07/15/2016 8:41PM

Stevens wins with first mount of meet as Monster Bea takes Oceanside Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Monster Bea and jockey Gary Stevens win the Oceanside Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths Friday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – He first rode here more than 30 years ago, has won the Kentucky Derby three times, entered the Hall of Fame, ridden all over the world, retired, came back, and underwent knee surgery two years ago, yet the passion remains for jockey Gary Stevens, who on Friday got the 2016 season at Del Mar off to an ideal start by winning the featured $117,970 Oceanside Stakes on 12-1 shot Monster Bea, his first mount of the meet.

Monster Bea ($27.20), a recent arrival from Kentucky, closed with a rush under Stevens to win the one-mile grass race for 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths over the favored Moonlight Drive, with 11-1 Path of David another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Dressed in Hermes was fourth and was followed by Arcature, Diplodocus, Mishegas, Mr. Roary, Imperious One, Ebadan, and Hollywood Don in the field of 11.

All the Marbles, Blackjackcat, Lauren’s Ladd, Liam the Charmer, and Tristan’s Trilogy all were scratched.

Stevens, 53, was energized by the large crowd.

“Opening day, Pacific Classic Day, it’s like the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup,” he said.

Peter Miller will get credit as the trainer, but he said all he did was “babysit” Monster Bea for a week after he shipped west. Monster Bea won an allowance race last month at Churchill Downs under Stevens for trainer Mark Casse, who doesn’t have a barn here this summer but, like Miller, trains for Monster Bea’s owner, Gary Barber.

“All credit to Mark Casse and his team,” said Miller, who will retain Monster Bea at least through this meet, what with races like the La Jolla and Del Mar Derby still to come before closing day on Labor Day.

Stevens said the initial idea to try to get Monster Bea to California came through his agent, Mike Ciani, who thought Monster Bea would be ideally suited to the three-race turf series at Del Mar for 3-year-olds.

Stevens said he had watched the first two grass races Friday and noticed that late runners won, so he chose to use that strategy to try to overcome a wide draw. Midway through the race, after a half-mile in 46.34 seconds, “I was loaded on the backside,” he said.

Monster Bea completed one mile on firm turf in 1:35.93. The victory was his third in 10 starts. This was his first stakes win. Monster Bea, a gelding, is a son of Hat Trick.