Big John B swept to the lead in the upper stretch and cruised to a 5¼-length victory in the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap on Saturday, earning an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf this fall.
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Big John B ran 1-3/8 mile on the turf in 2:12.81 and paid $5.20, $3.80 and $2.80 as the 8-5 favorite.
Bench Light returned $8.40 and $5, while Bright Thought was another neck back in third and paid $3.80 to show.
The victory was worth $120,000, and was Big John B’s 11th in 28 career starts. It was his third straight win since coming to California last spring. The 5-year-old gelding is trained by Phil D’Amato.
"He was just traveling easy out there," Smith said. "He’s learned how to be a runner. He’s an impressive horse."
It was Smith’s leading sixth stakes win of the summer meet — but his first win in the 75th running of the Grade 2 race.
Big John B will have his expenses paid for if he runs in the BC Turf on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
"That’s the plan," D’Amato said. "Every race he improves and his confidence is through the roof right now. Mike Smith said this horse was just a total professional and he gave him a big kick when he asked for it."