A freshened Tiz Flirtatious made easy work of her four opponents in the $250,000 John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Aug. 11, shaking clear in upper stretch to win without much of a challenge on the Del Mar turf.
The 3-5 choice, Tiz Flirtatious sat off a ponderous pace for Julien Leparoux and then produced a big turn of foot coming off the turn to sweep by second choice Lady of Shamrock and quickly take control. She rolled home in hand by 2 1/4 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-mile journey in 1:51.71 over firm ground.
It was the slowest time in the Mabee, previously known as the Ramona Handicap, since it was moved to the grass in 1970.
Pamela Ziebarth's California homebred daughter of Tizbud was making her first start for trainer Marty Jones since finishing a hard-fought second by a head to Marketing Mix in the Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) at Betfair Hollywood Park May 27. The fast-improving 5-year-old mare posted her second grade II victory following a one-length triumph under Leparoux in the Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Park March 24.
Jones said prior to the race that he wants to keep Tiz Flirtatious, a strapping dark bay out of the Victory Gallop mare Masquerade Belle, fresh for a run in this year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) this fall at Santa Anita.
Leparoux and Jones each won the Mabee, which was a grade I until 2010, for the first time.
"Such acceleration, wonderful," Leparoux said. "She reminds me of two other horses I rode that could kick like that—(grade I winners) Gorella and Forever Together. She was so relaxed today, going so easy. I wasn't concerned about the pace. We were in a good spot and I knew she had her kick. Certainly nice to ride one like her."
Lady of Shamrock, who added blinkers for the Mabee and abandoned her late-running style for trainer John Sadler, was second again for the third time in five starts this year. My Gi Gi finished third, followed by Customer Base and Journaliste.
The Argentine mare Journaliste was enlisted by Sadler as a pacemaker in hopes that it would give Lady of Shamrock a realistic tempo to set up her late kick. But as it worked out, Lady of Shamrock tracked in second for Rafael Bejarano as Tiz Flirtatious set up at the back of a well-bunched field. Journaliste walked the dog through quarter mile fractions of :26.66, :52.84, and 1:17.94 under Martin Pedroza before Bejarano decided he could wait no longer on Lady of Shamrock.
They took the lead at the quarter pole, but it was short-lived as Leparoux called upon Tiz Flirtatious, charging from fourth while three wide. The favorite went by Lady of Shamrock like a shot to secure a 1 1/2-length advantage and came home comfortably in front.
Lady of Shamrock finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of the closing Mi Gi Gi, who was piloted by Corey Nakatani.
The ultra-consistent Tiz Flirtatious posted her seventh win from 11 lifetime starts to go with three seconds and a third. She has banked $624,800.
"I didn't envision the race going that way but it couldn't have worked out any better," Jones said. "When she relaxes she raises her game to another level and today she was really relaxed and happy. I think she's getting better.
"It has taken some time, but now she relaxes and Julien has done a great job and understands her and knows how she needs to be ridden. I think a mile and a quarter is our next spot."
Jones said the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT) over 10 furlongs at Santa Anita Sept. 28 could be next for Tiz Flirtatious, "and then hopefully the Breeders' Cup."
Shouldering 121 pounds, the winner paid $3.20, $2.20, and $2.10, keying an exacta worth $6.80 with Lady of Shamrock, who returned $2.80 and $2.20. My Gi Gi paid $3.20.