Don Robinson's Winter Quarter Farm homebred Cambodia took her second graded stake in a row at Del Mar on Saturday, storming to the lead around the far turn and racing gamely down the stretch to win the Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes by three-quarters of a length. It is also her third graded victory of 2017. The 5-year-old daughter of War Front, trained by Tom Proctor and ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, covered nine furlongs over the firm turf in 1:47.79.
“No special instructions for me,” Van Dyke said. “Just get her out of there and get a good spot. She was really relaxed today; all class. She can be a little quirky sometimes, but today she was calm. We thought she might be close to the lead, but she was just going so easy I was happy with where I was. When it came time, she fired. I was just a passenger today.”
Hillhouse High jumped out to the lead by a half-length over Frenzified, setting pressured fractions of :23.20 and :47.38. Mrs McDougal, Lady Valeur and Decked Out were also in front of Cambodia, who Van Dyke had tucked in alongside Barleysugar. Goodyearforroses was also settled mid-pack early.
Rounding the far turn, Mrs McDougal rounded up three-wide to challenge for the lead while Van Dyke drafted in behind the first flight of mares. Cambodia found clear room to Mrs McDougal's outside as she straightened into the lane, and the mare showed a solid turn of foot to jump into the lead by the three-sixteenths pole.
Goodyearforroses made a bold late bid, but Cambodia had enough left to hold off that rival by three-quarters of a length at the wire. Madame Stripes finished third, and Insta Erma was fourth.
“I felt so fortunate to win the Yellow Ribbon and I look at this as icing on the cake,” said owner Don Robinson. “This filly has never been a mile and an eighth, and to do it this way – rate and close – I'm over the top. It's the best thing I've ever done for myself. I've raised some awfully good ones for other people, but this is a thrill. This is a crowning achievement. I love Del Mar.”
Bred in Kentucky by Don Robinson and Maverick Productions, Cambodia did not find her best stride until this, her 5-year-old season. She has been racing consistently this year, winning three of her last four, and her overall record now stands at six wins from 13 starts with earnings of over $440,000.
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