Class showed as Juddmonte Farm's 4-year-old filly Etoile Montante, ridden patiently by Jose Valdivia Jr., rang up her third graded or group victory in the $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Del Mar turf Saturday.
Favored at 9-5, Etoile Montante, a daughter of Miswaki
, stayed out of traffic trouble and snapped a three-race losing streak with a measured three-quarters of a length triumph over a determined Katdogawn. Tangle was a close third, a half-length behind Katdogawn in the 1 1/16-mile event which was completed in 1:40 2/5, eclipsing the Palomar mark set last year by Spring Star of 1:40 3/5. The time was just three-fifths of a second off the course mark.
"She broke like a shot and she was a runner from there," said Valdivia, who won his first stakes race of the Del Mar meeting. "When I asked her she really did it."
He said he switched to the right-handed whip in deep stretch to get more of a response.
"But the way she was accelerating in the lane, I knew it would have to be a monster to come get me. That Bobby Frankel is some kind of trainer."
Frankel enjoyed victories in a second major stakes race Saturday. The Frankel-trained Midas Eyes won the Forego Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga earlier in the day. Frankel, who won his first stakes at Del Mar this season, claimed his sixth victory in the Palomar Handicap.
Perhaps recognizing a lack of speed in the race, Frankel scratched Etoile Montante's entrymate Intercontinental, a big closer, on Friday.
Etoile Montante, who was steadied and blocked in her last start, a fourth-place finish in the Osunitas Aug. 11, got away cleanly Saturday and tracked Notting Hill through moderate fractions of :23 4/5, :48 1/5 and 1:11 4/5.
The chestnut filly switched to the outside of Notting Hill in upper stretch and soon took command while finishing under strong urging from Valdivia. Katdogawn, who was well back in the seven-horse field through the early going for jockey Kent Desormeaux, made steady progress through the lane but could not get to the winner.
"I gave her too much to do," Desormeaux admitted. "I had to work from the five-eighths (pole) home. The winner only had to work from the quarter pole. There you have it. That's what I think."
Tangle, with Corey Nakatani in the irons, enjoyed a ground-saving trip and finished up well to be third as Notting Hill faded in the stretch to be fourth.
Etoile Montante carried high weight of 120 pounds, three more than the runner-up, the second top weight. Valdivia was the seventh different jockey in her last seven races.
A group I-winning sprinter in France, Etoile Montante captured the Las Cienegas (gr. IIIT) on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita in April. After a third-place finish in the Just A Game (gr. IIT) at Belmont on June 5, Etoile Montante got a rest before returning in the Osunitas. She now sports a record of 7-3-2 in 15 lifetime starts with earnings of $559,277.
The Juddmonte Kentucky homebred is out of the Nureyev mare Willstar.
She paid $5.80, $3.20 and $2.60. Katdogawn returned $3.40 and $3. Tangle's show was $3.60. The exacta was worth $21.60.
Voz De Colegiala, Makeup Artist and Fun House trailed.