Saturday’s $200,690 Yellow Ribbon (G2) was supposed to go to a War Front mare – and so it did, if not to the widely expected one. As 4-5 choice Avenge sputtered in midstretch at Del Mar, the other War Front, 2-1 second choice Cambodia, forged ahead to earn her second graded victory of the season.
A homebred campaigned by Don Robinson’s Winter Quarter Farm, Cambodia scored her previous career high in the Gallorette (G3) on Preakness Day. The Tom Proctor trainee argued the pace last out in the Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3), and paid the price when giving way late in third.
There was no repeat of that scenario, as new pilot Drayden Van Dyke settled her a couple of lengths off the tempo established by Juno. Avenge tracked in second, with Cambodia biding time in her slipstream, in the next flight, through fractions of :23.53 and :47.61. Cambodia began to creep closer nearing the far turn, but Avenge moved in earnest to collar Juno at the six-furlong split in 1:11.45. Although the favorite briefly poked her head in front entering the stretch, Avenge could not achieve any separation.
Meanwhile, Cambodia was striding out to much greater purpose to take command. Pretty Girl closed wider out, but Cambodia was already gone. Three-quarters of a length on top at the wire, Cambodia sped 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.86, not too far off Sidney’s Candy’s course record of 1:39.52.
The rallying Amboseli missed second by a head. Hillhouse High reported home fourth, followed by Frenzified, the disappointing Avenge, and Juno. Kiss Me Now was scratched.
Cambodia’s scorecard now stands at 12-5-0-5, $323,746. Her unplaced efforts came at the beginning of her career on dirt. She broke her maiden promptly once original trainer Ben Colebrook switched her to turf at Tampa Bay Downs in December 2015. Subsequently joining Proctor, Cambodia cleared her first two allowance conditions last fall to make it three straight wins. She graduated to stakes level and placed third in her next three – the Marie Krantz Memorial and Daisy Devine at Fair Grounds, and again in the Dahlia at Laurel – en route to the Gallorette.
Bred in partnership with the late Eric Kronfeld’s Maverick Productions (best known for breeding Zenyatta), Cambodia is out of the winning Smart Strike mare Sassifaction. Her dam is a half-sister to four stakes winners, notably multiple South African co-champion Overarching (herself the dam of Group 1 victress Lady of the House) and Grade 3 scorer Temeraine.
Quotes from Del Mar
Owner/co-breeder Don Robinson on Cambodia: “I’ve had this filly’s entire family, it’s the ultimate breeder’s reward. I’ve never had a horse of my own of this quality. Thank you Tom Proctor; he’s the horseman’s horseman and this is just a thrill. This is the biggest thrill of my life. I came here in 1966 and walked hots for Charlie Whittingham. I came back when Zenyatta won the Clement Hirsch. This is only my third visit and it’s an amazing thrill to come here and win this race.”
Winning rider Drayden Van Dyke: “The key for her is to get her to relax. Today she did it beautifully. So different than when I worked her; she’s all keyed up. But she was just fine today. Could she run on? If she relaxes, I think she can do anything. A very good race for her today.”
Hall of Famer Mike Smith on runner-up Pretty Girl: “I rode her like I wanted to win. I took all the chances I could. But she didn’t win. Maybe I should have done something different. But she ran well.”
Newly minted Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza on third-placer Amboseli: “She really came running. We were last and she came on very well. It’s a while since she ran, so this will probably help her. And the farther the better for her.”
Flavien Prat, who rode beaten favorite Avenge in sixth: “She was right there, then she just flattened out.”