'Victory' Assured in Del Mar Debutante?

Tom VanMeter II's Victory U.S.A., an impressive maiden winner from the talent-deep barn of trainer Bob Baffert, heads a field of six for Saturday's 53rd edition of the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on the main track.

Baffert will be trying to win his sixth Debutante in nine years when he sends out the classy chestnut daughter from the first crop of 1998 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Victory Gallop. His other Debutante winners were: Habibti (2000), Chilukki ('99), Excellent Meeting ('98), Vivid Angel ('97), and Batroyale ('95).

Victory U.S.A. won at first asking on Aug. 3 when she annihilated a field in a gate-to-wire victory going six furlongs. Setting fractions of :22.45 and :45.46, she completed the distance in 1:10.34 while under a hand ride from Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. Her winning margin was 6 1/2 furlongs.

She has worked three times since the victory, finishing off her preparation for the Debutante with a bullet five-furlong workout in 58 3/5 on Monday.

VanMeter purchased Victory U.S.A. in February for $575,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training from Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, agent. The colt, out of the Cox's Ridge mare Fordyce, was entered in two auctions as a yearling, but was withdrawn both times.

Victory U.S.A. was bred in Kentucky by George Brunacini. She is the first foal out of Fordyce, who won but one race from 26 starts. However, she is out of the three-time grade II stakes-winning Foresta, who was a terror on the turf in early '90s while earning nearly $640,000.

Set to take on the Baffert trainee, who will be ridden again by Smith, are Halfbridled, Solar Fire, Wind Flow, Shadow of Mine, and Hollywood Story.

All will carry 116 pounds except Hollywood Story, who is a non-winner and will carry 114. Hollywood Story finished second behind Victory U.S.A. in her only career start.

Halfbridled, who will be ridden by Julie Krone, was an impressive maiden winner July 27, getting 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.06. By Unbridled, out of the Deputy Minister mare Half Queen, Halfbridled is trained by Richard Mandella for breeder/owner Wertheimer & Frere. Half Queen, out of the graded stakes winner At the Half, is a half-sister to millionaire Lu Ravi.

Solar Fire, a daughter of Stravinsky, enters the Debutante with three starts under her belt. Owned by the Chaiken Family Trust and Green Lantern Stables, Solar Fire broke her maiden at second asking at Hollywood Park on July 17, then ran third behind Tizdubai in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar on Aug. 9. She is trained by Jenine Sahadi.

Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), seven furlongs, 2-year-old fillies, $250,000.
PP, Horse, Jockey
1, Halfbridled, Julie Krone
2, Solar Fire, Victor Espinoza
3, Wind Flow, Corey Nakatani
4, Shadow of Mine, Jose Valdivia Jr.
5, Hollywood Story, Patrick Valenzuela
6, Victory U.S.A., Mike Smith