Reunited with jockey Victor Espinoza, Attima rebounded from her last-place finish in the American Oaks (gr. IT) by dominating the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday on the Del Mar turf course.
Attima pulled her way to the lead after breaking from the outside in the field of eight, settled well along the inside to lead the field into the stretch, then held on gamely for a 1 1/4-length victory. Carrying high weight of 120 pounds. she competed the mile in 1:34 3/5 on firm going.
Trained by Julio Canani for owners Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino, the Great Britain-bred daughter of Zafonic was sent off as the 11-10 favorite of the public, which forgave her disappointing effort in the 1 1/4-mile Oaks at Hollywood Park July 2. She faded that day after setting the pace for six furlongs as the 5-2 second choice.
"I don't have any answer for her race at Hollywood," said Canani, referring to the Oaks, where she was beaten nearly 15 lengths. "I shod her in the morning and then ran. Maybe she was a little foot sore."
The victory makes Attima a solid choice for the $400,000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) at 1 1/8 miles Aug. 19.
Attima looked more like the filly that ran her foes into the ground in the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) in her previous start at nine furlongs at Hollywood.
Under pressure from Lake Marina on her outside, Attima set fractions of :22 2/5, :47 and 1:11 while under a firm hold from Espinoza. Attima inched away from her challengers in the stretch and dug in late under moderate urging.
"I was thinking about taking back some and laying off (the lead)," said Espinoza, who rode the Japanese invader Asahi Rising to a second-place finish in the American Oaks. "But she wanted to go, so it really didn't matter a whole lot what I wanted to do. She was going easy. I knew going into the first turn I didn't have to worry about the pace. And I only asked her the last sixteenth."
Sol Mi Fa nipped her Jim Cassidy stablemate, Soothsay, who closed well from the outside, by a head for second, with Secret Scheme a nose back in fourth.
Attima won for the third time in four starts since transferring to the U.S. from France this spring. She was group III-placed at Longchamp for trainer Pascal Bary as a 2-year-old. Overall, she has a 4-2-0 record in nine starts and earnings of $252,676.
She paid $4.20, $3 and $2.40. Sol Mi Fa, ridden by Norberto Arroyo Jr., returned $4.80 and $3.40. Soothsay, Corey Nakatani aboard, was $2.80 to show.
Both Sol Mi Fa, who ran fifth in the American Oaks, and Soothsay, coming off a second-place finish in the one-mile Flawlessly at Hollywood, are Irish breds who began their careers in Europe.
"Sol Mi Fa -- to run that close to that filly, Attima, when she's that good – that's pretty good for Sol Mi Fa," said Cassidy. "Soothsay had to do a lot. She's such a hard-trying thing."
Following Secret Scheme was Tasha's Delight, Lake Marina, True and True, and Arlene. Hill of Grace and Musical High scratched.
In the afternoon's supporting feature, the $93,535 Wickerr Handicap for older horses at one mile on turf, the Italian-bred Becrux, winner of a division of the Oceanside Stakes last summer, rallied in the stretch to win by a half-length under jockey Corey Nakatani.
Outsider Stormin Away was second, with Unfurl the Flag third in a field of eight horses.
The 4-year-old gelding Becrux, a son of Glen Jordan owned by Team Valor Stables and Barber and trained by Neil Drysdale, stepped the distance in 1:34.31 and paid $6.60 as the betting choice. The win, the seventh in a 17-race career for the gelded son of Glen Jordan, was worth $54,285, raising his career total to to $262,064. Becrux had finished third in four of his six starts since taking the Oceanside division.