DEL MAR — There's a new superstar horse in the turf division, and his name is Aragorn, a 4-year-old Irish-bred son of Giant's Causeway.
In obliterating the Del Mar course record for 1 1/8 miles on the turf Sunday, Aragorn took command entering the stretch under jockey Corey Nakatani and pulled away for a four-length triumph over Sweet Return in the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap, a Grade I stakes race.
Aragorn's final time of 1 minute 44.79 seconds surpassed the course record of 1:45.85 set by Willow O Wisp last year. It was the second consecutive Grade I victory for Aragorn, the 3-2 favorite who won the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on May 29.
Named after the heroic character from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Aragorn stayed in third place much of the race as Sweet Return and Silent Name set a swift pace. But once Nakatani asked his horse to move on the final turn, Aragorn turned the race into a mismatch.
"Wow," Nakatani said. "Isn't he impressive? The time is impressive, but the way he did it and the kind of horses he's beating -- good horses -- is what gets me."
The victory completed a sweep of the weekend Grade I turf races for Nakatani, who also won on Dancing Edie in Saturday's John C. Mabee Handicap for fillies and mares.
Trainer Neil Drysdale, always low key and unflappable, refused to make predictions of how successful Aragorn could become, but he didn't hide his excitement.
"He's a lovely looking horse," he said. "He came over with a good reputation. The previous trainer was very keen on him. Each race has been better."
Aragorn has finished first or second in each of his six starts in the United States since arriving in September from England. There was concern by some about how Aragorn would perform going the extra distance after running in three consecutive mile races. Aragorn answered the skeptics Sunday.
"It was an awesome performance," Drysdale said.
River's Prayer, making her first start since October at Santa Anita, won the $108,500 Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old California-bred fillies by 1 3/4 lengths over Getback Time. River's Prayer, a daughter of Devon Lane, is trained by Paula Capestro and was ridden by Clinton Potts. The horse, who covered the seven furlongs in 1:22.96, took the Hollywood Park Cinderella Stakes as a 2-year-old.
Jockey Pat Valenzuela is expected to miss the Del Mar meeting because of a back injury, said his agent, Tom Knust. Knust said Valenzuela probably will undergo surgery and must receive treatment for a knee ailment.
Jockeys Martin Garcia, Norberto Arroyo and Potts have been given three-day suspensions by track stewards for careless riding. Each will begin his suspension Sunday.
Chobigmoe, the favorite in a six-furlong allowance race Sunday, was pulled up on the far turn and later euthanized for a leg injury, becoming the fifth horse put down since the meeting began Wednesday, according to a Del Mar spokesman.