Amorama avoided a traffic jam in the stretch run of Saturday's $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) by taking a wide route to prevail by a head over Island Fashion. It was her second grade I win in two lifetime starts on the Del Mar turf course.
Ridden by Martin Pedroza, the 4-year-old French-bred Amorama won for the first time since taking last August's Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT), the only other time she has come to the seaside. She had lost five in a row.
Amorama, a daughter of Sri Pekan, got the advantage of a clean trip in a roughly run race. The field bunched up on the inside coming off the far turn and compromised the chances of 13-10 favorite Intercontinental, who was blocked off and steadied in the stretch run, as well as a couple of others in the field of eight.
Island Fashion, who led in the stretch while drifting out, finished second while Intercontinental re-rallied in mid-stretch to finish third, 1 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. Pacesetting Smokegetenyoureyes was edged by a head by Intercontinental and finished fourth. The winning time was 1:48 for the 1 1/8-mile turf test for fillies and mares.
Alex Solis, jockey aboard the Bobby Frankel-trained Intercontinental, lodged a foul claim against Patrick Valenzuela, rider of Island Fashion, for closing off a hole that had opened briefly for the traffic-troubled favorite. Stewards conducted a review of the stretch run but did not change the order of finish.
Intercontinental, breaking from the rail, was never happy, fighting Solis' tight hold from the beginning until forcing her way between horses and taking up. After the incident, she came on again.
"She's a tough filly to ride," said Solis, who replaced regular rider Jerry Bailey aboard Intercontinental for the first time. "I did the best I could."
The 46-1 Smokegetenyoureyes set a slow pace (:25 1/5, :49 2/5, 1:13) and Pedroza said he knew position would be vital. He kept her out of the pace scenario while racing off the rail and angled four wide for the stretch run. She won under strong urging while drifting in slightly.
"I knew they were crawling out of the gate and were going extremely slow," he said. "I just wanted to get clear sailing.
"I don't ride in this kind of big race very often, so I've got to enjoy it," he added.
Trained by Julio Canani for owners Marsha Naify and Woodside Farms LLC, Amorama turned in a couple of strong efforts on the Hollywood Park lawn this past season. She was third, beaten by two lengths, in the Wilshire (gr. IIIT) April 23 and third again, by 1 1/2 lengths, in the Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) May 30.
Amorama defeated Ticker Tape by a nose in the Del Mar Oaks. The victory, her fourth in 18 career tries, was worth $240,000 and increased her earnings to $500,261.
Overlooked at 7-1, she paid $17.60, $8.80, and $4.20. Island Fashion returned $9.40 and $4.40 while completing a $137 exacta. Intercontinental, looking for her fourth win in the past five starts, was $2.80 to show.
After Smokegetenyoureyes came Halo Ola, Winendynme, Uraib, and Ticker Tape.
Ticker Tape, the 3-1 second choice, pressed the lead on the outside in third on both turns and weakened in the final furlong.
In the day's supporting feature, the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies, 2-1 favorite Soldier's Kiss narrowly withstood the late charge of Gn. Group Meeting to win by a nose in 1:22.50 for the seven furlongs.
Short Route was third, with Two Times Won fourth in the field of ten fillies. Thrilling Victory was withdrawn from the original line-up.
Soldier's Kiss, a daughter of One Man Army, is owned by the partnership of trainer Bruce Headley and E.W. and Judy Johnston. The Johnston family owned Fleet Treat, the multi stakes-winning filly the race is named for.
Soldier s Kiss, registering her fourth consecutive win in six starts, earned $60,000 for the victory. She returned $6.20.
The attendance was 20,985.