Musical Chimes, winless in seven starts since taking the French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) in May 2003, blew past the leaders in the final eighth of a mile to capture the $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) on the Del Mar turf Saturday.
"That's one of the best performances I've ever been a part of," winning jockey Kent Desormeaux said.
Trained by Neil Drysdale for owner Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Desormeaux, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by In Excess
had dead aim on the leaders Moscow Burning and Notting Hill while moving up on the outside on the turn. Musical Chimes was allowed to make her move in mid-stretch to complete the 1 1/8-mile Mabee in a stakes-record 1:47.16. She won by 1 1/4 lengths under strong handling, with Moscow Burning edging Notting Hill for second by a nose.
Desormeaux looked over his shoulder at least three times while expecting a run from 6-5 favorite Light Jig, ridden by David Flores. But after ranging up widest of all coming off the far turn, Light Jig, winner of the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) in her last, never challenged and came home last in the field of six.
"I knew I had the horses in front of me measured, but I have great respect for Light Jig," Desormeaux said. "I've been on her. I was keeping my eye on her. But she didn't fire today. We didn't see the real Light Jig. Pace makes the race and (Musical Chimes) got her pace today. And you can see what she can do when that happens. She can really fly."
"It looked like Kent got to where he thought he should go, but then decided that it was too early and he should wait," Drysdale said
Flores couldn't offer an excuse. "She just didn't have it," Flores said. No punch."
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Musical Chimes was coming off a seventh-place showing, beaten by four lengths in the June 12 Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) against males at 10 furlongs in her last start at Hollywood Park. Last year she was second in a pair of Southern California grade I stakes for fillies and mares.
But she put it all together Saturday. Musical Chimes was allowed to chase in fourth place through the early fractions as Notting Hill, prompted by Dimitrova and Moscow Burning, set the pace. As Dimotrova began to fall back in the stretch, Moscow Burning and Jose Valdivia challenged for the lead, eventually taking over with a furlong to go. But Desormeaux, riding confidently, took one last look over his shoulder to see if Light Jig was coming, and simply took off, clearing off in the final strides.
"I was sitting right where I wanted to be," Valdivia said. "We really quickened from the three-eighths home, but the winner ... what can you say. She was ultra, ultra impressive."
The fractions were :23 4/5, :47 4/5, 1:12 and 1:35 2/5.
Musical Chimes won $240,000 for her third victory in 14 career races and increased her earnings to $766,989.
Gainsborough Farms bred the winner, who is from the Sadler's Wells mare Note Musicale.
Musical Chimes paid $6.20, $3.60 and $3.20. Moscow Burning returned $4.40 and $3.60 while completing a $26.20 exacta. Notting Hill, ridden by Tyler Baze, was $4.60 to show. Dimitrova, Katdogawn and Light Jig followed. Makeup Artist was scratched.
In the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies, Golden Eagle Farm's Western Hemisphere fulfilled expectations as the 3-5 favorite with a convincing two-length triumph in the seven-furlong sprint.
Outrun in the early stages of the contest, Western Hemisphere and jockey Corey Nakatani charged to the lead in mid-stretch and drew out impressively. Alphabet Kisses was second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Mari's Rose. Frysland finished fourth in the field of nine fillies.
Western Hemisphere, by General Meeting
from Excellent Lady and thus a full sister to General Challenge, 1999 winner of the Pacific Classic (gr. I), ran the distance in 1:22.78 and paid $3.40 for her third win in seven starts. It pushed her earnings to $244,465.
Bob Baffert conditions her. The winning purse was $60,000.