Unbeaten Concave, a game half-length winner of the recent Sorrento Stakes (gr. II), and runner-up She's a Tiger renew their battle in the $300,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) Aug. 31.
The seven-furlong Polytrack event attracted a field of eight 2-year-old fillies. Three of them are from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert including the highly regarded debut winner Awesome Baby, who drew the rail. The Debutante is race 9 on the Saturday Del Mar card with a scheduled post time of 6:10 p.m. PDT.
Reddam Racing's Concave is 2-for-2 for trainer Doug O'Neill after debuting successfully on the turf at Betfair Hollywood Park prior to winning the 6 1/2-furlong Sorrento Aug. 7. The daughter of Colonel John defeated She's a Tiger in a terrific duel, putting her head in front past the furlong mark and prevailing narrowly. She'll start from gate 3 in the Debutante.
She'a a Tiger, who came into the Sorrento unbeaten in two tries for trainer Jeff Bonde including Hollywood's Landaluce Stakes July 13, fought back after being headed by Concave and did not yield until the final few strides. The Tale of the Cat filly, a half to multiple grade I winner Smiling Tiger, is owned by a partnership that includes Mark Dedomenico, Allen Aldrich, Lisa Hernandez, and Stuart Downey. She's a Tiger, who drew post 6, will wear blinkers for the first time.
Both fillies will have new riders in the Debutante. Patrick Valenzuela has the call on Concave, replacing Mario Gutierrez, while Hall of Famer Gary Stevens takes over on She's a Tiger for Frank Alvarado. Both fillies carry the highweight of 122 pounds along with Reddam Racing's homebred Sprouts, a two-time stakes-winner for trainer Edward Freeman.
Gutierrez retains the mount on the California-bred Sprouts. She won Hollywood's Cinderella in June and is coming off a gate-to-wire victory in the CTBA Stakes over state-breds July 19 at Del Mar. The Square Eddie miss has won three in a row since graduating in her second start May 16 at Hollywood.
Baffert has won the Del Mar Debutante seven times, including last year's renewal with Executiveprivilege, who nosed out eventual champion 2-year-old filly Beholder. He is closing in on D. Wayne Lukas, who won the Debutante a record nine times. Baffert's leading candidate this year is Kaleem Shah's Awesome Baby, whose debut win by 4 3/4 lengths Aug. 4 going 5 1/2 furlongs produced an 85 Beyer figure, best in the field.
Since her impressive debut, Awesome Baby has returned to work three times over the Polytrack, including a bullet 1:11 flat for six furlongs Aug. 25 The Awesome Again filly out of the winning Running Stag mare Miss Attractive brought $220,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale.
Martin Garcia, who won the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) aboard Game On Dude Aug. 25 and also captured the Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. II) in track-record time with the Baffert-trained Fed Biz that day, has the return engagement on Awesome Baby.
Baffert is also represented by Secret Compass and Fascinating, a half sister to grade I winner Bodemeister and a $1.3 million Keeneland yearling last September for Bruce Lunsford and John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings.
Secret Compass, a $425,000 Discreet Cat filly, drew the far outside post. She graduated at Del Mar July 28 in her second start for Westrock Stables. Fascinating is a maiden daughter of Smart Strike who comes in off a third-place effort Aug. 10, one length behind Debutante entrants Bajan and Southern Sunshine. Joe Talamo rides Secret Compass while Mike Smith is tabbed on Fascinating, who will be making her third start.
Bajan, a daughter of Speightstown trained by Simon Callaghan for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, emerged with a nose victory over Southern Sunshine in the aforementioned Aug. 10 maiden special weight heat at 6 1/2 furlongs. Southern Sunshine, an unlucky loser after battling on the front end all the way to the wire, is a New York-bred daughter of High Cotton trained by Peter Miller for owner Richard C. Pell.
$300,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I, Race 9, 6:10 p.m.), 2YO Fillies, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Awesome Baby (KY), M Garcia, 118, B Baffert
2. Fascinating (VA), M E Smith, 116, B Baffert
3. Concave (ON), P A Valenzuela, 122, D F O'Neill
4. Bajan (KY), V Espinoza, 118, S Callaghan
5. Southern Sunshine (NY), G K Gomez, 116, P Miller
6. She's a Tiger (KY), G L Stevens, 122, J Bonde
7. Sprouts (CA), M Gutierrez, 122, E R Freeman
8. Secret Compass (KY), J Talamo, 118, B Baffert
Blinkers On: She's a Tiger