California’s road to the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) gets underway on Saturday when seven 2-year-old fillies race 6 ½ furlongs in the 32nd running of the $200,000 Sorrento Stakes (GII), the traditional prep for the Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 2.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert put his ownership stamp on the race a long time ago, saddling Soviet Sojourn to victory in 1991 and adding six more — Batroyale (1995), Silverbulletday (1998), Chilukki (1999), Inspiring (2004), Executiveprivilege (2012) and Pretty N Cool (2015).
This year, Baffert will tighten the girth on Phoenix Thoroughbred III Ltd’s Diamondsandpearls in her first start since breaking her maiden at first asking by 6 ¼ lengths at Santa Anita a month ago. The $1.7 million daughter of Congrats has done everything right since she began her career back in May, which is what every owner hopes any horse will do, especially one picked up for seven figures.
She’s coming off a really nice work earlier this week and she owns some serious figures for a once-raced juvenile, and the Bob Baffert-Mike Smith combo has never been hotter. She’s speedy and will have company early, so she will need to show she can handle the pressure on the front end to give Baffert his seventh Sorrento score.
Surrender Now leads the field to post off two wins in two starts, including the Landaluce Stakes at Santa Anita a month ago by eight lengths. The Peter Miller-trained daughter of Morning Line is another who has yet to show anything but professionalism in all she does. Owned by Rockingham Ranch, Surrender Now has a lot of things going for her, including the ability to rate off the early pace if necessary, decent speed and pace numbers and the fact she’s trained very well over at San Luis Rey Downs for weeks. Flavien Prat stays aboard and while the inside post isn’t ideal, Surrender Now has proven she’s talented and can run with the best of this up-and-coming division.
Rick and Sharon Waller’s Spectator, a chestnut daughter of young sire Jimmy Creed, enters off a maiden triumph where she closed from off the pace to win going away by 5 ½ lengths. Overall, her numbers aren’t as good as the top choices, but she will love the pace in front of her and trainer Phil D’Amato wouldn’t have her in this race if he didn’t think she was capable of a big effort.
Terra’s Angel hasn’t raced since breaking her maiden at Lone Star nearly three months ago, but that race was much better than it looked and the Dallas Keen-trained daughter of Drosselmeyer has adapted to the Del Mar weather and surface well. She’s another who will likely sit off the speed and wait as long as possible to make her move down the lane.
Spirit of Shanghai was third to Surrender Now in the Landaluce Stakes last out after breaking her maiden at first asking wearing a $50,000 tag. She’s also a pace stalker, but she’ll need to improve a lot to have a say here.
Midnight Summer faces winner for the first time after breaking her maiden for $62,500 first out 2 ½ weeks ago. She’s probably better than the tag she wore in her debut, but maybe a bit below the top choices here.
Dancing Belle is the lone maiden in this race, but we know trainer Keith Desormeaux excels with maidens in big races, so maybe this filly has more in her tank than what she’s shown in her three races?
The weather in Del Mar will be beautiful as usual with the high humidity that hit the area earlier in the week clearing out to dry, sunny skies and highs in the mid-70s. The Sorrento is the afternoon’s sixth race with a post time of 4:33 p.m. PT.