The little English-bred filly Katdogawn, beautifully ridden by jockey Julie Krone, mowed down the heavily favored Atlantic Ocean in the home stretch to win the featured $150,000 San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) for 3-year-old fillies before a crowd of 30,516 at Del Mar Saturday.
Krone had Katdogawn, who broke from the rail in the field of nine going a mile on the turf, well-placed in the early stages of the race and made a nifty move when pulling to the outside from behind a wall of three horses entering the stretch. She overhauled the strapping Atlantic Ocean, nicknamed "Big Bertha" by trainer Bob Baffert, who had gone clear near the eighth pole, to be a handy two-length winner.
"I was a very good passenger," said Krone. "She was a little go-kart, she was just saying, 'tell me when.' It makes my job so easy when they relax the way she did today. She did all the work. She just flattened out her belly and took off in the stretch. She's a happy little horse and she ran like it."
Atlantic Ocean, at odds of 6-5 with Pat Valenzuela up, was second. She finished two lengths in front of Buffythecenterfold, who was making her grass debut with Victor Espinoza in the irons. Star Vega, a stablemate of the winner, was fourth with Mike Smith aboard.
"I had a great trip," Valenzuela said. "I was in the spot I wanted to be, and she gave me a great run. The winner just outran me. Simple as that."
Espinoza was encouraged by Buffy's effort.
"It was her first time on turf and she ran good," he said. "She'll go better on it next time."
Valentine Dancer and jockey Kent Desormeaux, second choice in the wagering, set a moderate pace of :22 3/5, :46 3/5 and 1:10 2/5 before fading to sixth in the stretch. Buffythecenterfold and Atlantic Ocean kept close company with the pacesetter before Atlantic Ocean inched away down the lane to a one-length advantage.
"I didn't want to be up there on the lead," Desormeaux said. "They were just going too slow and I inherited it."
Katdogawn, a daughter of Bahhare owned by partnership of Jim Ford, John R. Cochna and Daron Pearson of Ranchos Santa Fe and trained by James Cassidy, accomplished the distance in a stakes record time of 1:33 3/5 for the one-mile distance. The previous record was 1:33 4/5 by Little Treasure, who set the mark a year ago.
Cassidy bought the filly for $16,000 at the 2002 Tattersalls Autumn sale in Newmarket, England.
"She's been straightforward every time," said Cassidy. "I'm going to keep her at this distance; I think there's an overnight stakes later in the meet."
Katdogawn, who was coming off a close second-place finish in the one-mile Flawlessly at Hollywood Park on July 6, earned $90,000 with her fourth win in a dozen starts. Her first graded stakes triumph increased her career earnings to $226,250.
Sent off as the third choice, Katdogawn paid $12.20, $4.60 and $3.60 to her backers. Atlantic Ocean returned $3 and $2.80. Buffythecenterfold's show was $4.80. the $2 exacta was worth $27.
In the day's supporting feature, the $76,475 Wickerr Handicap, French-bred Touch of the Blues nosed out Inesperado in an exciting finish and established a new course record of 1:32 1/5 for the mile over the Del Mar grass. Suances was third and Investor's Dream fourth. The Al Maktoum-owned Touch of the Blues ended an eight-race losing streak that dated back to a win in the Maker's Mark at Keeneland in April 2002.
Touch of the Blues, who eclipsed Special Ring's mark of 1:32 3/5 set in the 2002 Wickerr, returned $7.40 as the betting favorite. Kent Desormeaux was aboard the classy son of Cadeaux Genereux conditioned by Neil Drysdale.