Updated on 09/15/2011 12:58PM

Romanceishope is derby winner

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DEL MAR, Calif. - In a race filled with horses with fancy pedigrees and heralding from barns that race throughout the world, it was the plucky California-bred Romanceishope who found his consistency and tenacity rewarded in Monday's Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Derby.

Romanceishope rallied boldly in the final quarter-mile to reel in Indygo Shiner, who had burst clear turning for home, and prevail by one length. Indygo Shiner finished a neck in front of third-place Blue Steller, one of several horses who encountered trouble in a roughly run race.

Sigfreto, who was stopped badly on the far turn, came on for fourth, followed by Sligo Bay, Royal Ambition, Euribor, Marine, Mizzen Mast, and Dr. Park, whose saddle slipped, putting jockey Tyler Baze in a precarious position.

Romanceishope covered the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.93. As the fifth choice in the field of 10, he paid $17.60 to his backers in the Labor Day crowd of 16,302.

Romanceishope, a 3-year-old gelding, is by In Excess out of the Prized mare Romantic Fibs. He was bred by Shigehiro "Bernie" Hatake, and is owned by Hatake and Senji Nishimura.

"This horse has been a real project," said trainer Jenine Sahadi, who credited winning rider Chris McCarron and groom Martin Rojas with being among the many who have helped Romanceishope find his best form. "He's had a number of things - ankles, really bad feet. But Bernie was patient and let me deal with it."

In the Derby, Romanceishope settled behind the early leaders, including Dr. Park, who rushed to the front because Baze was unable to control him. Indygo Shiner made a bold move on the turn, beating Sigfreto to a hole, and causing Sigfreto be checked sharply. Blue Steller launched his rally from along the rail entering the lane, but did not have a clear run a furlong out.

Romanceishope, meanwhile, was taken to the middle of the course for a clear run, and he gained the lead in the final 100 yards. The victory was the fifth in nine starts for Romanceishope, who has finished in the money in all of his races. He was second to Marine in the La Jolla Handicap here on Aug. 11.

* Earlier Monday, Sharper Too held off favored Yougottawanna by a half-length to win the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds going six furlongs. Synergize was third. Sharper Too, a High Brite colt, had finished third behind Ecstatic in an open allowance race in his previous start. This was his second victory in five starts. Victor Espinoza rode Sharper Too for trainer Mike Harrington.

for the Del Mar Derby chart.*

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