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Flashiest wins Oceanside Stakes as Del Mar opens with fans, record wagering

DEL MAR — The fancy hats were back, 15,874 fans showed up and the familiar voice of track announcer Trevor Denman could be heard for the first time since 2019 at Del Mar on Friday for the opening of the seaside track’s 82nd summer meet.

It wasn’t the record opening day throng of 47,339 that Del Mar attracted in 2012, but after a year of empty seats because of the pandemic at a track that is normally Party City, any crowd at all was a welcome sight. Attendance was capped to allow for social distancing as part of the health and safety protocols put in place.

The restrictions are expected to be lifted in the second or third week of the 31-day meet.

When all was said and done, after 12-1 longshot Flashiest had won the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes, the traditional opening day feature race for 3-year-olds on the turf, management had to be smiling after the track set a record for opening-day betting handle.

There was $21,339,643 wagered on Del Mar’s 10-race card, a 29% increase over the previous record of $16,500,914 set in 2016. Last year’s handle, without fans, was $15,024,635, meaning Del Mar was up 42% from 2020.

Abel Cedillo, who was aboard Flashiest, and Victor Espinoza were the lone jockeys to win two races. Espinoza’s victory aboard 8-1 outsider Willy the Cobbler in the final race sparked a $29,051.55 late Pick Five bonanza.

The Oceanside might have been the day’s most exciting race. The four top finishers were separated by a head, a nose and a neck, and it was only one length back to fifth-place finisher Whatmakessammyrun, the 2-1 favorite who edged sixth-place finisher Petruchio by a neck. The first 10 horses in the 12-horse field finished with a three-length spread.

The winner, trained by Leonard Powell, raced five wide into the stretch according to the official chart while rallying from last in the 12-horse field.

“I had a plan for him, but he didn’t break so well,” Cedillo said. “I didn’t push it. I just let him do his own thing and saved ground around the first turn. But when we went for the second turn, I said, ‘This is it.’ I went wide with him and let him do his thing. He did it all. He was the winner.”

Hockey Dad, who finished fourth at 19-1, set the early pace with splits of 23.03, 46.95 and 1:11.57. He led until the top of the stretch, when it appeared the entire field was closing in on him.

Flashiest, widest of all, got up in the last couple of jumps to edge Crew Dragon, who held off No Foolery Here for second. The final time for the 1 mile over a firm turf course was 1:35.88.

It was the first victory in the Oceanside for both Cedillo and Powell.

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