Extra Hope returns to claim Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar

Extra Hope turned the tables on Saturday at the highly favored Midcourt in Del Mar, scoring the first bet of his career in 14 races.

Second behind Midcourt in last year’s $ 100,000 Grade III Native Diver Stakes, the 4-year-old Shanghai Bobby colt beat this year’s 2-5 favorite, riding from gate to wire under Juan Hernandez to win by one length at the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1: 50.11.

Midcourt, who had fought against the likes of Improbable and Maximum Security this year, followed the winner all the way under Victor Espinoza before having to settle for second money as he finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of third place Combatant.

Royal Ship, 3-1 runner-up on the bet, was last in a field cut to four when the 3-year-old filly, Stellar Sound, was scratched on Saturday morning by trainer Michael McCarthy.

Last year, when Midcourt beat Extra Hope by 5 3/4 lengths in the Native Diver, it was Midcourt who went from gate to wire, while Extra Hope followed the winner all the way from second place.

Extra Hope, the 4-1 third choice, got the early jump this time, with moderate fractions of 23.86, 47.79 and 1: 11.45 before holding the John Shirreffs trained Midcourt off the trajectory.

“That was the plan, to go straight for the lead,” said Hernandez. ‘He helped me a lot in the way he broke so well there. Then he walked nice and easy for me. He was relaxed. At the quarter pole I asked him and he gave me a good answer. ”

The win, worth $ 60,000, was Extra Hope’s fourth-place finish in 14 starts when he increased his bankroll to $ 294,831.

“That’s (front-running) what we planned with Extra Hope,” said winning trainer Richard Mandella. “I said (Hernandez) to spin the tapes out of the gate a little bit.”

Mandella and Extra Hope’s owner and breeder, Samantha Siegel, gave the foal a nine-month layoff after last fall’s Native Diver. He returned to the races on August 22 at Del Mar, finishing fifth out of seven in an optional $ 62,500 claimer.

“He (Extra Hope) doesn’t really take life seriously, so he didn’t get what he needed from his training for his first race outside of layoff,” said Mandella. “But one race did it. He’s been doing well ever since. ”

Indeed.

Extra Hope returned in a $ 62,500 optional claimer on September 26 at Santa Anita in his second start back, virtually going gate to wire to win with three-quarters of a length at 10-1 putting his big effort on Saturday. Mandella has big plans for Extra Hope’s 5-year campaign.

“We will be looking at the Big ‘Cap and possibly San Antonio on opening day (December 26) in Santa Anita,” he said.

The win on the stakes was Mandella’s 67th at Del Mar, good for sixth place among all trainers. It was Hernandez’s fifth win over Del Mar.