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Caribbean Pirate, Ambivalent Win Oceanside Races


DEL MAR — By the time Caribbean Pirate ran his first race, the other horses in the first division of Wednesday's Oceanside Stakes had run a combined 54 times.

The gap has been closed.

Caribbean Pirate, whose career was threatened by a knee injury, made his delayed debut May 4 and now has run four times in in less than three months. Wednesday, he became a graduate cum laude into stakes competition, winning by two lengths as Del Mar opened its 57th season with an on-track of 26,894.

It is the lowest attendance for an opener since 1991.

Tom Bunn, the 58-year-old trainer of Caribbean Pirate, had never won a stake at Del Mar.

In the second half of the Oceanside, Mike Orman saddled Ambivalent, a colt making his first grass start, for a half-length victory. Ambivalent, who ran seven times before breaking his maiden at Del Mar last September, paid $14.60.

Neither Oceanside winner was favored.

Caribbean Pirate paid $10.60, with Mateo, the 3-2 favorite in his division, running third. Northern Afleet, 3-2 in the second division, finished last in the six-horse field and was moved up a notch when the stewards disqualified Belair Cozz, the fourth-place finisher, to last place.

Richard and Sally Stacey, who have 12 horses in training with Bunn, bought Caribbean Pirate at an auction of unraced 2-year-olds for $60,000, then had him gelded and wondered if the investment would be lost after the horse chipped his left knee.

"Three of the four vets looked at him and gave him no chance to run," Bunn said. After surgery, Caribbean Pirate finally got to the races at Hollywood Park on May 4.

Sprinting on the dirt, Caribbean Pirate was a 2 1/2-length winner against maidens, and Bunn brought him back about a month later for a close second-place finish around two turns.

In his third start, at 1-1/16 miles on grass at Hollywood, Caribbean Pirate won by 1 1/4 lengths. Chris Antley, riding him for the first time, got off the horse and said to Bunn: "I didn't realize how good this horse was."

Antley was aboard again Wednesday. He and Caribbean Pirate raced in the middle of the pack early, as The Barking Shark, up from the claiming ranks and 26-1, set the pace. Caribbean Pirate caught The Barking Shark in mid-stretch.

"I had a good feeling about this horse today," Antley said. "His last race was a lot better than it looked. He was wide and lost a ton of ground that day and was ducking all over on me. He did some of that again today. He's still a little green. But he's got talent. And he'll like the extra yardage. Distance will be no problem."

Bunn's goal is the $300,000 Del Mar Derby (1 1/8 miles), on Sept. 2. Caribbean Pirate, a son of Pirate's Bounty who was bred by Marty and Pam Wygod, gave the trainer his first stakes win since Bistro Garden won the Bay Meadows Derby in November of 1991.

Ambivalent is also headed for the Del Mar Derby, with the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 11 in between. His time for the mile was 1:35 4/5, three-fifths of a second slower than Caribbean Pirate.

Ambivalent, who races for Ted Ford, one of his breeders, was ridden by Alex Solis and came between Belair Cozz and Northern Afleet in the stretch.

"I got lucky there," Solis said. "When [Corey Nakatani's] horse [Belair Cozz] ducked out, it opened it up for me. It probably cost those other horses [Northern Afleet and Benton Creek]. It was a good one to win."

Horse Racing Notes

Flying In The Lane, defeated three times as the favorite in her five losing starts this year, went off at 17-1 Wednesday and won the $66,000 Fantastic Girl Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths. . . . Chris Antley's other winner on the card, Broad Dynamite, ran five furlongs in :56 4/5, missing by two-fifths of a second the track record set by Soldier Girl in 1964. Broad Dynamite finished second May 12 at Hollywood Park in her only other start. . . . Gene Cleveland, 68, who trained Most Host to win the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita in 1968, died Sunday after a heart attack.

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