As Vasilika bids for her fifth straight victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Yellow Ribbon H. (G2), Southern California’s leading turf mare is the focal point of converging story lines. Normally her winning skein would be the primary angle, but the return of her Hall of Fame trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer to Del Mar adds a brand new significance to her appearance.
Hollendorfer was caught up in the maelstrom of Santa Anita’s spring meet woes when four of his trainees were among the track’s rash of fatalities. The Stronach Group reacted with a stunning ban on June 22, ruling Hollendorfer off Santa Anita and all other tracks in its corporate family. The New York Racing Association and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club fell in line as well.
While longtime assistant Dan Ward took over the stable at Del Mar, Hollendorfer was limited to operating at Los Alamitos as well as Pleasanton and Sacramento on the fair circuit. He sought redress through the courts, filing suit against Del Mar. Last Friday, he scored an early victory when an injunction was granted stipulating that Del Mar readmit the Hall of Famer in the interim as the case goes forward.
Vasilika is the first horse to run in Hollendorfer’s name at the seaside track since the meet began July 17. A shrewd claim for $40,000 in February 2018, the chestnut mare climbed the class ladder while developing into a win machine. Vasilika has taken 12 of her ensuing 14 starts, including an eight-race spree last season highlighted by the Rodeo Drive (G1), Goldikova (G2), and John C. Mabee (G2). It took a trio of high-class East Coast shippers to thwart her in the Matriarch (G1), but she rebounded from her fourth here last December to start a new streak encompassing the Megahertz (G3), Buena Vista (G2), Royal Heroine (G2), and most recently the Gamely (G1) over Rymska on Memorial Day.
With regular pilot Flavien Prat away at Saratoga to ride Bellafina in the Test (G1), Vasilika switches to another Frenchman in Julien Leparoux. The 7-5 morning-line favorite must shoulder the top weight of 125 pounds, and overcome two serious invaders in Beau Recall and Valedictorian.
Beau Recall, who missed by a nose in the 2017 Del Mar Oaks (G1), lost her way at four and proved no match for Vasilika in their two meetings. Since changing circuits and joining Brad Cox, however, the Irish import has thrived. Beau Recall is three-for-five for the barn, all in stakes, and she followed up a 10-1 upset of the Churchill Downs Turf Mile (G2) with a second to Rushing Fall in a blistering renewal of the Just a Game (G1). Hot-riding Drayden Van Dyke picks up the mount on the 7-2 second choice who figures to pose a better challenge to Vasilika this time.
Valedictorian ships in from her native New Jersey for Kelly Breen, and her early speed makes her the one to catch. Currently at her peak, the Temple City mare dispatched Rymska in the Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park in February, giving her collateral form with Vasilika, and she similarly dominated the Eatontown (G3) in her latest. Scratched from the Matchmaker (G3) on Haskell Day, Valedictorian looms as the controlling speed at odds of 6-1.
The most interesting of Vasilika’s local rivals, Toinette, has not been seen since capturing the Autumn Miss (G3) to conclude her productive sophomore campaign. The Neil Drysdale pupil famously overturned Rushing Fall in last year’s Edgewood (G3), making her two-for-two at this 1 1/16-mile trip, and her lone loss on turf was a forgivable ninth in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1).
The Richard Baltas pair of Elysea’s World and Lemoona have both scored their signature wins over further. If Elysea’s World claims the better form as a multiple Grade 3 heroine exiting a fourth in the Gamely, Lemoona brings a progressive profile as an allowance romper who comes off her first stakes win in the Possibly Perfect over 1 1/4 miles.
The Phil D’Amato-trained Storm the Hill, winless from four tries at this distance, was third as the defending champion of the one-mile Wilshire (G3). Causeforcommotion, well beaten in both of her outings since airing in the 1 1/2-mile Santa Barbara (G3), shortens up dramatically from the marathon San Juan Capistrano (G3) versus males. Youngest Daughter needs a career best to enhance her broodmare value with a graded placing.
Earlier on the card, Schuylerville (G3) winner Comical faces hot debut romper Amalfi Sunrise in the $200,000 Sorrento (G2) for juvenile fillies.
Amalfi Sunrise has been installed as the 8-5 favorite on the morning line for this stepping stone to the Del Mar Debutante (G1). Even-money in her Santa Anita unveiling, the Simon Callaghan pupil flashed speed and drew off by 6 1/4 lengths. The step up from 4 1/2 furlongs to 6 1/2 should be well within her scope, considering she’s by well-bred freshman Constitution – already the sire of Sanford (G3) hero By Your Side – and her broodmare sire is Empire Maker. Norberto Arroyo Jr. retains the mount.
Stablemate Shedaresthedevil likewise scored first up for her freshman sire, Daredevil, but in different circumstances. Debuting at Churchill Downs for trainer Norm Casse, she swept from just off the pace to win decisively going 5 1/2 furlongs. Qatar Racing Ltd. bought into the Glencrest Farm runner, the new partnership transferring her to Callaghan on the West Coast. Van Dyke gets the call.
Comical represents trainer Doug O’Neill, who just equaled his own Del Mar record of five wins in a single day Wednesday. The Into Mischief filly looks to stay perfect after crushing her premiere at Santa Anita and fighting through the mud at the Spa, but the rail draw might complicate her task.
“She’s doing really well and I think she’s getting better all the time,” assistant trainer Leandro Mora told track publicity.
“We’re going to put the same equipment back on her that we had the first time, the shadow roll. We didn’t put the shadow roll on at Saratoga because it was pouring and the shadow roll absorbs too much weight.”
Powerfulattraction adds Lasix following her rallying debut win at Los Alamitos. Trained by Peter Eurton, the daughter of yet another WinStar freshman, Commissioner, sold for $225,000 at OBS March. Princess Mo, a remote third behind Amalfi Sunrise at 47-1, adds blinkers for the class hike, and Shanghai Keely raises her sights in the wake of a Pleasanton debut romp.