08/17/2017 2:50PM

Itsinthepost in Del Mar Handicap crosshairs

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Itsinthepost had a great spring, with wins in the San Luis Rey Stakes and Elkhorn Stakes.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Itsinthepost established his reputation in the spring as a turf marathoner with consecutive wins in Grade 2 stakes at 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita and Keeneland.

Those victories have made him a target.

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Itsinthepost tends to race near the front, which leaves him vulnerable to pressure from rivals. Since winning the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April, Itsinthepost has finished fifth in turf stakes at Santa Anita and Monmouth Park.

When Itsinthepost starts in Saturday’s Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf, jockey Tyler Baze will have the task of using his speed while reserving energy for the stretch.

The stakes are much higher than the first-place prize of $150,000 in this $250,000 race. The winner of the Del Mar Handicap receives a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf here Nov. 4.

Itsinthepost has earned a career-best $363,000 this year, all for Jed Cohen’s Red Barons Barn and trainer Jeff Mullins, but is far from a standout in a field of 13. Ashleyluvssugar, the winner of the 2016 Del Mar Handicap, and Hunt, the winner of the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf July 22, are two other prominent runners in a highly competitive race.

KEY CONTENDERS

Itsinthepost, by American Post
Last 3 Beyers: 99-96-100

◗ Itsinthepost was outstanding in the spring, with wins in the San Luis Rey Stakes and Elkhorn Stakes. He was beaten 1 1/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita in May, and 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Monmouth Park on July 1.

◗ The loss at Monmouth Park left Baze frustrated. Itsinthepost dueled with Beach Patrol, ridden by Florent Geroux.

“He made my horse go much faster than I wanted to,” Baze said.

Beach Patrol finished third in the United Nations Stakes, and returned to win the Arlington Million last weekend.

◗ The longshot Mr. Roary, who was third in the Eddie Read, may pressure Itsinthepost on Saturday.

Hunt, by Dark Angel
Last 3 Beyers: 104-99-103

◗ Hunt starts in the longest race of his career Saturday. He finished well under jockey Flavien Prat in the Eddie Read.

“I think he’ll be in a tactical spot,” trainer D’Amato said.

Ashleyluvssugar, by Game Plan
Last 3 Beyers: 102-99-94

◗ Ashleyluvssugar, who was second by a length to Hunt in the Eddie Read, will benefit from the longer race. He won the Whittingham Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

◗ Trainer Peter Eurton is hoping for a strong pace in the Del Mar Handicap to help Ashleyluvssugar.

“He’s got to find a path through a lot of horses in that race,” Eurton said.