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Jockey Flavien Prat rides Our Nation (4) to victory in the first race on Del Mar's Opening Day. Photo by Rebecca Lindsay
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Our Nation wins to open Del Mar meet, Bowies Hero takes Oceanside Stakes

DEL MAR — The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club summer meet opened July 19 with Our Nation winning the first race of the meet and Bowies Hero capturing the Oceanside Stakes to become the meet’s first stakes race victor.

The starting gate for the first race was opened at 2:01 p.m., and Our Nation immediately took the lead among the seven horses. He was ahead for most of the one-mile dirt race for 3-year-old and upward horses, although Getoffmyback entered the stretch leading Our Nation by a head.

“I thought I was going to get beat by the horse on the outside,” said Our Nation jockey Flavien Prat.

Prat made his move at the end, and Our Nation crossed the finish line 1:25.63 after the start of the race. The 4-year-old gelding was three-quarters of a length ahead of Getoffmyback, who finished 7 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Woodstock Memory. “He gave everything he had,” Prat said.

Vladimir Cerin is Our Nation’s trainer. “If you don’t win the first one you can’t win them all,” Cerin said.

Cerin wasn’t going to win all 10 of the races July 19 since he had horses only in the first and second races, but he also won the second race. Geologist, who was ridden by Israel Ocampo, broke last among the six horses in the 6 1/2-furlong dirt race 3-year-olds and up but took the lead shortly before entering the stretch. Geologist, a 5-year-old gelding, had a winning time of 1:11.28 and finished three-quarters of a length in front of second-place Where Y’at Joe Joe.

David and Holly Wilson own both Our Nation and Geologist. “I’ve trained for Holly and David Wilson for two decades,” Cerin said. “It’s always gratifying to win for someone who’s supporting for that long.”

The Oceanside Stakes was the eighth race of the day. Bowies Hero broke 10th among the 13 horses in the one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, and jockey Tiago Pereira saved the colt for the final segment. Bowies Hero entered the stretch in ninth place 4 3/4 lengths behind leader Rockin Rudy but ended the race 1 1/2 lengths in front of second-place Pioneer Lad, while Rockin Rudy dropped to sixth by the end of the race. Bowies Hero completed the course in 1:23.98.

“I was there with a lot of horse all the way around,” Pereira said. “He was very strong.”

The result made Phil D’Amato the first trainer to win a stakes race at the Del Mar meet. “He loves that track,” D’Amato said of Bowies Hero. “I thought he was training very well.”

Bowies Hero is part of Agave Racing Stable, which is based in San Antonio, Texas.

The grand prize in the Opening Day hat contest was won by Christina Stutz, who lives in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego. “I’m shocked, overwhelmed, excited and very thankful,” Stutz said. “I couldn’t be more elated.”

The hat Stutz calls “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” is decorated with a woman celebrating after winning at the track. “My pinup girl is falling over with joy,” Stutz said.

Stutz spent approximately two months making the hat which has a 36-inch circumference and is about 3 feet high.

The grand prize recipient was selected from the winners of the five categories. Christine Best of Carlsbad won the Flowers/All Other category. She used orchids obtained from Sunny’s Wholesale Flowers in Encinitas. “I didn’t have a hat and I didn’t know what to do,” said Best, who was attending her first Opening Day at Del Mar.