Lightly raced Sweet Win, a $10,000 buy as a 2-year-old at Ocala, came from nowhere to capture the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar Saturday.
A Kentucky-bred King of Kings filly, Sweet Win, after shifting inward in the stretch under Victor Espinoza, collared tiring 2-5 favorite Miss Vegas in the closing yards for a neck victory at odds of 8-1.
Victory U.S.A. flew home for Corey Nakatani, but was nosed out for the place spot by Miss Vegas. The final time was 1:34 for the one-mile event, the leading local prep race for the Del Mar Oaks (gr. II).
A month ago, owner Gayle D. Fogelson transferred Sweet Win to trainer Jeff Mullins, who was all smiles in the winner's circle after Saturday's victory.
"When I saw the fast fractions early and saw that Victor had her as close as he did, I knew we had a big chance. She has an unbelievable kick. It looks to me like she'll run all day."
Mullins bought the filly in Florida for $175,000. It's the second horse he has run for the Dallas-based Fogelson, the son of E.E. "Buddy" Fogelson, who had numerous stakes winners, including Horse of the Year Ack Ack. Buddy Fogelson was married to Academy Award-winning actress Greer Garson, Gayle Fogelson's stepmother.
After the race, Fogelson said, "It's been a long, long time since a Fogelson has been in the winner's circle, maybe 40 years."
"Oh, this is a very good filly," Espinoza said. "When Jeff got her, he asked me to work her and tell him what I thought. After I did, I said 'You've got a helluva filly here.'
"She really came running today. She was running so fast at the end I couldn't believe it. Jeff is a great trainer. He really knows how to train a good horse like this."
Sweet Win last raced in a $23,000 non-winners of two allowance race at Calder Race Course June 13, which she won by six lengths for trainer Milt Wolfson.
The chestnut had just four previous starts, breaking her maiden in her third try at Calder June 1.
Miss Vegas broke on top as expected, but was unable to gain a big advantage as Bonaire tracked her through solid fractions of :23 2/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10. But even as Bonaire was giving up the chase in mid-stretch, Miss Vegas began to show signs of weariness as well. She drifted out slightly under David Flores. Espinoza shifted Sweet Win, coming on strong on the outside, to the inside of Miss Vegas. After losing a little momentum, Sweet Win gathered herself and had just enough time to reach the wire first.
The Irish-bred Miss Vegas, trained by Bobby Frankel for owner Edmund A. Gann, had won both of her starts in the United States, including the Senorita (gr. III) at Hollywood Park in May. She won five of six starts in Italy prior to that. Miss Vegas carried top weight of 121 pounds, seven more than the winner.
"She made all the pace and then hung on and kept trying," Flores said. "We just got beat."
Victory U.S.A., carrying 119 pounds, took back after breaking well for Nakatani. She finished best of all.
"I had a good trip, but I just ran out of stretch. She just missed," Nakatani said.
A winner of $27,780 previously, Sweet Win's third victory in five starts was worth $90,000.
Sez Who Thoroughbreds and Bonnie Heath Farm bred the winner, who is out of the dam Win for Juno, by St. Jovite.
Sweet Win paid $18.60, $3.40 and $2.10. Miss Vegas returned $2.20 and $2.10, completing a $35.60 exacta. Victory U.S.A. was $2.10 to show.
There was a minus show pool of $46,923.67 on the race.
In the day's supporting feature, the $98,600 Wickerr Handicap, 12-1 shot Statement, ridden by Javier Santiago, won by a neck over Seinne, with Golden Arrow third and Needwood Blade fourth.
Buddy Gil, the even-money betting choice, finished fifth.
Statement, owned by Bienstock, Winner Stables, Mandabach and Papiano and conditioned by Kristin Mulhall, stepped the mile on the grass in a fast 1:33 1/5 and returned $26.80 for his upset. The winner is a 6-year-old son of Seattle Slew who won $45,660 with his seventh victory in 31 career starts.