Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey's odds-on choice Precious Kitten, a half-sister to turf champion Kitten's Joy, became a grade I winner for trainer Bobby Frankel when she came home impressively to win the $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) (VIDEO) for fillies and mares on the turf at Del Mar Aug. 4.
The job for the 4-year-old filly Precious Kitten was made a little easier when Frankel scratched the 6-5 early favorite, Juddmonte's Price Tag, on Saturday morning after she fell ill two nights before the 1 1/8-mile grass test. That reduced the field to five. Precious Kitten's task was made easier still when the Kentucky homebred daughter of Catienus out of the Lear Fan mare Kitten's First got a dream run while stalking a fast pace by Dancing Edie, who was looking for a repeat of her nose victory in last year's Mabee.
With Rafael Bejarano aboard, Precious Kitten settled on the outside, 1 1/2 to two lengths behind Dancing Edie. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Dancing Edie was determined to get the lead along the inside. She had no pressure but set a fast pace of :23 2/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5, and continued to lead all the way into the stretch. But the perfectly poised Precious Kitten demonstrated an impressive turn of foot in upper stretch and snatched the lead away in a couple of strides. She fought on to win under moderate urging by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:46.34, a stakes record. The previous mark was 1:47.09 set by Musical Chimes in 2004.
“When you ride one for Bobby Frankel, they come 100% ready to run," said the Eastern-based Bejarano after his first Del Mar stakes triumph. "At the three-eighths (pole) today I had a lot of horse. Then on the turn I didn’t have to do much. I just let her run."
Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's Southern California assistant, said the race unfolded as Frankel thought it would.
"I didn’t do anything special with (Precious Kitten), just keep her fit and sound. We were sorry not to run the other filly (Price Tag), but she got sick and we had to do what was right for her. She is better now, and probably will go back to the track tomorrow. These are two very nice fillies.”
It was the fifth win in the Mabee, known as the Ramona Handicap through 2001, for Frankel.
Dancing Edie, who shared top weight of 119 pounds with the winner, was game in defeat, setting a much quicker pace than she did in last year's Mabee and holding on for second by a nose over Memorette, ridden by Mike Smith.
“She ran her race," Nakatani said. "(Precious Kitten) was just better. You can’t take anything away from the winner.”
Precious Kitten served notice that she was set for a top-notch effort with a strong second to Lady of Venice in her last start, the CashCall Invitational Mile (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park a month ago. Before that, she won the Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Pimlico May 19 and posted seconds in the Jenny Wiley (gr. II) and the Honey Fox Handicap (gr. IIT) this year. Previously trained by Dale Romans, the consistent Precious Kitten improved to 5-7-1 in 15 lifetime starts with earnings of $889,688. She won $240,000 Aug. 4.
"She was good today," Bejarano noted. "Last time, she was nervous, she was very excited in the post parade. Then she broke so sharp and she just wanted to go on. So we wound up in front and got beat at the end."
Sent off at odds of 7-10, Precious Kitten paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. Dancing Edie, who rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the CashCall Mile for trainer Craig Dollase, returned $3 and $3 as the second choice. Memorette, fifth in last year's Mabee for trainer Bill Currin, was $3.80 to show. Take the Ribbon and Andrea trailed.