Sweet Catomine, a well-bred maiden filly making only her second career start for trainer Julio Canani, ran down Souvenir Gift in deep stretch to win the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) Saturday by three quarters of a length.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod's Kentucky homebred filly by Storm Cat
-Sweet Life (Kris S.) was the lesser regarded of a Canani-trained entry. The Wygod's Proposed, third in her debut against state-bred stakes company, was the other half of the entry sent off a as the 8-5 favorite in the field of nine.
Canani won his third grade I race of the Del Mar meeting.
The final time was a slow 1:24 for the seven-furlong Debutante, which attracted one of the most inexperienced fields in its 54 runnings.
Sweet Catomine, with only one lifetime start – a second place finish against maidens July 31 at Del Mar – broke in the air and was no factor on the pace. Her stablemate broke well, however and battled early leader Hello Lucky and No Bull Baby on the outside through quick early fractions of :22 and :44 2/5.
"She bobbled a little on me at the start, but I wasn't worried," Espinoza said. "I knew we were running seven eighths and there was lots of time to make it up. I could sense how fast they were going up front and I knew that was going to help me, too. I thought about going inside with her, but then when I saw all those horses going so fast inside up front, I said: 'I don't want to be in there when they start stopping.' So I went wide and let her pick them up. This filly will run on, too. The farther the better for her."
Souvenir Gift, the only stakes winner in the field and ridden by leading jockey Tyler Baze, stalked the pace while racing fifth about five lengths from the leader. As they hit the turn, she cut smartly into the advantage. But she was stuck on the extreme outside as she challenged the leaders coming out of the turn and lost considerable momentum. After straightening out in the stretch, Souvenir Gift, rallied again and edged past Hello Lucky inside the final furlong. Souvenir Gift opened a brief lead in the stretch but was obviously tiring after completing six furlongs in 1:10 2/5.
"I had to go wide with her on the turn," Baze explained. "I didn't have much choice. I had a four-horse spread inside me, so wide was the only way. She ran well and she'll run on."
Sweet Catomine, who also made a wide move, finished best under righthanded urging to nudge ahead at the end. Hello Lucky, ridden by Mike Smith, held on for third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Souvenir Gift. The final furlong was completed in :13 3/5.
"This is a filly that's been very backwards training-wise, but she's got ability," Canani said. "She's built like she'll go a mile and a quarter.
"I haven't trained this winner very hard because she's so big. I never push a horse. I let them do it on their own. As a 3-year-old, I think she'll be a very nice filly."
He said he would look for a two-turn opportunity for Catomine at Oak Tree this fall.
Sweet Catomine, who had a solid string of works since her maiden debut, paid $5.20, $2.60 and $2.40. Souvenir Gift, who won the Landaluce (gr. III) at Hollywood Park in June and was second to Inspiring in her last start, the Sorrento (gr. III) three weeks ago, returned $3 and $2.60. Hello Lucky, making her second start in Southern California after beginning her career in Florida, was $4.20 to show. The exacta was worth $16.20.
Ninadivina was fourth, with Girly Girl and She's Salty in a dead-heat for fifth. Proposed, No Bull Baby and Princess Godiva followed.