11/03/2017 5:06PM

Pletcher wins with first-ever Del Mar starter as Destin takes Marathon

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Barbara D. Livingston
John Velazquez guided Destin to a 1 1/4-length win in Friday's Grade 2 Marathon Stakes at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – When Destin finished fifth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last month at Belmont Park, his connections forfeited the dream of running him in Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Plan B became Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Marathon Stakes at Del Mar and John Velazquez and Destin executed the plan to perfection, tracking the pace-setting Infobedad for more than 1 1/4 miles, engaging that one turning for home, and edging clear in the final sixteenth to win the Marathon by 1 1/4 lengths. Infobedad, making his first start after being claimed for $62,500 in his last start, held second by 4 3/4 lengths over Hard Aces, the 9-5 favorite. He was followed, in order, by Noble Nick, Estrechada, Ground Rules, Archanova, and Dressed in Hermes.

For trainer Todd Pletcher, it was his first win with his first-ever starter at Del Mar.

For Destin, it was his fifth win from 13 starts, his first stakes win since he took the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March 2016.

“Anytime you can get a win it’s good,” said Pletcher, who came to Del Mar light in numbers for the 13 Breeders’ Cup races.

As a 3-year-old, Destin had shown his affinity for a long distance as he was beaten just a nose by Creator in the Belmont Stakes.

Pletcher felt Destin could be effective in the Marathon if Velazquez was able to get him into the race and just gallop along at a steady clip. That’s basically how it played out, as Destin was within about a length throughout the race, stalking Infobedad through a half-mile in 49.06, six furlongs in 1:14.26, a mile in 1:40.31 and a 1 1/4 miles in 2:05.97.

In upper stretch, Destin engaged Infobedad and though the two brushed in midstretch, it didn’t stop Destin’s momentum and he edged clear.

Destin, a 4-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing, covered the 1 3/4 miles in 2:57.77 and returned $6 as the second choice.

Pletcher said the pace “was legitimate while being comfortable at the same time. He clocked that horse all the way around there and he kept finding a little more.”

Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, said Destin would race as a 5-year-old in 2018.