ow, Rising Legend, and Si Sage.

Rising Legend was unlucky. Jockey Julien Leparoux said his saddle slipped during the race.

The Del Mar Derby was the second start of the meeting for Gabriel Charles. In the second division of the Oceanside Stakes on turf July 17, Gabriel Charles ran without blinkers for the first time. Instead of racing as a stalker, as he had done in the past, Gabriel Charles closed from farther back and rallied well to finish second, a head behind Rising Legend.

The close finish in the Oceanside gave Mullins enough confidence to point Gabriel Charles to the Del Mar Derby.

“We figured out something, and it worked,” Mullins said.

Owned by Michael House and Sam Britt, Gabriel Charles, a colt by Street Hero, has won 3 of 7 starts and $289,800. At 2, Gabriel Charles won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint Preview on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita and was second in the Eddie Logan Stakes over a mile.