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Nikki's Sandcastle Wins Sea o' Erin
With his namesake watching from the stands, Richard Sherman's Nikki's Sandcastle, who is named for his owner's granddaughter, found room along the rail at the sixteenth pole to overtake the pacesetting Mr. Vegas and win the $66,800 Sea o' Erin Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths on Saturday. Diego Sanchez rode the Dave Kassen-trained son of Castledale who covered the mile and a sixteenth over firm turf in 1:43.38.
The 5-year-old gelding has been the victim of bad racing luck at times earlier this year and his trainer thought that may be case again here before a hole opened on the rail in deep stretch.
"It looked like (bad racing luck) might happen again today," Kassen said. "But the seam opened and he got through. He's an honest horse. He has some soundness problems but he's learned to live with them."
"I waited until the last moment," Sanchez said. "I had a lot of horse but nowhere to go on the rail. So I sat with him until the room opened and my horse came through and finished strong."
Mr. Vegas, the 3-2 favorite, broke on top and led the field of seven through fractions of 24.58 seconds, 49.15 seconds and 1:13.40. He responded to a couple of challenges earlier in the stretch but grudgingly relinquished the lead when the eventual winner got through along the fence.
"He got to leaning a bit which he's done before," said Mr. Vegas's jockey James Graham. "He was game and gutsy but got beat by a better horse on the day."
The Sea o'Erin was the first stakes victory for Nikki's Sandcastle who won for the sixth time in 24 trips to the post. The $39,279 winner's share pushed his earnings to $198,317.
Nikki's Sandcastle, the 3-1 second choice, paid $8, $3.40 and $2.80. Mr. Vegas returned $3.20 and $2.60. Middie was third and paid $3.40.
Lil Bit O'Fun, Taptowne, Quite a Handful and Macho Bull completed the order of finish.