The trio approached the finish line in near unison, with 17-10 second choice Tiz Flirtatious thrusting her head out in the final strides for a narrow win over 6-5 pick Marketing Mix, turning the tables on the rival who defeated her in the Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) this spring at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The Rodeo Drive victory under Julien Leparoux guaranteed Tiz Flirtatious a start in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita as part of the "Win & You're In" challenge series. Owner/breeder Pamela Ziebarth said the 5-year-old Tizbud mare will be entered in the race, contested at the Rodeo Drive distance of 1 1/4 miles.
Marketing Mix, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare, won last year's edition of the Rodeo Drive, defeating Nereid by 2 1/4 lengths, and finished a game second to eventual champion Zagora in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Rider Gary Stevens said this year's runner-up effort in the Rodeo Drive set Marketing Mix up for a second crack at the Filly & Mare Turf. "She ran her race today; we just got outkicked," he said. "It was a funny run race, hopefully there will be more pace in the Breeders' Cup."
Gunning for a breakthrough stakes win, Vionnet grabbed a clear lead early and was tracked from second by Marketing Mix through tepid fractions of :25.39, :48.84, and 1:12.92 through six furlongs.
Tiz Flirtatious was keen to race in the opening stages before Leparoux settled her in fourth along the inside in a ground-saving trip. She was angled wide on the home turn and uncoiled an electric stretch rally on the outside to secure the win from a tenacious Marketing Mix, who went with her for a few strides as Vionnet dug in. She ultimately won by a head as the 6-5 favorite, earning her first grade I win.
"She finished strong," Leparoux said of Tiz Flirtatious, who was stretching out to 1 1/4 miles for the first time. "She had to fight because those other fillies did not stop. It was a good race for her and she got the grade I she deserves.
"I think she has a great chance for the Breeders' Cup. We knew she was really good, but it was nice to see her handle the distance. I was a little concerned with Victor's (Espinoza) horse (Vionnet). Victor's filly was running really well, actually, the first three ran really well and finished very fast."
Vionnet held on to finish a commendable third, a half-length behind Marketing Mix. The final quarter mile was timed in :22.64.
"Our filly is a little inexperienced with this kind of group, so we thought we might give it a try and I couldn't be prouder," trainer Richard Mandella said of Vionnet, a 4-year-old Street Sense filly. "She ran her heart out."
Tiz Flirtatious was timed in a swift 1:58.98 on turf rated as firm.
The California-bred is out of the unraced raced Victory Gallop mare Masquerade Belle. Her defeat in the Gamely bookended victories in the Santa Ana Stakes (gr. II) in March at Santa Anita and the John C. Mabee (gr. IIT) Aug. 11 at Del Mar in her previous start for trainer Marty Jones. The Rodeo Drive was her fourth win from five starts this season and eighth from 12 career starts as she extended her earnings to $774,800.
Tiz Flirtatious is the first grade I winner for Tizbud, who stands at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif. She is from the third crop of the 14-year-old son of Cee's Tizzy, a full brother to 2000 Horse of the Year and prominent sire Tiznow.
Tiz Flirtatious paid 5.40, 2.80, and 2.10, while Marketing Mix returned mutuels of 2.60 and 2.20. Vionnet, at 28-1 odds, paid 6.60 to show.