Michael Bello's Megahertz, overlooked in the wagering at a generous 8-1, rallied from last place under Alex Solis to win the featured $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) Sunday, taking a four-horse blanket finish that resulted in a triple dead-heat for second place.
It is the first time there has been a triple dead-heat (win, place or show) in a stakes race at Del Mar.
Megahertz, the lesser regarded of two Bobby Frankel-trained interests in the field of five (11-10 favorite Tates Creek was the other), was a half-length in front of Tates Creek, Dublino and Golden Apples in a heart-pounding finish. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile grass test was 1:49. Megahertz won her first grade I race and pushed her career earnings past the $1 million mark.
The English-bred 4-year-old daughter of Pivotal raced last of a compact field and was never farther than four lengths off the ponderous pace set by Voz de Colegiala (:25, :50 1/5, 1:14 4/5). Solis swung her three wide on the turn and she continued to rally gamely between horses while four wide in the stretch, finishing better than than other three.
"She's incredible," said Solis. "She's tiny, but she has a heart as big as the grandstand. My main concern today was to keep her with the pace. I wanted to keep her close to other horses. She's more competitive that way. I knew it would be a slow pace; that didn't surprise me. But my filly was right where I wanted her to be and she fired great."
Megahertz, gained revenge for her nose loss to arch rival Dublino in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) a year ago, was coming off a third-place finish at 9-5 behind Voodoo Dancer and Dublino in the Beverly Hills at Hollywood Park on June 28.
She earned $240,000 for the triumph, her eighth in 21 starts. Her career bankroll now stands at $1,127,326.
Frankel, reached by phone, noted, "(Megahertz) was doing fine. She always does all right. She's a very sound filly. It came up right for her today. She hasn't been getting beat that far. Everything considered, the pace, probably running her back in a short period of time probably helped her."
Megahertz, who began her United States career in January 2002 with a five-race winning streak, raced in France for trainer Nicolas Clement as a 2-year-old, winning once in eight starts.
The fourth choice in the field, she paid $18.40, $2.10 and $2.10. The other three horses each returned $2.10 and $2.10.
Patrick Valenzuela rode Tates Creek, who led into the stretch but drifted in slightly near the wire to be caught for second. Kent Desormeaux was aboard Dublino, who bid gamely between rivals in the stretch to just miss. Gary Stevens, riding defending turf mare champion Golden Apples, making her first start since Dec. 1., started her bid while three wide on the final turn and battled all the way to the finish.
"She was a little fresh today," Stevens said. "She was fighting me some. That didn't help. But she ran great off the layoff. Ben (trainer Ben Cecil) had her ready to roll."
Golden Apples' trainer, Ben Cecil, said not to read too much into the race.
"It wasn't a true run race," he said. "You can't really tell a lot from it."
Desormeaux said Dublino was vicimized by bad luck.
"She ran real, real good," he said. "I got a little unlucky heading into the straight. I picked a line to run on and a horse in front of me (Tates Creek) shifted into that line forcing me to move. It may have been enough to cost me the race. But this was a tremendous race. They were all absolutely sprinting to the wire. That's how it should be. These are tremendous fillies and they'll be back at each other soon."
Valenzuela said things didn't go as planned for the Tates Creek.
"I didn't wind up where I wanted to be on the lead, but they ran awful fast the last three sixteenths," he said. "She's a classy one. They're all classy. That was some race."