Favored Three Degrees turned in a stakes record effort to win the $163,125 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) for 3-year-old fillies with an impressive late burst on the Hollywood Park turf.
Three Degrees, an Irish-bred daughter of Singspiel
, earned a spot in the upcoming $750,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park for trainer Patrick Gallagher. The victory was a first for the gray/roan filly in a graded stakes.
"She's very cat-like, she can do things so easy," Gallagher said. "So athletic. She's bred so that 1 1/4 miles should be okay. She's by Singspiel, so that shouldn't be a problem. I think (extra distance) should help her. She's got a good head on her shoulders."
Ridden by Gary Stevens, Three Degrees rallied in mid-stretch to overtake pacesetting Thatswhatimean and Jon Court to win by one length in a time of 1:46 4/5 for the 1 1/8-mile event. Antespend set the previous stakes mark, 1:47 2/5, in 1996.
Well back early after steadying off heels going into the clubhouse turn, Three Degrees progressed evenly to reach contention as Thatswhatimean, pressed by Unusual Spring and Dramatic, set faster than expected fractions of :23 2/5, :47 1/5 and 1:10 2/5.
"I lost a few lengths there and dropped back," Stevens said. "But she recovered very quickly and I was in a great spot just ahead of the second pack. She made up her own ground around the turn, and when I asked her, she responded just like she has in all of her races."
Stevens said he's committed elsewhere for the American Oaks, but added, "Three weeks or a month is an eternity in this game. A lot of things can happen. This filly, though, she's a class act and grade I caliber."
They completed the mile in 1:34 4/5 as Three Degrees closed in on the stubborn Thatswhatimean, who took blinkers off for the Honeymoon.
"She almost stole it on them today," Court said of Thatswhatimean. "This should give her quite a bit of creditability with the way she ran today. It would be great if she got an invitation to the American Oaks."
Usla Cozzene, Corey Nakatani aboard, rallied mildly on the inside to finish third. Singhalese finished fourth.
Berbatim, the second choice in the field, broke on her knees and nearly went down, causing Alex Solis to come out of the stirrups. The loose filly bothered several other runners heading into the clubhouse turn.
"She just stumbled leaving the gate and nearly went down," Solis said. "It was just one of those things, I guess. As soon as she went down, I tried to pull her up, and her saddle slipped forward. There was just nothing else I could do. I jammed my thumb, but that was it."
Three Degrees began her career in Great Britain, where she had a second and a third in two maiden starts. Transferred to Santa Anita to begin her 3-year-old campaign, she broke her maiden and won an optional allowance/claiming race in her first two U.S. starts on the downhill turf course. Stretched out for the one-mile Senorita (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park May 8, she closed from far out of it while missing by a nose to Virden.
Owned by Mary Rita DePietro, Harlequin Ranches, Aaron Wellman and others, her career line now stands at 3-2-1 in six starts. Earning $88,275 for the victory, Three Degrees boosted her lifetime bankroll to $172,559.
She paid $6, $4.20 and $3.20. Thatswhatimean returned $11 and $6, completing an $83.60 exacta. Isla Cozzene's show was $8.20.
After Singhalese came Royal Copenhagen, Louvain, Unusual Spring, Kick the Can, Tivadare, Royal Wave, Silver Wand, Dramatic and Berbatim.