08/20/2011 9:21PM

Del Mar: Saez learns quickly guiding Summer Soiree to Del Mar Oaks victory


DEL MAR, Calif. - It was hardly beginner’s luck that jockey Gabriel Saez rode Summer Soiree to a thrilling win in Saturday’s $250,000 Del Mar Oaks. A little inside information helped, too.

Riding at Del Mar for the first time, Saez, based at Delaware Park, where he is the third leading rider, gained a few tips for riding the Del Mar turf course from jockey room friends Mike Smith and Patrick Valenzuela and used the information to his advantage.

Saez stalked pacesetter Dynamo for the first six furlongs, sent Summer Soiree to the lead by many as six lengths in early stretch, and held on to win by a half-length over Star Billing. Nereid finished third, a nose behind Star Billing in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies.

When Valenzuela and Smith, who finished fifth on Celestial Kitten and ninth on Singapore Lilly, spoke with Saez, they told him about the relatively sharp turns on the turf course.

 “They said the turf course is a little tricky,” Saez said.

“It worked perfect,” Saez said. “Someone went and I stalked the pace. She really handled the grass. I was trying to get away and steal a move on them.”

The move almost backfired. While it looked as if Summer Soiree would win comfortably on the turn, Star Billing and Nereid closed well in the final furlong to both get within a length. Nereid finished 1 1/2 lengths clear of Cambina.

The second through fourth-place finishers are the top 3-year-old fillies in California. Nereid and Cambina finished in a dead heat for first in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park last month, with Star Billing third in that race.

In the Del Mar Oaks, Summer Soiree ($6) ran 1 1/8 miles in a quick 1:46.46, winning for the fifth time in her 11-race career. Owned by the Team Valor International syndicate and trained by Graham Motion, Summer Soiree has won three stakes. The Del Mar Oaks was her first Grade 1 win. By War Front, Summer Soiree has earned $371,680.