With 50-year-old Hall of Famer Gary Stevens in the saddle, She's a Tiger disposed of even-money favored Awesome Baby entering the stretch and then had enough left in the tank to hold off the fast-closing Fascinating and win the featured Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Debutante for two-year-old fillies Saturday.
She's a Tiger, a half-sister to the former star sprinter Smiling Tiger, engaged Awesome Baby shortly after the start of the seven-furlong sprint, setting fast fractions. Without much urging from Stevens, She's a Tiger was able to draw off from Awesome Baby in the upper stretch but then had to go all out to defeat Fascinating by a shrinking half-length in 1:22.71.
Fascinating, one of three horses saddled by trainer Bob Baffert, including Awesome Baby, who wound up seventh in the eight-horse field, and fourth-place Secret Compass, was 1 ¾ lengths ahead of third-place Concave. Secret Compass was the same margin behind Concave.
She's a Tiger, a daughter of Tale of the Cat owned by Mark DeDomenico, Allen Aldrich, Stuart Downey and Lisa Hernandez and trained by Jeff Bonde, began her career in northern California, breaking her maiden at Pleasanton before winning the Landaluce Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park. She suffered her only defeat when losing by a half-length to Concave in the Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 7. Bonde also conditioned Smiling Tiger who won the Bing Crosby Stakes in 2010.
Second choice in the wagering at 9-2, She's a Tiger returned $11, $5.40 and $3.80. First money of $180,000 increased her earnings to $315,650. She provided Stevens with his fifth success in the Del Mar Debutante and first since Miss Houdini in 2002.
Fascinating, 6-1 under Mike Smith, rallied strongly in the stretch to miss narrowly in a strong effort and paid $6.60 and $4.60. Concave, with Patrick Valenzuela up, paid $3.60 to show.
In a supporting feature on the 11-race program, Summer Hit led from wire to wire under Edwin Maldonado to win the $110,400 Harry F. Brubaker Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths over Wilkinson, with Liaison third. Sky Kingdom, the lukewarm 5-2 favorite, was fourth.
Summer Hit, owned by John Carver and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, ran the mile in 1:34.99 and paid $10.60 while winning $72,420.
Victor Espinoza was the day's riding star, booting in three winners.
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Del Mar Debutante Quotes
GARY STEVENS (She's a Tiger, winner) – “She got a flyer away from there, but she settled pretty well. But then when we got near the three-quarters pole, she wanted to duck in on me. Seems a lot of horses have been trying to do that at the meet. She was swapping leads on me, but she was running strong. You're going to think I'm crazy, but I think she'll be better going two turns, where I could drop her head and let her just get into a high gallop like Winning Colors (the filly he won the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby with). She's got a stride on her a mile long and I think she'd love to go on.”
MIKE SMITH (Fascinating, second) – “Her race was just incredible. She's only going seven eighths here; just wait until we go two turns. That other mare (winner She's a Tiger) had more seasoning on her today, but further on down the line I think it'll be a different story.”
PATRICK VALENZUELA (Concave, third) – “A very good effort on her part. I'm really happy with her try.”
JOE TALAMO (Secret Compass, fourth) – “A good trip and a good try on her part.”
GARRETT GOMEZ (Southern Sunshine, fifth) – “It was a good race for her. A good learning experience.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Bajan, sixth) – “She didn't run her race today. I don't know why. Maybe the heat. She's a baby; they bounce back.”
MARTIN GARCIA (Awesome Baby, seventh) – “I guess she didn't like all that pressure up front. I know she didn't like getting bumped by the winner going around there.”
MARIO GUTIERREZ (Sprouts, eighth) – “She was in a good spot, but she just ran out of gas.”
JEFF BONDE (She's a Tiger, winner) — “The blinkers definitely made a difference today. She was dominant over horses up north, but when we came down here she was kind of pricking her ears and looking around. She got stronger and when we added those she got more focused. She was very professional in the paddock. A lot of Tale of the Cats can get a little hot but she's got such great mentality and I'm really pleased with her. ”
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