08/28/2004 11:00PM

Star Over the Bay wins Del Mar Handicap

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Star Over the Bay, in a repeat performance of his Sunset Handicap victory six weeks earlier, led from start to finish and just lasted to capture the Grade 2, $250,000 on Sunday.

In the Sunset, it was Continuously who gave Star Over the Bay a scare in the final strides. This time, Star Over the Bay had to fend off the veteran Sarafan. Star Over the Bay led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining, but after seeing that lead quickly dwindle, he dug in determinedly and prevailed by a neck.

Sarafan finished two lengths in front of third-place Moscow Burning, one of two fillies in the race. The other filly, Dimitrova, was fourth. Continuously, the 2-1 favorite, was seventh in the field of nine.

Star Over the Bay ($7.20) was claimed for $80,000 in May by trainer Mike Mitchell, and since then has won two stakes and finished second in another. Sunday's victory, the eighth in 38 lifetime starts for the 6-year-old gelding by Cozzene, was worth $150,000 to the partnership of Carl Van Burger, Landon Vaughn, and G Racing.

Star Over the Bay had a clear lead for much of the race while being well-rated by the meet?s leading jockey, Tyler Baze. He set steady fractions of 24.14 seconds, 47.71 seconds, 1:12.26, and 1:36.95 for the first mile. He ran his final three furlongs in a little less than 36 seconds to complete 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:12.71.

"In the Sunset, I thought (Continuously) won, but in this race, Sarafan ran his guts out and my horse just wouldn?t let him go past," Mitchell said. "I thought it was a heck of a horse race."

"He digs in so hard," Baze said. "When that other horse came up outside him, he wouldn't let him go by. He just ran so hard. He's a treat."