Lieutenant Dan and jockey Juan Hernandez take Del Mar’s G3 Green Flash
Nick Alexander’s homebred Lieutenant Dan waited and waited for room on the home turn in the Green Flash Handicap (G3) Sunday at Del Mar, then fired big when the rail came open and slipped through to win his second consecutive edition of the turf stakes.
The 6-year-old gelding by his owner’s home stallion Grazen clicked by 1 1/14 lengths to earn a first prize of $90,000 from the $152,500 purse in the five-furlong test, his first start from a long layoff. Additionally, he earned an automatic, fees-paid berth to the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) in November at Keeneland via the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series.
Ten months ago, Lieutenant Dan finished second to Golden Pal in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar; this year’s Green Flash marked his first start since that race and he showed no signs of rust in handling his nine rivals.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez for trainer Steve Miyadi, Lieutenant Dan finished the trip in :55.87.
“He’s a really nice horse,” Hernandez said. “He broke really well and I didn’t bother him because he took me there and I saw a couple horse with more speed than me so I just sat behind them and waited inside. When we turn the corner, there was a little space for me, and we got there. He has a really nice kick inside, really professional. I shook the reins a little bit and he picked it up.”
Finishing second Lane Way, who had a head on Coulthard.
Lieutenant Dan’s victory Sunday pushed his lifetime bankroll up to $923,740. It was his ninth tally in his 18th start. It also was Hernandez’s 10th stakes score at the current Del Mar meeting, making him the leader in that department after 27 days of racing.
Lieutenant Dan, the 9-10 favorite in the dash despite the lengthy layoff, returned $3.80.
“He’s not as quick as last year, but he has a new rider and that’s Juan’s nature,” Miyadi said of Lieutenant Dan, who captured last year’s edition of the Green Flash by 2 1/4 lengths. “If he sees a speed duel developing he likes to wait. He got to the inside and we were lucky it opened up. It wasn’t at all like we thought, but he switched leads on cue and kept going.”
Trainers Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill won a pair or races on the afternoon card giving each of them 17 for the session, which means they’re co-leaders in the top of the contentious conditioners’ category. The meet has four days of racing remaining.