Odds-on favorites were upended in both of Del Mar’s graded stakes on Saturday. And Tell Me Nolies nailed the 7-10 Home Cooking in the $301,000 Del Mar Debutante (G1), and Avenue de France beat 1-2 choice Going Global to the punch in the $251,000 John C. Mabee (G2).
Del Mar Debutante (G1)
Swinging for home in the Del Mar Debutante, Home Cooking appeared on her way to handing Bob Baffert an 11th win in the seaside track’s marquee race for juvenile fillies. But in deep stretch, she was nabbed by a daughter of past Baffert star Arrogate – And Tell Me Nolies – from the Peter Miller barn.
Both fillies were coming off maiden wins in their second attempts. Peter Redekop’s And Tell Me Nolies was let go at 9.80-1 after scoring by a neck on Aug. 14. Home Cooking was hammered into odds-on favoritism in light of her 9 1/4-length romp on Aug. 21. Aside from the slightly quicker turnaround, it might have been significant that Home Cooking was stepping up from 5 1/2 furlongs to seven, while And Tell Me Nolies was taking a more incremental step from 6 1/2 furlongs.
Another factor was arguably the favorite’s trip. In her debut, Home Cooking argued the pace and tired to third behind the impressive Justique. Next time, she played a stalking role and swooped on the turn. On Saturday, the Honor Code filly appeared to be duplicating those successful tactics, until making an early move.
Home Cooking was reserved in fourth as Arella Star, Kissed by Fire, and her Baffert stablemate Fast and Shiny vied through an opening quarter in :22.01. Then jockey Mike Smith steered Home Cooking to a path where she saw daylight, and she went to the front, clearing them by the half in :44.36. Traveling comfortably into the lane, the favorite began to look a little less convincing as they entered the final furlong.
Meanwhile, And Tell Me Nolies had worked her way outside to take aim on Home Cooking. Her gathering momentum was in stark contrast to the favorite, who needed the wire. As Smith tried to coax a bit more, Ramon Vazquez had And Tell Me Nolies in full flight, and she headed Home Cooking on the line. After clocking 1:23.29, the winner furnished $21.60.
“I told Peter (Miller) that I had confidence in this filly right from the start,” Vazquez said. “I’m glad he was loyal to me and let me ride her in this one. She was a runner all the way today. And I knew I was the winner at the wire. This is my first Grade 1 win. It is so amazing. I want to thank Peter for giving me this chance. This is amazing.”
A further 3 3/4 lengths back in third came Ice Dancing, who filled the same spot in And Tell Me Nolies’ maiden win. Hitherto undefeated Sorrento (G2) winner Vegas Magic was a distant fourth, followed at long intervals by Fast and Shiny, Kissed by Fire, and Arella Star. Satin Doll was a last-minute vet scratch after rearing in the gate, set alight by a restless Fast and Shiny.
And Tell Me Nolies has bankrolled $232,800 from her 3-2-0-0 line. Bred by Lara Run in Kentucky, the bay initially sold for $70,000 as a “short” yearling at Keeneland January. She brought $230,000 at OBS this April.
Her dam, Grade 3 scorer Be Fair, is an Exchange Rate half-sister to Grade 1 hero Macho Again. Both half-siblings crossed paths with Hall of Famers. Be Fair was third to Zenyatta in the 2010 Apple Blossom (G1), one year after checking in a remote fourth behind Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Macho Again, best of the rest in Big Brown’s 2008 Preakness (G1), got close to “Rachel” in her epic Woodward (G1) in 2009.
John C. Mabee (G2)
In the Mabee, however, an early move by Juan Hernandez was the key to Avenue de France’s $23.80 upset. The French-bred veteran hasn’t been able to outkick the brilliant Going Global, who’d dispatched her in their prior meetings in the Apr. 9 Royal Heroine (G2) and the Aug. 13 Yellow Ribbon (G2). But getting the jump on the favorite changed the whole dynamic.
Going Global was positioned a couple of places ahead of Avenue de France through the first half-mile, as Park Avenue carved out splits of :23.73 and :46.53 on the firm turf. By the three-quarter mark in 1:11.00, Hernandez had taken closer order aboard Avenue de France, advancing into third and briefly relegating Going Global to fifth. The favorite, suddenly caught unaware, found herself playing catch-up.
Avenue de France kept motoring to the front on the far turn and established a daylight lead in the stretch. Going Global managed to whittle that down to a half-length, but her rally never quite looked like getting there. Avenue de France covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.96 to earn her first graded victory.
Going to Vegas reported home another 2 1/2 lengths adrift in third. Next came Bellamore, Burgoo Alley, Eddie’s New Dream, and Park Avenue.
Trained by Leonard Powell for a partnership including the Benowitz Family Trust, Convergence Stables, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, and his wife, Mathilde, Avenue de France has compiled a record of 22-8-2-5, $525,048. The dark bay needed to go north to Golden Gate Fields to notch her first black-type win in the 2021 Luther Burbank S. She added the Miss America S. (on Tapeta) and Golden Poppy S. at the same venue, and broke through on the Southern California circuit in the restricted Osunitas S. July 23. Her stakes placings include the Jan. 29 Megahertz (G3) and Lone Star Park’s Ouija Board Distaff on Memorial Day prior to the Yellow Ribbon, in what has been a career five-year-old season.
“She’s on her game,” Powell said following the Mabee. “She’s got a very good turn of foot. She caught Going Global flat footed at the three-eighths and when Going Global came at her she re-rallied. I thought he (Juan Hernandez) had moved too early, honestly, but it turned out to be the winning move. That’s why Juan is at the top of the ladder right now.”
“This filly always moves the last quarter of the race,” Hernandez noted, “but today I took my chance and went around at the half-mile. She was pulling and it looked like she wanted room, so I saw the opportunity to go around and make my move a little early today. Nothing caught us at the three-eighths (pole) and I took my chance. If I was going to get caught, I would have gotten caught at the wire. Good thing my filly held on through that move and won.”
Bred by SARL Jedburgh Stud and Thierry de la Heronniere, Avenue de France was a bargain $3,425 Arqana October yearling. At Arqana’s Arc Sale in 2019, touring the ring as the winner of both starts in the provinces, she commanded $104,300 and made her way stateside.
Avenue de France is by Cityscape and out of the Invincible Spirit mare Sharjah Princess, who is in turn a half-sister to Group 3 winner Without a Fight. Recently successful in the John Smith’s Silver Cup (G3) at York, Without a Fight is bound for the Melbourne Cup (G1).
Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf
Although Going Global was foiled, trainer Phil D’Amato and jockey Umberto Rispoli earlier connected with Comanche Country in the $103,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. The 2.30-1 chance followed up on her course-and-distance maiden win with another sparkling rally from off the pace. An Irish-bred by Highland Reel, Comanche Country drove 1 1/4 lengths clear while finishing the mile in 1:35.97.
“I was very confident on the backside,” Rispoli said regarding Comanche Country, but which might also describe his sense aboard Going Global later. “I feel no pressure on the backside, so I take my time and I knew I had a lot of horse underneath. Once I press the button she kept on. It was easy. Once she reached the front, she was waiting from other horses.
“I think she’ll be even better at three years old, once she really builds muscle and grows her mind. She’s lovely, good character, good mindset and everything is good for her.”
“If she can give me another good run at Santa Anita,” D’Amato said, “I’d definitely consider something like the Breeders’ Cup, one of the juvenile turf races.”