Gotta Have Her in the Palomar Handicap.

Gotta Have Her in the Palomar Handicap.

Benoit Photography

Gotta Have Her Wins Duel for Palomar Repeat

Fighting a slow pace, the 6-year-old mare digs down for a neck win on Del Mar's turf.

Even-money choice Gotta Have Her survived a stretch-long duel with the outsider Go Forth North to score a repeat victory by a neck in the Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Del Mar turf Sept. 6 (VIDEO).

The million-dollar earner Gotta Have Her, coming out of a third-place finish in the John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 15, prevailed gamely in a so-so time of 1:42.39. The 6-year mare ran nearly two seconds faster in winning last year's Palomar for trainer Jenine Sahadi and Richard Masson's Green Lantern Stables.

Just five competed in the 1 1/16-mile test of fillies and mares, and an extremely slow early pace made for an oddly run event. You Lift Me Up took the lead when no one else would for jockey Patrick Valenzuela and they put everyone to sleep with a :26.24 opening quarter-mile. Suddenly, though, You Lift Me Up zipped to a four-length lead after picking up the tempo for a :50.04 half-mile. You Lift Me Up continued to control things, leading by 1 1/2 lengths after six furlongs in 1:13.32.

Gotta Have Her, ridden by Mike Smith, stalked the pace off the rail in second for a half-mile. She fell back a bit on the final turn before launching a three-wide bid leaving the bend with Go Forth North saving ground for Martin Garcia to her inside. Gotta Have Her took a narrow lead into the stretch on the outside of her rivals, but they refused to yield. Go Forth North, the only 3-year-old in the field, battled gamely between foes all the way down the lane at 11-1 odds. You Lift Me Up finally gave way when forced to steady briefly near the eighth pole while in tight along the inside.

Lilly Fa Pootz, rated in fourth, was angled out for the stretch drive by Joel Rosario and finished willingly to get third, a half-length behind Go Forth North. You Lift Me Up had to settle for fourth, with Prytania trailing through out.

"I was worried about hitting the front too soon," Smith said of the winner. "You don't want to do that with her. She'll pull herself up. I was worried about (trainer Jerry) Hollendorfer's other mare (Lilly Fa Pootz) coming and getting us. But it worked out fine."

The slowly unfolding pace had Sahadi worried, she said.

"It was a weird race," she said. "I was concerned when I saw the 26 (seconds for the first quarter). I knew they were going slow and (Gotta Have Her) doesn't have a real huge turn of foot. As long as she can just gallop along, she's fine. I'm really proud of her. She's really special."

Garcia said Go Forth North was never going to get by the winner in the stretch.

"That might have looked close at the end, but it really wasn't," he said. She (Gotta Have Her) was playing with me. My filly would move up to her and she'd move away. Then I'd get close again and she wouldn't let us get by. The winner's just too good."

Gotta Have Her, winner of the Royal Heroine Mile (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park July 3, recorded her 10th lifetime win in 29 starts and increased her earnings to $1,092,608 with winning purse of $90,000.

Nursery Place and Robert T. Manfuso bred the winning bay daughter of Royal Academy--Winnowing, by Rahy, in Kentucky.

Gotta Have Her carried top weight of 121 pounds and paid $4, $3, and $2.10. Go Forth North, who defeated 3-year-olds in the Sandy Blue Stakes in a dead-heat last time for trainer A.C. Avila, returned $5.80 and $2.60. Lilly Fa Pootz, who missed by a nose in the John C. Mabee, was $2.10 to show.