Multiple graded-stakes winner Vacare will try to add to her impressive resume Dec. 21 when she tops a full field of 12 fillies and mares in the Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) on closing day at Hollywood Park.
Vacare, by Lear Fan out of the Valid Appeal mare Appealing Storm, was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the 1 1/16-mile turf contest, based on her four graded stakes victories, including the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) in 2006 at Keeneland. This season, the 5-year-old mare has notched a pair of grade II events—the First Lady Stakes in Lexington and the Palomar Handicap at Del Mar in August.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Vacare was runner-up in the Sept. 27 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) before finishing fifth in her most recent start, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). Despite finishing fifth, she was only two lengths behind the winner.
Vacare is 7-2-1 from 13 lifetime starts for Jon and Sarah Kelly, Don and Joan Cimpl, and Jim and Joan Wiltz. Bred in Kentucky by Lothenbach Stables, she has earned more than $1.1 million. Jose Valdivia Jr. will get the return mount on Vacare, who will break from the inside post.
Carrying 118 pounds and shipping in from the East Coast is Earle Mack’s Lady Digby, who has captured a pair of blacktype events this season, including the All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) June 21 at Colonial Downs. One start later in her grade I debut, Lady Digby finished fifth to Forever Together in the Diana Handicap at Saratoga. Most recently, the 4-year-old Grand Slam filly returned after a freshening to finish sixth in the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 15.
The nation’s leading rider, Garrett Gomez, rides Lady Digby for trainer Graham Motion. This will be her first start at Hollywood Park.
Lael Stables’ Valbenny seeks her first win of the season after five defeats. Trained by Bobby Frankel, the Irish-bred daughter of Val Royal gave her best effort of the year last out when fourth in the Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) Oct. 24 at Santa Anita Park. She was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths.
Valbenny won a pair of graded stakes as a 3-year-old, including the Honeymoon Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) last June at Hollywood Park. It was her last trip to the winner’s circle. Alex Solis will ride for Frankel, who seeks his eighth Dahlia title.
Another Irish-bred filly will take her shot in the Dahlia. Ronchalon Racing’s Belle Allure, a 3-year-old daughter of Numerous, makes her U.S. debut after recording two wins in eight starts in France. One of those wins came in a group III turf event in April. Corey Nakatani will be in the irons.
Belle Allure is one of four 3-year-olds in the Dahlia. Place de L’Etoile, Sensational Love, and Don’t Forget Faith are the others. Post time is 4:05 p.m. PST for the Dahlia, which is race eight on the closing-day card.
$150,000 Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT, race 8, 4:05 p.m.) Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Rider
1. Vacare (KY), 122, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
2. Green Lyons (IRE), 115, Joel Rosario
3. I Can See (KY), 115, Aaron T. Gryder
4. Belle Allure (IRE), 114, Corey S. Nakatani
5. Place de L'Etoile (IRE), 111, Joseph Talamo
6. Gotta Have Her (KY), 115, Richard Migliore
7. Sensational Love (KY), 112, Michael C. Baze
8. Valbenny (IRE), 117, Alex O. Solis
9. Lady Digby (KY), 118, Garrett K. Gomez
10. Don't Forget Faith (KY), 110, Alonso Quinonez
11. In My Glory (KY), 113, Martin Garcia
12. Storybook (UAE), 114, Mike E. Smith