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Avenge Back at Del Mar for Yellow Ribbon

War Front mare has been competing in grade 1 competition since October.

Ramona Bass' Avenge began her ascent to a top-level turf female on the West Coast during the summer meet at Del Mar in 2016 and the 5-year-old mare will return to the seaside turf course Aug. 5 in the $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2T).

Although she won three times sprinting as a 3-year-old, the daughter of War Front  trained by Richard Mandella found her stride in two-turn races with an optional-claiming allowance score at Del Mar in July 2016, then closed out the summer meet with her first graded score in the John C. Mabee Stakes (G2T).

The speedy filly continued to build with a tight score in the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1T) at Santa Anita Park in October, then ran into Lady Eli (and other talented females) in her last two starts.

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Queen's Trust and Lady Eli bested Avenge in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T), when she set the pace and came in a game third, only a length behind the top two. Avenge also finished third in her 2017 debut, behind the victorious Lady Eli and Goodyearforroses, in the May 27 Gamely (G1T).

But a drop in class and a change in scenery—she's undefeated in two starts on the Del Mar turf—should lead to positive changes in Avenge's recent results.

"She's done well at Del Mar, so it doesn't hurt," said Mandella, who also noted Avenge has been training well on the dirt at the track by the beach. "She's doing well and training well up to the race. And (with her outside draw), she can stalk. She doesn't have to be on the lead, I don't think."

There are no Lady Elis in the eight-horse field, but there are two more graded winners.

Golden Eagle Farm's 6-year-old Hillhouse High is another late-developing mare who broke through two starts back in the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2T). Since moving from Chad Brown's barn on the East Coast to Richard Baltas' in the West, she's won two starts and hit the board in three others from seven starts.

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Winter Quarter Farm's Cambodia is the other graded winner in the field and she also earned that distinction two starts back in the Gallorette Stakes (G3T) at Pimlico Race Course. Part of trainer Tom Proctor's West Coast string, she's logged two works on the Del Mar turf since a third-place run in the Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes (G3T) last time out July 4 at Parx Racing.

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The field also has a distinct South American flavor, with three entrants who were bred and raced the southern continent.

Two come from the barn of trainer Paulo Lobo, Kiss Me Now and Pretty Girl, and both earned group 1 wins on the turf in South America. Kiss Me Now, bred and raced in Brazil, will make her first U.S. start, while Pretty Girl, an Argentine-bred, is still seeking her first stateside win in her sixth try.

The third South American-bred is Brazilian-bred and Brazilian group 1 winner Juno. She came to Mandella in 2016, but went winless in four starts for the Hall of Fame trainer and moved to another. For Neil Drysdale the Setembro Chove mare has placed in two graded stakes, but is still winless overall in seven U.S. starts.

Entries: Yellow Ribbon H. (G2T)

Del Mar, Saturday, August 05, 2017, Race 8

  • Grade IIT
  • 1 1/16m
  • Turf
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 5:33 PM (local)
11Amboseli (KY)Victor Espinoza114James M. Cassidy15/1
23Frenzified (GB)Santiago Gonzalez116James M. Cassidy12/1
34Juno (BRZ)Gary L. Stevens116Neil D. Drysdale8/1
45Hillhouse High (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey S. Nakatani119Richard Baltas4/1
56Pretty Girl (ARG)Mike E. Smith118Paulo H. Lobo8/1
67Cambodia (KY)Drayden Van Dyke119Thomas F. Proctor5/2
78Avenge (KY)Flavien Prat123Richard E. Mandella8/5