Price Tag and Precious Kitten, a pair of 4-year-old Bobby Frankel-trained fillies, are the clear standouts in the $250,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) Sept. 1 on the grass at Del Mar.
Considering the credentials of the Frankel runners, a surprisingly large field of 10 fillies and mares signed on for the 1 1/16-mile test. However, Frankel said he earlier this week that he didn't expect to run both Price Tag and Precious Kitten in the Palomar.
A grade I winner in her first U.S. start last November, Juddmonte Farms' Price Tag would likely have been favored in the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) on Del Mar's Jimmy Durante course Aug. 4, but a minor illness knocked her out of the race. She returned to training at Del Mar shortly after that and has turned in three published workouts on the Polytrack since.
Price Tag's defection helped open the door for Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's Precious Kitten to record her first grade I win in the Mabee. She tallied impressively by 1 1/2 lengths over Dancing Edie. The half-sister to turf champion Kitten's Joy has been remarkably consistent for Frankel this year. In five starts, all graded stakes, she has two victories and three seconds.
Price Tag, the 2006 Matriarch (gr. IT) winner at Hollywood Park and second to stablemate Citronnade in this year's Gamely (gr. IT), also at Hollywood, was assigned top weight of 123 pounds in the Palomar, one more than Precious Kitten. The Great Britain-bred daughter of Dansili ran third in her most recent start, the CashCall Invitational Mile (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park July 6.
The French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) winner in 2006 before transferring to America prior to the Matriarch, the bay homebred owns a 4-1-3 record in 13 lifetime tries with earnings of $689,737. Julien Leparoux rides Price Tag for the first time in the Palomar.
Frankel has found the key to getting Precious Kitten to relax this season after taking over training duties from Dale Romans. The homebred daughter of Catienus out of the Lear Fan mare Kitten's First pounced on Dancing Edie after that one set a fast pace in the 1 1/8-mile Mabee and proved a smart winner over her four rivals that day. She has also won the Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Pimlico this year and placed second in the CashCall Mile -- defeating Price Tag by a head -- Keeneland's Jenny Wiley (gr. II) on the Polytrack and Gulfstream Park's Honey Fox Handicap (gr. IIIT).
The dark bay filly has been ridden by Rafael Bejarano in her past seven starts, but Isaias Enriquez is to take the reins in the Palomar. Precious Kitten brings a lifetime record of 5-7-1 in 15 starts into the race. She has earned $889,688.
Several new shooters step up to take on the favorites.
New Zealand-bred Black Mamba, an impressive 2 1/2-length allowance winner Aug. 5 in her first American outing for trainer John Sadler, should be interesting. Tyler Baze again rides the black 4-year-old daughter of Black Minnaloushe.
Kris’ Sis, a 4-year-old daughter of Forestry, won the Osunitas Handicap over the course at the Palomar's 1 1/16-mile distance July 21 for Julio Canani. She has won two of her past three starts. Michael Baze rides again.
The Irish-bred Shermeen shipped to Santa Rosa to win the Luther Burbank Handicap on the Sonoma County Fair turf course July 28 for trainer Paddy Gallagher. That was her first win in 10 starts over the past two seasons.
Another Irish-bred Gallagher trainee in the field is Clinet, beaten by just a head while finishing second to Beautyandthebeast in the 2006 Palomar in her U.S. debut. The 5-year-old Clinet, who will have regular rider Alex Solis aboard, has lost four more since then and is still seeking her first American win.
Another coming into the race off a victory is the Steve Knapp trainee I Can See. The 4-year-old Flying Chevron filly won an allowance/optional claiming event on the Del Mar turf by a nose July 29.
Ron McAnally's protogee Dream's has been away since being awarded second via disqualification in the Tuzla Handicap at Santa Anita in January. She has won all three of her starts on the Del Mar turf, however, and gets Mike Smith.
$250,000 Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 9, 6 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 MIles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Shermeen (IRE), 114, Victor Espinoza
2. Clinet (IRE), 114, Alex O. Solis
3. Black Mamba (NZ), 112, Tyler Baze
4. Precious Kitten (KY), 122, Isaias D. Enriquez
5. Price Tag (GB), 123, Julien R. Leparoux
6. Dream's (CHI), 116, Mike E. Smith
7. Andrea (NZ), 112, Richard Migliore
8. Branca Como Neve (BRZ), 112, Joseph Talamo
9. Kris' Sis (KY), 115, Michael C. Baze
10. I Can See (KY), 114, Jon K. Court