Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman's Executiveprivilege had to work
harder than ever before to maintain her perfect record in Saturday's Grade 1,
Mar Debutante, but the Bob Baffert pupil willed herself to nip the
front-running Beholder at the wire. Although her outward drift down the stretch
nearly cost the 4-5 favorite, jockey Rafael Bejarano managed to coax her onto a
straight path, and thus earned his record-tying 12th stakes win of the Del Mar
"My wife Jill is really pretty good at that (judging finishes)," Baffert said, "and she said, 'We got beat.' I'm glad she was wrong for the first time in 1,000."The 8-1 Beholder, who had finished fourth to Executiveprivilege in their mutual debut at Hollywood Park, blasted to the front from the outside post. Employing daring catch-me-if-you-can tactics, she sped through taxing splits of :22 2/5 and :45 1/5. Executiveprivilege was reserved at about midpack, while racing out wide and in the clear. The odds-on choice began to improve rounding the far turn, and had only Beholder ahead of her straightening for home.
But Beholder was threatening to spring the upset, and clung tenaciously to a 2 1/2-length lead through six furlongs in 1:10. Executiveprivilege bore out several paths, and her diagonal momentum was pulling her further away from Beholder on the inside. Once Bejarano persuaded Executiveprivilege to focus her energies forward, she gained relentlessly on the visibly tiring Beholder.
The wire still looked as if might come in time for Beholder, but Executiveprivilege made one final thrust to force her nose in front on the line. Now a perfect four-four-four, the daughter of First Samurai negotiated seven furlongs on the Polytrack in 1:23 2/5 and paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.10.
"She ran hard, very hard," said Bejarano, who joins Laffit Pincay Jr. (1976), Chris McCarron (1995), Gary Stevens (1997) and Corey Nakatani (1998) with a dozen stakes wins in a single Del Mar season.
"She's a good filly and she did her best today," the winning rider continued.
"I thought that filly on the lead (Beholder) was going to come back to us. 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 didn't give Rafael any instructions," said Baffert, whose seventh Del Mar Debutante score handed him his 101st stakes win at the track. "The way the track's been playing, you don't know whether to let them run early or take them back.
"Turning for home I saw (Beholder) had a really good lead, and I thought (Executiveprivilege) had her work cut out for her. She really had to dig down.
"I wasn't sure (about the photo finish)," the Hall of Fame trainer added. "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.
"She's a gutty little filly and the filly that ran second is as well. They really separated themselves. Richard (Mandella, trainer of Beholder) -- he had her ready."
Garrett Gomez, Beholder's rider, recapped his near-miss.
"I did what I could with her," Gomez said. "I knew we were setting fast fractions, but she was comfortable with it. We were on the fence and saving all we could. I sure would have liked it if that winner had run up alongside me instead of being so far out there. 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."
There was a gap of 4 1/4 lengths back to Mechaya, who was forwardly placed throughout. Miss Empire and Heir Kitty checked in fourth and fifth, respectively, and in the process did no favors for the form of the Grade 2 Best Pal, in which they had taken the minor awards behind the colt Know More.
Rounding out the order under the wire in the Del Mar Debutante were Renee's Titan, Pat's Back and Wasted at Midnight. Speedinthruthecity, who has had enough of chasing Executiveprivilege, was scratched in favor of Monday's Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Executiveprivilege opened her career with a 4 1/2-length maiden romp at Hollywood on June 28 and added the Landaluce to her resume on July 14 by an easy 3 1/4 lengths. The margins have gotten tighter over the Del Mar Polytrack, with a workmanlike 1 1/4-length decision in the Grade 3 Sorrento prior to Saturday's thriller, which increased her earnings to $390,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Betz/D.J. Stable/Kidder/J. Betz/Robenalt, Executiveprivilege first sold for $23,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, but commanded $650,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS in April. She is out of the Grade 2-placed Unaccounted For mare Refugee, making her a half-sister to stakes-placed Profit.
Executiveprivilege's third dam is Hall of Famer Davona Dale, who would go on to produce 1989 Belmont Stakes third Le Voyageur, stakes-placed winners Macau and Davona Gold, and the dam of Grade 2 victor Just a Cat. Davona Dale's stakes-winning half-sister Aly's Adita would herself foal 2006 Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Seek Gold.
This family also includes Grade/Group 1 stars Agincourt, Flying Snowdrop and Sparkling Gem, as well as 1984 Preakness-winning sire Gate Dancer. Tracing the maternal line further back, one finds Siena Way, a full sister to 1948 Triple Crown winner and all-time great Citation.