The 65th running of the $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2) takes place Saturday at Del Mar, and last year’s winner, CAMBODIA, returns to defend her title under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
The Tom Proctor-trained six-year-old earned her first stakes victory in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) last season and two races later added a three-quarter length score in the Yellow Ribbon to her resume. She followed that with a win in the John C. Mabee Stakes (G2) by the same margin and garnered a career-best 106 BRIS Speed rating when finishing third next out in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Cambodia rounded out her 2017 campaign with a fourth-place run in the Matriarch Stakes (G1) on November 26 and didn’t reappear in competition until posting a supbar sixth in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 14. The War Front mare was only two lengths behind the winner when seventh last out in Belmont Park’s Just a Game Stakes (G1) on June 9, and will try to get back to her winning ways in this spot.
Lining up against Cambodia on Saturday will be 11 rivals, including SOPHIE P. That British-bred five-year-old will be making only her fourth start stateside for trainer James Cassidy. Listed placed in her native England, the Bushranger mare ran sixth in the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) in her U.S. debut on April 7. A month later she gutted out a nose triumph in the Gamely Stakes (G1) and then filled the sixth spot once again last out in the Wilshire Stakes (G3) on June 24. Kent Desormeaux has been aboard for Sophie P’s last two starts and retains the mount on the 122-pound highweight.
MADAME STRIPES set the pace in the Gamely last out before just being caught on the wire. The Neil Drysdale trainee was a nose and a neck back in third at 10-1. The Argentinean-bred daughter of Equal Stripes kicked off her six-year-old season with a nice win in the Megahertz Stakes (G3) and was also third in the Royal Heroine in April. Group 1 placed in her native country, the bay mare rallied for third in last year’s John C. Mabee behind Cambodia. She’ll receive the services of jockey Geovanni Franco for the first time here.
BEAU RECALL sandwiched a win in the Royal Heroine between fourth-placings in the Las Cienegas Stakes (G3) and Gamely for trainer Simon Callaghan. The Irish-bred four-year-old rallied to just miss by a nose in last year’s Del Mar Oaks (G1) and filled the fourth spot most recently in the Wilshire after running in last early on. Jockey Corey Nakatani has the call on the Sir Princealot filly, who is getting blinkers added to her equipment.
STORM THE HILL and ANCIENT SECRET finished one-two, respectively, in the Wilshire last out for trainer Philip D’Amato and face off for a second straight time in this spot. The former, a Get Stormy four-year-old, earned a career-best 102 BRIS Speed rating for her Wilshire victory under returning jockey Rafael Bejarano. Ancient Secret, who captured the Lake George Stakes (G2) at Saratoga in 2016, ran second in the Monrovia Stakes (G2) prior to the Wilshire and gets a jockey switch to Mike Smith on Saturday.
HALLIE BELLE takes a step up in the Yellow Ribbon for trainer Michael Stidham after rallying for third in the Modesty Handicap (G3) at Arlington Park on July 7. The Medaglia d’Oro four-year-old, who captured the Dahlia Stakes at Laurel Park on April 21, competes in California for the first time but keeps Joe Bravo in the irons. Multiple Grade 1-placed SASSY LITTLE LILA, fifth in the Wilshire and Royal Heroine in her past two, enters here for trainer Richard Mandella. The Artie Schiller mare will be ridden for the first time by Tyler Baze.
Completing the Yellow Ribbon field are Grade 3 winner MIDNIGHT CROSSING, third in the Osunitas Stakes most recently; former claimer FAHAN MURA, who had a four-race win streak snapped when sixth in the New York Stakes (G2) before returning to the winner’s circle last out by wiring the Osunitas; multiple Group 3-placed listed winner TISBUTADREAM, who gets first-time Lasix while making her U.S. bow in this spot; and Grade 3-placed PANTSONFIRE.
Earlier on Del Mar’s Saturday program, seven Golden State-bred or -sired juveniles have been entered in the $100,000 Graduation Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track. LUCK’S ROYAL FLUSH and CARNIVOROUS boast previous stakes experience having finished first and fifth, respectively, in the Everett Nevin Stakes during the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet. The rest are maiden scorers stepping up to face winners for the first time.