Last year, the California-bred gelded son of Game Plan led at the top of the stretch but was outkicked in the late stages of the 1 3/8-mile turf marathon and finished sixth, albeit beaten only 2 ¼ lengths.
, the Peter Eurton trainee, an earner of more than $1.3 million in a 27-race career, will take a third swing at the Grade 2, $250,000 event.
It’s race that has fit the horse annually, Eurton said, for its place on the calendar and the distance of the assignment.
“There are not a lot of mile and a quarter, or mile and three-eighths races that you can stay in town for,” Eurton said. “From the end of Santa Anita to now, you find yourself running in races that are too short, and he likes the extra distance.
“He gets to control the pace, rather than the pace controlling him. A mile and a mile and a sixteenth, it’s too athletic for him and takes him out of his game. A mile and a quarter or a mile and three-eighths is perfect for him. He can get in his own rhythm rather than having to get out of his rhythm just to keep up with them.”
It will be the fourth 2018 start for Ashleyluvssugar and the first beyond 1 1/16 miles.
“He seems like he’s coming into it well because I don’t think he’s been over-run this year,” Eurton said. “He won it at the age of 5. Now he’s 7 and sometimes as horses get older they may lose some athleticism but they can keep their stamina.
“He’s got a good draw and we’ll definitely be forwardly placed.”
The field from the rail: Kenjisstorm (Gary Stevens, 9-2), Flamboyant (Rafael Bejarano, 8-1), Whoop Whoop (Joe Talamo, 20-1), Ya Gotta Wanna (Tiago Pereira, 20-1), Unapologetic (Kent Desormeaux, 15-1), Itsinthepost (Tyler Baze, 7-2), Multiplier (Tyler Gaffalione 8-1), Ashleyluvssugar (Joel Rosario, 6-1), Colonist (Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1), Ritzy A.P. (Tyler Conner, 20-1), Cashman (Geovanni Franco, 8-1) and Fashion Business (Flavien Prat, 6-1).
The Del Mar Handicap goes as the sixth race on an 11-race program. The race is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Churchill Downs.