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Del Mar: Rail Trip shows old form in San Diego Handicap victory
By Jay Privman
DEL MAR, Calif. – Rail Trip may only have been the fifth choice in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Diego Handicap, but there could not have been a more popular winner on the card at Del Mar on Saturday, because his victory culminated a tumultuous, 24-month odyssey and left his connections positively beaming.
Taken away from trainer Ron Ellis following the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup, Rail Trip returned to Ellis late last year and returned to his best form Saturday at the ripe old age of 7. After volleying for the lead with John Scott through soft early fractions, Rail Trip outdueled John Scott down the stretch to win by a half-length, with Kettle Corn another half-length back in third, a head in front of the late-running Take Control, whose kick was compromised by the pace.
Mobilized, Prayer for Relief, and Tres Borrachos completed the finish, in that order.
Rail Trip ($11.20), ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., completed 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack in 1:43.14, but the final time was impacted by the dawdling pace of 1:14.14 for the first six furlongs.
The win earned Rail Trip a fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile through the Win and You’re In program, and it likely will mean he gets a chance in next month’s Pacific Classic, a race in which he finished third in 2009 when just a mere pup of 4.
“It was great, awesome,” Ellis, smiling widely, said in the winner’s circle.
Rail Trip is now owned solely by Samantha Siegel following the death last year of her father, Mace, whose decision it was to remove Rail Trip from Ellis’s care.
“It was funny circumstances, but that’s a couple of years in the past, and we’re glad to have him back,” Ellis said. “When Samantha called me in December to say he was coming back, that was an awesome Christmas present.”
A gelding, Rail Trip has now won nine times in 20 starts. The San Diego ended an eight-race losing streak that began with the 2010 Gold Cup. The San Diego had been Ellis’s target for months. It was Rail Trip’s third race for Ellis this time around, following a pair of races at Betfair Hollywood Park.
“We knew as a 7-year-old he’d probably take a little time, so we thought it was realistic targeting this race,” Ellis said.
“Ron’s done a great job,” an emotional Siegel said in the winner’s circle. “It’s wonderful to have him back.”
Siegel said she was going to buy Rail Trip a bag of peppermints Saturday night and Sunday morning would feed him “till he doesn’t want any more.”
Congrats to Rail Trip and Ellis. Taking Control got a questionable ride imo under those very slow fractions.
This was fantastic to see--Rail Trip was so proud of himself when he won. What a fantastic training job by Ron Ellis. Remember how sad and lost RT looked in NY?
Samantha Siegel was an idiot to take this horse from Ellis and give him the Dick Dutrow in the first place. She will never be what her father was in the horse business and I have had dealings with her personally - trust me she is lost with out the "Big Brain" her father. Ron Ellis was a class act about it all when it happened and did what smart trainers do - just take the high road, which Ellis did and now for that he has been justly reward. Ron is a much improved trainer as the years have gone bye and now is a force to be reckoned with. Good training job Ron!! and Samantha let the people that know what they are doing - do their job with out putting in your totally useless "two cents" in!!
Wasn't the best quality race, but definitely good to see Rail Trip back winning a grade 2. I saw him in person in his first race back, the Triple Bend, and thought he looked and ran fantastic, all things considered. Ellis was immediately thinking San Diego Cap' after that, and his plan worked perfectly. It's easy to forget that in July of 2010 Rail Trip was described by Jerry Moss as the mountain it was too early to ask Zenyatta to climb(when questioned about running the big girl in the Hollywood Gold Cup). Rail Trip was a huge favorite to join Native Diver and Lava Man as the only repeat Gold Cup winners, and Hollywood Park even passed out Rail Trip posters on Gold Cup day. Rail Trip's performance in the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup was undoubtedly a huge disappointment. But, in retrospect, the owners(I guess Mace Siegel) overreacted. Yes, Ron Ellis got a little too focused on getting Rail Trip to relax early in races and come with one run, in effect denying the horse one of his main weapons, his tactical speed. Then, Raffy Bejarano gave him an unmitigated disaster of a ride, allowing the horse to drop back to last behind 6 furlongs in 1:15. Rail Trip came with a wide run and hit the lead in midstretch, but the effort left him vulnerable to Awesome Gem's late surge on, ironically, the rail. At that point, Team Rail Trip was blown up and the horse was sent East. It should be fairly clear now that Rail Trip is a synth specialist. He ran well on Santa Anita's old synth surface, and has run well on Hollywood's Cushion and Del Mar's Poly. I guess one could claim he didn't run well back East because he didn't like the climate or surroundings, but personally I believe he just doesn't run as well on dirt. Specifically, I don't think he likes the quicker paces produced on dirt surfaces; it takes much less speed to be positioned near the front on synth than on dirt. Yesterday, Richard's Kid, a star of the SoCal handicap circuit in 2010, returns from 1.5 years in the wilderness in Dubai and wins the grade 3 Cougar. Today, Rail Trip comes full circle after nearly 2 years in the wilderness of New York to win a grade 2. Those 2 are part of a handicap division in California dominated by old boot veterans like Acclamation and Game on Dude.
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