The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Habibti edged 4-5 favorite You in Sunday's $358,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes to earn her second career grade I victory.
After stalking the pace set by You and pressed by Tali'sluckybusride, Habibti moved into contention on the second turn and went by those two in upper-stretch before holding off a resurgent You at the wire. Under Victor Espinoza, the winner completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.12 on a fast track a head-length in front of You.
"All the way around I had the best trip in the world," Espinoza said. "I didn't want her to get too rank, and she was very quiet, very nice to ride today. I loosened the reins and she responded hard, so I knew I had a lot of horse.
"I knew the No. 3 horse (You) was the one to beat, and, at the turn, I wanted to surprise her. Turning for home, I dropped the reins, and just let her go with whatever she had. She made this big move, passed the other horse, and I thought she was going to win by five. But I really wasn't surprised when the other filly started coming back. She's a real nice filly, and mine just got a little bit tired the last 20 yards."
Twelve lengths separated You from Tali'sluckybusride. Maiden winner Renaissance Woman finished another 5 1/2 lengths back, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of maiden Talkeetna.
"She was keen early on," trainer Bobby Frankel said of You. "I knew she got beat, but I think if they went a little further, she would have got her."
The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Habibti improved her career mark to three wins from four starts and earned $214,800 for the victory. The Bob Baffert-trained juvenile filly won in her racing debut, then stepped up into grade I company to win the Del Mar Debutante. After missing some training with an illness, the daughter of Tabasco Cat returned to finish seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Rosemont Farm Inc. bred the $450,000 yearling purchase in Kentucky.
"I thought if that filly comes back and beats us, it's going to be a long Christmas for me," Baffert said. "We needed some luck to go our way. It was nice to win with a filly like this that we knew had the potential. She was going two turns for the first time and she doesn't train over here, so it's a little bit of a disadvantage. It just goes to show you the caliber of filly she really is. I think she's getting better and better."
Sent off as the 2-1 second wagering choice, Habibti returned $6, $2.60, and $2.10. You paid $2.40 and $2.10. Tali'sluckybusride was worth $2.10 to show. The $1 exacta paid $4.60. (Chart, Equibase