May 18, 2021

Avenge faces seven in Yellow Ribbon Handicap; Surrender Now tops Sorrento

Avenge, pictured in the 2016 John C. Mabee, became the first to win the Rodeo Drive in consecutive years (Benoit Photo)

A field of eight, including Grade 1 heroine Avenge, will line up to go 1 1/16 miles on Saturday in the $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2) at Del Mar.

Avenge carries the top weight of 123 pounds in the grass contest, conceding four to nine pounds to her rivals while making just her second start of the year. The Richard Mandella trainee captured the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park last October, capping off a three-race win streak that also included the John C. Mabee Stakes (G2) over the Del Mar turf.

The dark bay daughter of War Front closed out 2016 with a nice third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), leading for much of the contest before being caught and just missing by a length on the wire. Avenge filled the third spot once again when opening her five-year-old campaign last out on May 27 in the Gamely Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. Regular rider Flavien Prat has the call.

Cambodia just captured her first stakes victory two back at Pimlico on May 20, posting a two-length triumph in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) for trainer Tom Proctor. Before that, the War Front mare ran third in a pair of stakes contest at Fair Grounds and entered the Gallorette off another third, this time in Pimlico’s Dahlia Stakes. All of that following a three-race win streak that began when she broke her maiden in December 2015 for trainer Ben Colebrook.

Cambodia returned to the third spot in her most recent effort, the Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing on Independence Day, and gets Drayden Van Dyke in the irons for the first time here.

Pretty Girl made her first start for new trainer Paulo Lobo running second in the off-the-turf Robert J. Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita on New Year’s Eve and then was runner-up yet again in the Santa Ana Stakes (G2) while returning to the turf in her six-year-old bow on March 12. The Argentinean Group 1 winner hasn’t been in the top four since, coming in fifth in both the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) and Gamely Stakes most recently. Mike Smith returns to the saddle on the Harlan’s Holiday mare.

Fellow Lobo trainee and South American Group 1 victress Kiss Me Now makes her U.S. bow in this spot under Tiago Pereira. The T. H. Approval four-year-old captured a pair of Brazilian Group 1s back-to-back last fall and enters this off a fifth-placing in an Argentinean Group 3 in her seasonal debut on January 7.

Hillhouse High and Juno were one-three, respectively, in the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) on April 8 at Santa Anita. The former got the half-length victory while Juno just missed second by a neck. Hillhouse High followed that with an unplaced run in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) but Juno was a close fourth sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs in the Monrovia Stakes (G2) and then third again in the Wilshire Stakes (G3).

Corey Nakatani rides Hillhouse High while Gary Stevens has the call on Juno.

Stakes winner Frenzified, third in the Rodeo Drive last year, and Amboseli, who faces stakes rivals for only the third time in her career in this spot, complete the Yellow Ribbon field.

Two races before the Yellow Ribbon, seven juvenile fillies will go 6 1/2 furlongs in the $200,000 Sorrento Stakes (G2) on the main track.

The race stars Surrender Now, who has captured her pair of starts to date by a combined 10 lengths. The Peter Miller trainee broke her maiden debut on June 9 and returned July 2 to take the Landaluce Stakes by eight lengths. The Kentucky-bred bay is from the first crop of Grade 1-winning millionaire Morning Line, and gets a jockey switch to Flavien Prat here.

Surrender Now will be challenged in the Sorrento by Diamondsandpearls, a $1.7 million OBS two-year-old in training purchase earlier this year on March 15 who was sent to trainer Bob Baffert. The dark bay filly made her debut on July 2 at Santa Anita, wiring a five-furlong maiden special weight by 6 1/4 lengths. Diamondsandpearls makes her stakes bow in this spot with Mike Smith returning to the saddle.

Spectator, Terra’s Angel and Midnight Summer also all broke their maidens at first asking most recently. Spectator did so at Santa Anita for trainer Phillip D’Amato, Terra’s Angel scored hers at Lone Star Park for conditioner Dallas Keen and Midnight Summer just prevailed at Del Mar on July 20 for Miller.

Spirit of Shanghai scored at first asking at Santa Anita for trainer John Brocklebank on June 18, but was a well-beaten third in the Landaluce last out. Dancing Belle will attempt to earn her first win in this spot for conditioner Keith Desormeaux.