Wertheimer Farm's Halfbridled showed why she's likely to be heard from later this year when she recorded a scintillating five-length victory in the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar Saturday.
The daughter of Unbridled, starting from the rail under jockey Julie Krone in the seven-furlong test, was asked to run earlier than expected in order to avoid trouble and responded gamely while leaving the much-supported Victory U.S.A. in her wake down the stretch. The final time was 1:22 1/5.
Hollywood Story, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, was along late to nose out Victory U.S.A., the 3-5 favorite with Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith aboard, for the place spot.
Trained by Richard Mandella, Halfbridled earned $150,000 for the second triumph in her two-race career.
The winner was in some trouble on the turn as pacesetting Wind Flow, tracked by Hollywood Story and Victory U.S.A., were close to shutting off her inside path after fractions of :22 4/5 and :45 1/5. But Halfbridled accelerated out of the turn to grab the lead, allowing Krone to take her off the rail in the lane and clear off from the field under urging.
"She learned her morning lessons well and today I just got to sit there and enjoy it," Krone said. "(Mandella) teaches all his young horses about dealing with the inside and she was ready. I got to ask her to run twice and she was there. She was in my hands today. She has this immense stride. You work her in the morning and she's just rolling along. She accomplishes things so effortlessly. She showed real courage out there today."
It was the fifth stakes win of the meeting for Krone, who is second to Valenzuela in the Del Mar standings. It was her second grade I win in a week after taking Sunday's Pacific Classic with Candy Ride.
Mandella said Halfbridled has done nothing but impress him so far.
"When I first saw her she reminded me of Phone Chatter (Mandella's winner of the Breeders' Juvenile Fillies and the Eclipse in 1993). She's a big, tall, rangy filly and she had an air about her, pretty much what we saw in the other filly when she came in. And so far, she's doing pretty good."
"Julie did a smart thing (when she encountered some tight quarters on the turn)," he said of the way the race unfolded. "The way she ran the first time she was way far back and then finished strongly. I told Julie she was a smarter filly today. She'll just naturally put you up there in position. You don't need to encourage her. She surely did that. She (Krone) waited a little bit, but when she got to the point when she could see it was silly to wait any longer, she went on and I praise her judgment there."
Victory U.S.A., who was dominating in her debut maiden victory for trainer Bob Baffert at Del Mar Aug. 3, was away a little slowly but ranged up to be in good tracking position on the turn, launched her bid three wide but could not challenge the winner in the stretch. Hollywood Story, who had lost to Victory U.S.A. in her debut by 6 1/2 lengths, rallied on the inside in the stretch to just get up for second.
"She got a little hot going to the gate and she was a little too keen early on," Valenzuela said of Hollywood Story. "But she ran a great race and she's got a good future in front of her. Even though she was on it so hard early, she still gave me some kick at the end."
Smith said Victory U.S.A. didn't have it Sunday.
"She was standing good in there (in the gate), but she broke in at the start and bumped the filly next to her," Smith said. "Still, she settled OK and I thought I was in good shape. When we turned for home and I asked her, I thought for about two jumps I was on my way to victory. She usually explodes when you ask her, but today she just didn't have it."
Wind Flow, ridden by Corey Nakatani, weakened late to be fourth, with Shadow of Mine and Solar Fire trailing.
Halfbridled is from the next-to-last crop of foals sired by Unbridled, who died October 18, 2001 at the age of 14. She is out of the multiple stakes-winning mare Half Queen, by Deputy Minister.
Sent off as the 8-5 second choice in the wagering, Halfbridled paid $5.20, $3.80 and $2.10. Hollywood Story returned $5.60 and $2.10. Victory U.S.A. showed for $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $34.
Because of heavy wagering to show on both the winner and Victory U.S.A., there was a minus show pool of $49,655.