08/31/2003 11:00PM

Del Mar: Irish Warrior wins first stakes

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DEL MAR, Calif. - More distance, an easier cast of opponents and an impressive stretch rally gave Irish Warrior his first stakes win in the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap.

After chasing Special Ring and Candy Ride in recent starts, Irish Warrior scored an impressive win in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, rallying from seventh to run down a stubborn Continental Red.

Irish Warrior ($8.20) finished 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.28, scoring by a head in the longest race of his career.

"We've been in tough the last two," trainer Wally Dollase said. "He showed quite a bit of class. I thought a mile and three-eighths would be the answer."

Ridden by Alex Solis, Irish Warrior was at the back of the nine-horse field for the first mile. With a wide rally, Irish Warrior reached contention in early stretch. Continental Red, third for much of the race behind pacesetters Mister Acpen and Bonus Pack, took the lead in early stretch but was quickly challenged by Irish Warrior. The two dueled to the finish before Irish Warrior scored narrowly. Irish Warrior has won 6 of 19 starts and $465,500.

Continuously, an 11-1 shot, finished third, with Mister Acpen, the 5-2 favorite, sixth.