Always tough to beat when staked to a lead, Janis R. Whitham's homebred Mea Domina made her advantage stand up when she held off the late charge of Three Degrees to win the Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the Del Mar turf Saturday.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, the 5-year-old mare Mea Domina was able to clear the field from her outside post in the field of 10 to get to the inside as the field reached the clubhouse turn. Baze slowed things down a bit and opened up a two-length advantage on the far turn. Mea Domina finished gamely to defeat Three Degrees by a long neck. The final time for the 1 1/6-mile event was 1:39.67, breaking the track record set by Cheroot last year by one-hundredth of a second.
"I had to use her some from the outside to get the lead, but once I did she dropped over to the rail and relaxed," Baze said. "She put her ears forward and just went on cruise. That's one of the best feelings in the world, to be sitting on one like her and know she's going to have something left for when it counts. So much fun."
Front-running winner of the Gamely Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in May 2005 for trainer Ron McAnally, as well as Oak Tree's Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) in November, Mea Domina was dismissed at odds of nearly 6-1. In her only start since the Las Palmas, Mea Domina ran third in the 1 1/16-mile Osunitas Handicap Aug. 9 at Del Mar.
Mea Domina, pressed most of the way by Island Fashion, set fractions of :23 2/5, :46 2/5 and 1:09 4/5. She kicked away from the field on the turn and had only Three Degrees, closing from the middle of the track under Alex Solis, to be concerned about. Island Fashion nipped Shining Energy, the slight 3-1 favorite, for third.
"When I saw three-quarter in 9 and change, I was a little concerned," McAnally admitted. "I said, "I hope she has something left.'"
Mea Domina, a daughter of Dance Brightly--Madame Pandit (Wild Again), picked up her seventh win in 13 starts.
"They (the Whithams) raise good horses and I'm just glad we got it all together here," McAnally said. "This is probably one of the most competitive races I've seen all year. There were some good fillies in there. It should have been a grade I race."
Sent off as the fifth choice, she paid $13.80, $6.80, and $5.20. Three Degrees, who nosed Mea Domina for second in the Osunitas in her last start, returned $6.20 and $4.40. Island Fashion, who was ridden by Jon Court, was $6.40 to show.