Facing males for the first time, top-notch turf mare Marketing Mix stubbornly denied Dhaamer in his bid for a repeat victory in the closing-day Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) July 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
In her initial try at 1 1/2 miles in the $100,000 event, the Glen Hill Farms-owned daughter of Medaglia d'Oro had the measure of Dhaamer in the final furlong under Gary Stevens to post a one-length victory as the 7-10 favorite in the field of six. Dhaamer was defeated for the first time in four starts on the Hollywood lawn as the 6-5 second choice, with Extensive far back in third.
The final time was 2:26.78 over very firm turf.
The Sunset marks the end of the 49-day spring/summer meet, the final one to be held at the historic Inglewood track. Hollywood Park is to close for good following the autumn meet that ends Dec. 22, making way for a multi-use commercial and residential development on the 238-acre site.
Trained by Tom Proctor, Marketing Mix was using the Sunset as a prep for the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) against her own sex at Arlington Park Aug. 17. She ran second in last year's Beverly D., losing by a head to I'm A Dreamer.
Marketing Mix, who was also second in last fall's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), became the third female to win the Sunset in its 72-year history. She joins Typecast (1972) and Petite Ile (1990).
"Let's hope she comes out the race well and we have that decision,'' Proctor said of the Beverly D. "That's the main thing. It's nice to win the last Sunset. A lot of good horses have won it. It means something to me.''
Bred in Ontario, Canada, by Sean Fitzhenry out of the Kris S. mare Instant Thought, Marketing Mix posted her 10th lifetime win in 18 starts and boosted her earnings to $1,869,518.
After racing along the inside in the early going, Stevens angled Marketing Mix to the outside of pacesetter Hawk's Eyes through the stretch run the first time, which is where she remained until gobbling up the leader early on the final turn. Marketing Mix had a commanding two-length lead leaving the quarter pole as Dhaamer, who trailed the field for the opening half mile, commenced his late run under Julien Leparoux.
"(Proctor) told me in the paddock to just take the race to them,'' said Stevens. "He said this mare can gallop faster than the rest of them. I didn't know what (Hawk's Eyes) was going to do and (his rider) Victor (Espinoza) was intent on getting the lead.
"I couldn't have paid to have a better rabbit out in front of me. I just let my mare gallop. I had it in my head to two-minute lick her to the three-eighths pole and set her down and work her three-eighths of a mile.''
As Dhaamer closed in through the lane, Stevens gave a quick look over his shoulder inside the final furlong to see where the challenger was. He then showed Marketing Mix the stick and urged her on, winning without asking for much.
"I came up to (Marketing Mix) and I thought I was going to go by her, but she went again,'' said Leparoux. "My horse ran his race, but she was just a little bit better.''
The Irish-bred Dhaamer lost for just the second time in five tries at the 12-furlong distance. He finished 6 3/4 lengths in front of Extensive, ridden by Martin Garcia. The Brazilian-bred Hawk's Eyes, who ran a brisk opening half mile in :48.38 and a mile in 1:38.63, was next, followed by Why Not Be Perfect and Only the Gold.
Stevens, the Hall of Fame jockey who came out of retirement at age 50 earlier this year, rode Marketing Mix to a thrilling head victory over Tiz Flirtatious in the Gamely Stakes (gr. I) May 27 over the Hollywood turf course. She is two-for-two so far in 2013, both at Hollywood, following a campaign last year comprised of four wins from seven starts. The season included victories in the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT), Dance Smartly (Can-IIT), and Nassau (Can-IIT) Stakes.
This was the third win in the Sunset for Stevens, who previously won it in 1994 with Grand Flotilla and in 2001 aboard Blueprint.
Carrying 119 pounds, Marketing Mix paid $3.40, $2.20, and $2.10, combining with the 121-pound high weight Dhaamer ($2.20, $2.10) for a $5.80 exacta. The show payoff on Extensive was $3.40.