08/24/2013 8:36PM

Del Mar: Vagabond Shoes responds to Espinoza's patient ride in Del Mar Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Vagabond Shoed (center) launcheshiswinning under Victor Espinoza in the Del Mar Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The victory by Vagabond Shoes in Saturday’s $200,250 Del Mar Handicap for turf marathoners was as much a credit to jockey Victor Espinoza as it was to the stamina of the 6-year-old gelding.

Espinoza rode an ultra-confident race, keeping Vagabond Shoes at the back of the field for the first mile of the race at 1 3/8 miles on turf before urging him into contention with a wide rally. Equally as important, Espinoza kept top rival Lucayan to his inside until the field reached the top of the stretch when Vagabond Shoes rallied in the clear. Lucayan raced in traffic in early stretch before closing between runners.

Vagabond Shoes ($6) won by a half-length over Lucayan, finishing in 2:11.94.

“When you ride the best horse, you can do a lot of things,” Espinoza said. “I was happy with the way it worked.”

Espinoza’s ride earned the admiration of Garrett Gomez, who was aboard Lucayan. As they galloped out, Gomez looked over to Espinoza and offered congratulations.

“I told him he rode a good race,” Gomez said.

“We quickened really well,” Gomez said of the stretch run. “I would like to have gotten in the clear earlier than I did.”

Vagabond Shoes and Lucayan were the last two runners in the field of six for the first mile. Huntsville, who was fourth for the first mile, led at the eighth pole and finished third, followed by Old Time Hockey, Fire With Fire, and Mr T Bird.

With the victory Vagabond Shoes earned a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, provided he is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program at a cost of $100,000. Owner Kosta Hronis indicated after the race that he would nominate Vagabond Shoes to the Breeders’ Cup.

Such a race is quite a turnaround from the spring. On May 25, Vagabond Shoes finished second in an optional claimer on turf at Hollywood Park when he was eligible to be claimed for $62,500.

The Del Mar Handicap was the first stakes win in the United States for Vagabond Shoes, who won two stakes in France in 2011 and 2012.

Both Vagabond Shoes and Lucayan ran in the longest races of their careers in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap. Lucayan won the Group 1 French 2000 Guineas in May 2012.

Vagabond Shoes, who is by Beat Hollow, is trained by John Sadler. He won the Group 2 Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord at a mile on turf at Chantilly in June 2012, and joined Sadler’s stable last winter. The Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap was the sixth start of the year for Vagabond Shoes, who has won 7 of 26 starts and earned $425,497.