Team Chad Brown was winless going into Sunday’s final two stakes races of Del Mar’s annual Turf Festival.
But jockey Jose Ortiz doubled Sunday on Brown horses, giving the New York-based trainer his 10th and 11th wins in the track’s annual seven-stakes conclusion to the fall season.
Regal Glory went gate-to-wire under Ortiz to win the Grade I Matriarch Stakes. Earlier, Ortiz rallied Verbal in the final strides to win the Grade III Cecille B. DeMille Stakes.
“The boss knows how to spot a horse,” Ortiz said of Brown, who was represented at Del Mar over the weekend by assistant trainer Jose Hernandez. “He had it right today.”
Regal Glory, the 8-5 second choice, finished 2½ lengths ahead of Zofelle in the $400,000 Matriarch, a one-mile grass race for older fillies and mares. Narrow 3-2 favorite Princess Grace was third in a field of six with defending race champion Viadera fourth. The win was Brown’s fourth in the Matriarch.
The gate-to-wire romp didn’t surprise the New York-based jockey.
“I thought I’d have the lead and I thought I was the only real speed in the race,” said Ortiz. “Princess Grace has speed, but when she used it last time, she didn’t finish.
“So, I thought I’d be out front and it worked out just that way. We got away with some easy fractions and then she had lots for the finish.”
Regal Glory ($5.20) and Zofelle ran 1-2 most of the race, although jockey Umberto Rispoli seldom had the runner-up closer than two lengths to the lead.
“Just go to the lead, that’s what my boss (Brown) told Ortiz,” Hernandez said. “That was the plan. She was just the best.”
A 5-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom, Regal Glory has four wins in seven races under Ortiz.
The Matriarch marked the second time this meeting that Zofelle finished ahead of Princess Grace, who had won six of her first seven races before coming to Del Mar.
In Sunday’s second feature, Ortiz rallied even-money favorite Verbal ($4) deep in the stretch to finish a half-length ahead of 49-to-1 long shot Barsabas in the DeMille, a one-mile test for 2-year-olds. Verbal, who has two wins in as many starts, had been fourth in the stretch.
“He won easy last time, but he was running against much better horses today,” said Ortiz. “I knew there would be speed in the race so, even though I had the outside post (in the field of 10), I was able to drop over and save some ground. He came running when it counted.”
Jockey Tyler Baze had Barsabas a nose ahead of Cabo Spirit at the wire.
Excluding the Breeders’ Cup, the average daily handle for the fall meeting was $13.2 million, up from $13.06 million of 2020.
The total handle for 2021 — the summer and fall meetings plus the Breeders’ Cup — was $943.4 million. That marks a gain of 21 percent over 2017, when Del Mar also hosted the Breeders’ Cup with the total handle for the year of $778 million.
Juan Hernandez won his first jockey title at Del Mar with 17 wins. Second with 14 was summer meeting champion Flavien Prat, who missed all but one race during the penultimate weekend while serving a three-day suspension. Rispoli finished third with 13.
Phil D’Amato scored two wins on the final day and won the trainer’s title with 13 wins, four more than Bob Baffert. Peter Miller rallied late to finish third with eight wins heading into a sabbatical of unknown length.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to sleep in, have breakfast with my two sons and take them to school,” said Miller. “To say that has not been routine to this point is a real understatement.”
Besides Ortiz, Kent Desormeaux and apprentice Diego Herrera each won two races Sunday. Desormeaux finished with 10 wins — including three stakes races — over the final six racing days to finish fourth in the jockey standings.
Three hundred and fifty-eight winning tickets each won $10,142 from the final Pick-6 pool of $4.565 million.
A heavy bank of fog followed the horses to the finish line of the final race of the meeting.
Center is a freelance writer.