Odds-on favorite Sunset Glow bulled her way between horses at the top of the stretch to get the lead and repelled the determined rally of Her Emmynency to capture the $300,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) by a neck Aug. 30 (VIDEO).
Front-running winner of the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar Aug. 6, Sunset Glow showed a new dimension with her impressive effort from off the pace, stamping herself as the top 2-year-old filly on the West Coast.
Trained by Wesley Ward for owner Ten Broeck Farm, Sunset Glow was guided to victory by Victor Espinoza. The daughter of Exchange Rate ran the seven-furlong distance in 1:23.12 over the Polytrack as the 4-5 choice.
"We thought we'd take her back behind horses this time, let her sit behind the speed a little bit," said Blake Heap, assistant to Ward. "I was wondering if Victor would be able to squeeze through there for a little while, but he made it. She'll go back to Kentucky now and Wesley will decide what to do with her next."
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Oct. 31 at Santa Anita Park is the likely goal for Sunset Glow.
Her Emmynency finished second and Conquest Eclipse was third in the field of nine.
"I took a chance with her today; I tried something different. Going seven eighths and seeing all the speed in there, I thought my best chance was to take her back and then make a run," Espinoza said. "I know she's been used to running up front, but I thought we'd have to come from the back. I'm sure glad it worked out."
Sunset Glow was bred in Kentucky by Gayla Rankin/GLR Ranch out of the stakes-placed Dynaformer mare Perfectforthepart.
The well-traveled runner broke her maiden on turf against males by two lengths in June at Belmont Park, then shipped to England for the Royal Ascot meet, finishing second of 21 fillies in the Albany Stakes (Eng-III) June 20 after leading for much of the trip. Given some time off while transferred to Southern California, she regrouped to take the Sorrento by 3 1/4 lengths in a small field.
With several fillies likely to be gunning for the lead in the Debutante, Espinoza settled Sunset Glow midpack while racing between horses with second choice Her Emmynency perched on her outside. Longshot Seduire, leaving from the rail, shot to the front along the inside to lead outsiders Windy Forecast and Stealth Drone through sharp quarter mile fractions of :21.96 and :44.75.
Called on for more rounding the bend, Sunset Glow advanced while needing room as Joe Talamo took Her Emmynency to the outside of the front-runners to challenge for the lead. Sunset Glow had a slight opening on the outside of Seduire in upper stretch as the other front-runners dropped back and the big filly responded to Espinoza's urging to get to the spot just before Talamo and Her Emmynency arrived to close off the gap.
Sunset Glow held her spot and gained a slight edge in the homestretch, but had to dig down late under urging from Espinoza to hold off a resolute Her Emmynency close to home for a narrow win.
"There was never a doubt she would go through those holes. No hesitation. I'm proud of her for that," Espinoza said. "She got a little tired at the end, but she's the kind that will probably run on."
"Oh, man, that was a tough beat," said Talamo of the runner-up. "She ran great. She's a really nice filly."
Conquest Eclipse, a scratch by trainer Mark Casse from the Sorrento with a slight illness, ran on well in her first start since a maiden debut win at Churchill Downs June 29 to get third, three-quarter of a length behind the runner-up. Then came Dad's Princess, Seduire, Manahatta, Windy Forecast, Stealth Drone, and Starlet O'Hara.
The payoff on the 122-pound highweight was $3.80, $3, and $2.40. Her Emmynency, a 2 3/4-length maiden debut winner over the track for trainer Michael Stidham Aug. 2, returned $4.20 and $3.40 while completing a small $11.80 exacta. Conquest Eclipse, ridden by Corey Nakatani, paid $5 to show.
Sunset Glow became the fourth filly since 1995 to complete the Sorrento/Debutante double at Del Mar, following Batroyale (1995), Chilukki (199), Mi Sueno (2009), and Executiveprivilege (2012). She is the first Debutante winner for Ward, who was formerly based in Southern California, and the fourth for Espinoza, whose last win in the race came in 2006 with Point Ashley.
The strapping filly, who worked in :59 3/5 for five furlongs Aug. 20, won for the third time in five starts with two seconds and extended her earnings to $377,645.
unset Glow was a $60,000 weanling purchase at the 2012 Keeneland November breeding stock sale by Stonereath Stud, agent, from consignor Three Chimney Sales. Eaton Sales consigned the filly for the Keeneland September yearling sale last year when Ben McElroy, agent, signed the ticket of $140,000.