Wasted Tears, attempting her longest distance over a surface she had never tried, dug deep to defeat the outsider Lilly Fa Pootz by a desperate nose and register her 10th consecutive win on grass in the $250,000 John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Aug. 15 at Del Mar.
The 6-5 favorite in a strong grade II event at nine furlongs, Bart Evans' homebred won for the seventh successive time overall while making her first trip to the oceanside track. Jockey Rajiv Maragh came in from New York to ride the winning 5-year-old Najran mare for Evans, who also trains her. Evans and Maragh each enjoyed their first-ever stakes win at Del Mar.
With the victory, Wasted Tears earned a starting slot in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs should Evans decide to head in that direction. Five-for-five in 2010, the little dark bay or brown mare locked up her second grade II victory of the campaign in the Mabee, which was reduced from a grade I this year for the first time since 1985.
Wasted Tears, based in the southwest, won the Mabee in a time of 1:47.35 over a firm course.
"I wasn't sure I was the winner until I saw the photo," Evans said. "We weren't sure about the distance and she had never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth. So you don't know what the last sixteenth is going to be like.
"I don't think we'll want to go to the Breeders' Cup. That's a European-style race--a mile and three-eighths. That time of the year in Kentucky, you can't tell what you're going to get. Maybe some rain and then it comes up soft. That's a long race."
The front-running Wasted Tears took the lead from Lilly Fa Pootz and Turning Top soon after the start. She proceeded to show the way through solid fractions of :23.78, :48.09 and 1:12.11 with 33-1 shot Spring Style pushing her along from the outside. Lilly Fa Pootz, always close to the leaders in third, made a three-wide move on the final turn to engage Wasted Tears on the outside. At the same time, Gotta Have Her, making an eye-catching push from the back of the pack along the rail, surged into contention at the top of the lane.
Gotta Have Her needed room but looked like a winner as they straightened away for the stretch run. Jockey Mike Smith, riding her for the first time in replacement of the injured Tyler Baze, saw space at the rail and guided the Green Lantern Stable mare toward the opening, but the hesitant challenger never was able to get through the narrow gap.
"She put the brakes on on me," Smith said. "She just wouldn't go up in there. There was room and I was going, but she just wouldn't go."
Instead, Lilly Fa Pootz, ridden by Joel Rosario, continued to press in on the leader from the outside and cut into her advantage in deep stretch. The two drew even in the final few strides but Wasted Tears, on the head bob, got the nod at the wire.
"She showed her usual early speed, then just plugged her way around there," said Maragh, who urged her with a left-handed stick from between horses in the final stages. "She got tested, truly tested. And it made her show her determination. I thought I'd won it at the wire, but I knew it was close. They were on both sides (of me) and they pushed her harder. She just wants to win, this mare. She'll do whatever it takes to win."
Rosario said of the runner-up, who went off at odds of 12-1: "She ran really good. I couldn't ask more of her. I thought I might get there, but that other filly wouldn't let me get by. She just kept pushing. My filly was all heart, but today the other one got it."
Lilly Fa Pootz got second by a half-length over Gotta Have Her with Princess Haya 1 1/2 lengths farther back in fourth. Disappointing was Gozzip Girl, who shipped from Florida for her first appearance in Southern California since winning last summer's American Oaks (gr. IT) and was never a factor while finishing sixth.
Wasted Tears won for the 11th time in 16 career starts and elevated her earnings to $708,598 with the winner's share of $150,000. She was bred in Kentucky and is out of the Greinton mare Wishes and Roses.
She has not lost on the turf since early in 2008 and her only loss in that span came in a seventh-place finish in the Lady's Secret Stakes on dirt at Remington Park in November of that year. She began her current win streak at Lone Star Park the following May, then set a one-mile course mark at the Texas track in winning the one-mile Ouija Board Handicap (gr. IIIT) in her next start.
Wasted Tears began her 2010 campaign with a pair of wins on the Gulfstream Park lawn, including a victory in the one-mile Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIIT). She then defeated 2008 champion turf female Forever Together in Keeneland's Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) at 1 1/16 miles April 10. The hard-trying mare repeated in the Ouija Board at Lone Star May 31 in her most recent race.
One of four in the field weighted at 121 pounds, Wasted Tears paid $4.20, $3.40 and $2.40. Lilly Fa Pootz, who won the restricted Osunitas Stakes over the Del Mar course in her most recent start for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, returned $8.20 and $3.60 and rounded out a $30.80 exacta. Second choice Gotta Have Her, who was second in last year's Mabee behind Magical Fantasy for trainer Jenine Sahadi, was $2.40 to show.
Princess Haya was followed by Turning Top, Gozzip Girl and Spring Style.