Odds-on choice Executiveprivilege remained perfect in four starts with her victory in the $300,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) Sept. 1 but had to dig deep to defeat determined pacesetter Beholder by a nose (VIDEO).
The win sealed the juvenile filly championship at the Del Mar meet for Executiveprivilege, who felt the sting of jockey Rafael Bejarano's right-handed whip in deep stretch as she struggled to catch Beholder.
Executiveprivilege drifted out in the drive even as she was making up ground but got the job done in her grade I debut. Final time for the seven furlongs on Polytrack was 1:23.43.
Bob Baffert trains Executiveprivilege, a $650,000 purchase at this year's Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s sale of 2-year-olds in training in April, for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. The bay daughter of First Samurai was bred in Kentucky by D.J. Stable, Kidder, J. Betz, and Robenalt, and is out of the graded stakes-placed mare Refugee, by Unaccounted For.
This was the seventh Del Mar Debutante title for Baffert, but his first since 2006 with Zayat Stable's Point Ashley.
Bejarano earned his 12th stakes win of the Del Mar meet, pulling him into a tie with Laffit Pincay Jr. (1976), Chris McCarron (1995), Gary Stevens (1997), and Corey Nakatani for the most at the seaside track. Bejarano also won last year's Debutante aboard Weemissfrankie.
Beholder, who set a quick pace and pulled away from the field in the homestretch, was a tough-luck second with Garrett Gomez aboard. Mechaya, the 5-2 second choice in the field of eight, was 4 3/4 lengths farther back in third.
"Turning for home I saw (Beholder) had a really good lead and I thought (Executiveprivilege) had her work cut out for her," Baffert said. "She really had to dig down.
"She's a gutty little filly and the filly that ran second is as well," he added. "They really separated themselves."
The race was not a Breeders' Cup Challenge race but Executiveprivilege would seem a likely candidate for this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in two months at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from the far outside, Beholder went straight to the lead for Gomez as Executiveprivilege, sent off at odds of 4-5, raced in mid-pack on the far outside down the backstretch. Beholder provided a solid tempo as she led Pat's Back and Mechaya by about 1 1/2 lengths. The quarter mile split was :22.44 with the half going in :45.34.
Beholder took a commanding lead in the stretch as her pace rivals attempted to keep up. As she has done in most of her earlier starts, Executiveprivilege advanced on the far outside and took aim at the leader. This time it was a little different, however as Beholder, leading by 2 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch, refused to buckle.
It looked doubtful that Executiveprivilege could get there in time as Gomez went to work on Beholder to maintain the lead in deep stretch. As they crossed the wire it was impossible to tell if Executiveprivilege had made it as she was so wide on the track.
"I thought that filly on the lead was going to come back to us," Bejarano said. "I didn't think she'd hold on like that. I got busy on my filly. I think she got out because she was running so hard; it's not that she's green. She changed leads when we were going out and she just kept going. But she got there. I thought I'd won it. I knew it was close, but I thought I'd won it."
"I sure would have liked it if that winner had run up alongside me instead of being so far out there," said Gomez. "I think it would have given my filly a competitive jolt and that would have been enough. But she ran great. What can you do?"
"I wasn't sure (about the photo finish)," Baffert said. "She was so far (outside), she just lost focus on that other horse. I wasn't sure, but I really thought she didn't get up in time. I'm just grateful that we got the photo.
"My wife Jill is really pretty good at that (judging finishes) and she said, 'We got beat.' I'm glad she was wrong for the first time in 1,000."
Executiveprivilege was sold to agent Hubert Guy for $23,000 from the Betz Thoroughbred consignment at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. Consigned by Eddie Woods to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April 2-year-old sale, she topped the sale when Pegram, Watson, and Weitman paid $650,000 for her.
She began her career June 28 with a maiden victory at Betfair Hollywood Park by 4 1/2 lengths, a race in which Beholder finished fourth. Executiveprivilege tried stakec company next, routing the field in the Landaluce Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths. Transferred to Del Mar for the summer, Executiveprivilege captured the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) Aug. 8 by 1 1/4 lengths. She has been odds-on in all four of her races, and has banked $390,000.
Carrying 122 pounds, Executiveprivilege paid $3.60, $2.60, $2.10. Spendthrift Farm's Beholder, who broke her maiden by 3 1/4 lengths at Del Mar July 22 for Richard Mandella, returned $5.60 and $3.60 while completing a $17 exacta. Mechaya, who earned a 93 Beyer speed figure in her debut maiden win at Del Mar Aug. 10 for trainer John Sadler, was $2.60 to show.
Miss Empire finished fourth, followed by her Peter Miller-trained stablemate Heir Kitty. Then came Renee's Titan, Pat's Back, and Wasted At Midnight.
Speedinthruthecity, second to Executiveprivilege in both the Landaluce and Sorrento, was scratched by Miller in favor of the Oak Tee Juvenile Fillies Turf Sept. 3.