Canadian-based shipper Arravale made her second venture into Southern California a successful one when she captured the $400,000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) for 3-year-olds on the Del Mar turf Saturday.
Owned by Robert Costigan and trained by MacDonald Benson, Arravale, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Arch
, returned to Southern California after a third-place finish in the American Oaks (gr. IT) July 2 at Hollywood Park. She gave up second late to Asahi Rising at Hollywood and was beaten by five lengths by Wait a While.
The grade III winner from Woodbine was 11-1 that day but earned much more respect Saturday. She was the second choice in the field of 10 at odds of 3-1.
Said Barbara Przedrzymirska, assistant to Benson: "We gave her a 10-day break after the American Oaks and then put her back in training, and she only had three works before this race. She worked fantastic, and she shipped great."
With turf specialist Jose Valdivia Jr. replacing Corey Nakatani, Arravale got a ground saving trip in the 1 1/8-mile event, edged slightly off the rail on the far turn, and swung out in the stretch to drive for the wire on the outside of her foes. She defeated Take the Ribbon by 1 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:48. All 10 fillies carried 122 pounds.
"With this filly, it was just a matter of time," said Valdivia, who recently returned from mending a broken collarbone and registered his first stakes win of the Del Mar meeting.
Stewards disqualified Take the Ribbon, ridden by David Flores, to fourth for veering out into foes late in the stretch run. Foxysox, ridden by Nakatani, was moved up to second as a result, while Soothsay, Mike Smith aboard, was awarded third place. Foxysox was a head behind Take the Ribbon and three-quarters of a length in front of Soothsay.
"I did my best to keep her off heels," Flores said. "When I did, she drifted a little bit. I corrected her right away. I don't think I deserved to come down."
It was a crafty ride by Valdivia, who waited for favored Attima to make her move on the outside of two rivals in the stretch before angling out for a clear run.
"It is so important to save ground on this course with the tight turns," Valdivia said. "And she's such a big filly and a long strider. It all worked out fine. I had a great trip, and good horses can do good things for you. They can get you out of trouble – get you out of tight spots -- and they can make you look good."
Attima, who went gate to wire to win the San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT), Del Mar's major prep for the Oaks last month, was unable to get the early lead Saturday from her outside post. Instead, she was forced to stalk the leaders while racing three wide before Victor Espinoza made his move. The 40-1 outsider Meetmeinthewoods had the early lead - clicking off fractions of :23 1/5, :48 and 1:12 3/5 - while tracked by another outsider, Sol Mi Fa.
Arravale slid to the inside early and gained a good spot while pulling Valdivia along just behind the leading pack. She lost a bit of position when she escaped the rail, but Valdivia's patience paid off and probably kept her clear of the trouble that developed in the stretch run.
"She was loaded for bear," Valdivia said. "I just had to be patient. She's something else."
Arravale, who won the Natalma (Can-III) on the Woodbine turf as a 2-year-old, has now won four of six and nearly doubled her career earnings to $502,752 with the $240,000 purse. W. Bruce Lunsford bred Arravale, who is out of the Kaldoun mare Kolosca, and was a $190,000 Keeneland yearling sale in 2004.
Her owner Costigan said he was "absolutely thrilled" with his new grade I winner. He said he would confer with Benson on the filly's next start but expected her to return home to compete at Woodbine later this season.
The winner paid $8.60, $4.60, and $3.20. Foxysox, who bounced back from a sixth-place finish in the American Oaks, returned $5 and $3.80 while completing a $41.60 exacta. Soothsay was $6.40 to show.
After the disqualified Take the Ribbon, the order of finish was: Attima, May Night, Sol Mi Fa, Charming N Lovable, Meetmeinthewoods, and Secret Schemes. Indy Miss scratched.