Labor Day weekend marks the close of the premier summertime racetracks on both coasts — Saratoga in New York and Del Mar in California. And Labor Day weekend also marks the first grade I races for juveniles, with a series of prestigious affairs for the newly minted crop of potential superstars sprinkled across the country.
In Del Mar on Saturday, the main event is the $300,000 Del Mar Debutante for fillies, which has been carded as the ninth race on the day. Contested at seven furlongs since 1993 and back on dirt, it is absolutely the race the big connections want to win at the end of the summer before heading back to real life about 100 miles north.
It’s supposed to be a gorgeous weekend again “Down at Ol’ Del Mar,” with sunny skies and afternoon highs in the mid-70s all weekend.
Since it was first contested in 1951, some very familiar names have made it to the Del Mar Debutante winner’s circle, including Terlingua (1978), who is better known as the dam of the great sire Storm Cat; the ill-fated champion Landaluce (1982); Sharp Cat (1996), a multiple grade I-winning millionaire; Chilukki (1999), who would go on to win the division’s Eclipse Award that year; and many more. But since Brave Raj, the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), winner cruised home to win the Debutante under Laffit Pincay Jr. in 1984, some historically significant girls have won the race before going on to win on Racing’s Championship Day, including Halfbridled (2003), Sweet Catomine (2004), Stardom Bound (2008), She’s a Tiger (2013) and Songbird last year.
This year, seven will go to the gate to race the seven furlongs, including the recent maiden winner American Cleopatra , who — so far — is best known as a full sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Pioneerof the Nile and the Yankee Gentlemen mare Littleprincessemma debuted at an unexpected 7-1 despite her connections, which includes owner/breeder Zayat Stables, and wowed the crowd with her impressive two-length score in near gate-to-wire fashion under Kentucky Derby (GI)-winning jockey Stewart Elliott.
It’s hard to say why she was such a long price that day, as her morning works were exceptional heading into the race and, well, she’s basically racing royalty. Since we know American Cleopatra is bred to handle this added distance, we know she has the connections to get it done, including new rider Rafael Bejarano, and we know she’s ready, judging by her strong works since her debut she definitely won’t be 7-1 this time — that’s pretty clear.
Baffert, looking for his eighth winner in this event (which would be one shy of record-holder D. Wayne Lukas’ total) will also tighten the girth on impressive maiden winner Noted and Quoted, who romped by 9 ½ lengths in her second start three weeks ago. The $335,000 daughter of the very speedy The Factor, who is owned by Speedway Stable, has a great off-the-pace running style that helps in these baby races usually loaded with early speed. Baffert’s latest go-to stakes jockey Mike Smith takes over for Bejarano and the pair will break from the post five.
Champagne Room looked good winning the Sorrento Stakes (GII) as her prep for this race while, at the same time, breaking her maiden. The daughter of Broken Vow, who is trained by Peter Eurton, was the favorite last time out, but will likely offer more value than last time with the Baffert pair in here. Mario Gutierrez will be back aboard and the duo will break from the four hole.
Miss Southern Miss has a pair of seconds since breaking her maiden at first asking in early June at Santa Anita — the Landaluce Stakes and the Sorrento Stakes, both at Del Mar. The Keith Desormeaux trainee has shown a lot of promise and has always put in strong efforts. She looks to be improving with every start and she won’t need a ton of it to make a statement here under jockey Kent Desormeaux from the rail.
Morganite makes her return after winning at first asking opening weekend July 16 and has been working well for trainer John Sadler. The Gemologist filly, who owners Hronis Racing paid $360,000 for earlier this year, gets the services of Victor Espinoza in the irons again and a decent post in number two.
Holy Mosey won in her fourth start over the Del Mar track last out wearing a $65,000 price tag. She will have Hall of Famer Gary Stevens aboard, but this field may be too tough for her.
Post time for the Del Mar Debutante will be at 5:58 p.m. EDT.