DEL MAR — Chris McCarron made the right decision in Saturday's $109,900 Palomar Handicap.
Having ridden four of the 10 entrants in the 1 1/16-mile grass race in their last start, he opted for Super Staff over Odalea, Appealing Missy and Only Yours, and the 4-year-old Secretariat filly responded with her fourth victory in five American starts.
The even-money favorite coupled with Danzante, Super Staff beat 10-1 shot Odalea by a half-length in 1:42 1/5. Only Yours was another head back in third.
The Palomar victory capped a good couple of days for McCarron. On Thursday, he and Laffit Pincay got word that a federal court jury had ruled in their favor in a lawsuit against a financial investment company.
"It was a big relief," McCarron said. "That was the most nerve-racking thing I've ever been through in my life. I was real confident the whole time. We never had one bad day in court.
"The evidence we had available and the way my attorneys presented it was fabulous."
It was the first stakes victory for Super Staff, who has now won five of nine career starts and has been worse than second only once. Her only U.S. defeat came when she was second to Explosive Ele June 21 at Hollywood Park, a loss for which McCarron blames himself.
"I rode a bad race that day," he said. "I wasn't too sure I had made the right decision (about whom to ride Saturday) when I saw Odalea's nose on my flank turning for home.
"This filly's real game. She's determined not to let a horse get by her. I think she's a better filly when she's (running off of the pace). But, she ran off with me for seven furlongs. I had to hold on tight."
Super Staff was one of three trainer Ron McAnally ran in the Palomar. In her first start with Lasix, Indian Chris was sixth and Appealing Missy was eighth.
"This filly's getting better and better," McAnally said of Super Staff.
"Her next start will be the Ramona (Handicap Aug. 15). Of course, Flawlessly and Kostroma scare me, but you have to run. Maybe, they won't run. She's turning into the top grass filly in my barn with Martessa gone (for the year). She really dug in there today."
Odalea, who had won two of her first three races this year since rejoining trainer Julio Canani's barn, might have been able to beat Super Staff if she hadn't drawn the outside post.
"The post really hurt her," jockey Alex Solis said.
"I had to lose a lot of ground at the start. If she was drawn inside, I think she could have won. She was game the last part."
Only Yours finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Crystal Gazing, then came Lady Blessington, IndianChris, Regal Peace, Appealing Missy, Danzante and the overmatched Steff Graf, who stopped after setting the pace for a little more than four furlongs.
Thirty Slews, who hasn't run since Feb. 22 at Santa Anita, is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the $110,650 Bing Crosby Handicap today.
A 5-year-old gelded son of Slewpy, Thirty Slews has trained well for his return for Bob Baffert and he has a history of running well after a layoff. He broke his maiden in his career debut in 1990 and, last year, he came off a nine-month layoff to run second behind Bruho in the six-furlong Bing Crosby.
Eddie Delahoussaye will ride Thirty Slews, who is expected to have 10 opponents in the Grade III race.
Voted top sprinter of the recently concluded Hollywood Park meeting on the strength of two victories on turf, Forest Glow is the 7-2 second choice and 121-pound highweight. The 5-year-old Green Forest horse will be making only his fifth start on dirt and he has one victory on the surface. McCarron will ride for trainer Brad MacDonald.
Others in the field, from the rail, out are: Letthebighossroll (Solis, 10-1), Sunny Blossom (Pincay, 9-2), Robyn Dancer (Pat Valenzuela, 8-1), Southern Justice (David Flores, 5-1), Scherando (Francisco Mena, 15-1), Slerp (Kent Desormeaux, 10-1), Anjiz (Paul Atkinson, 30-1) and Mystery's Edge (Martin Pedroza, 20-1).
Horse Racing Notes
Zealous Connection, the easy winner of the Landaluce Stakes, was scratched Saturday morning from the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park because of illness. The Brian Mayberry-trained, 2-year-old filly was the morning-line favorite for the race. . . . In the race before the Palomar, a $50,000 classified allowance, Asia won in his first start since Oct. 25, outfinishing Gundaghia by three-quarters of a length in 1:14 3/5 for the 6 1/2 furlongs. Bruho, the 8-5 favorite, was fourth in his first race since Aug. 24. Three of Asia's last four victories have come at Del Mar.
Gary Stevens took off of his mount for the ninth race Saturday to catch a plane to New Jersey, where he will ride Dance Floor for trainer Wayne Lukas in the $500,000 Haskell Handicap at Monmouth Park today. . . . Jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Kent Desormeaux and Corey Nakatani all won twice Saturday.