Summer Soiree holds on in Del Mar Oaks
East Coast imports Summer Soiree and rider Gabriel Saez held off a late charge from local Star Billing on Saturday to win the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Oaks.
Trained by Graham Motion and Team Valor International, the same connections as Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Summer Soiree first took the lead on the backstretch and had surged to a lead of 5-1/2 lengths entering the homestretch. She then had to turn back a challenge from Star Billing to win by a half-length, running 1-1/8 miles on turf in 1 minute, 46.46 seconds.
''I knew we were going a little quick early, but she was comfortable,'' Saez said after the win in his first mount at Del Mar. ''She handled it all well. She liked the turf.''
Summer Soiree returned $6 for a win bet.
Nereid, Star Billing's stablemate from the barn of John Shirreffs, was a nose back of Star Billing in third.
It was the fifth win in 11 starts for Summer Soiree, who increased her earnings to $371,680.
Motion's assistant David Rock said the trainer sent her to Del Mar because the Oaks was ''a Grade 1 on firm turf, and she ships well.''