One day after scoring a record-equaling sixth victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert equaled another record in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) at Del Mar, sending out 7-10 favorite Princess Noor to trounce half a dozen rivals.
The victory marked Baffert’s ninth win in the prestigious 7-furlong test for juvenile fillies, matching the standard set by fellow Hall of Fame D. Wayne Lukas. Only time will tell if Princess Noor can reach the same lofty heights as Authentic, but her powerful effort at Del Mar certainly suggests the daughter of Not This Time has a bright future.
“I really don’t know how good she is, because I haven’t let her run yet,” remarked winning rider Victor Espinoza.
That’s not to say Princess Noor’s victory was achieved without drama. To the contrary, Princess Noor broke inward at the break and bumped with Sorrento (G2) winner My Girl Red, who in turn collided with Roll Up Mo Money. Shortly thereafter, My Girl Red “jumped tractor tracks” and was pulled up out of caution per owner Erich Brehm on Twitter, who added the filly came back “completely sound.”
The troubled start nearly came back to haunt Princess Noor. After tracking fractions of :23.01 and :45.49, Princess Noor seized command and pulled clear under practically no urging at all to win by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:23.15. But there was subsequently an inquiry into the incident at the break, calling the results into question until the stewards elected to let the order of finish stand.
“Yes, she’s a little green. Only her second time (to race),” said Espinoza. “Coming away from there she went in a bit and I tried to get her off as quickly as I could. You try to control the babies as best as you can, especially at the break.”
Forest Caraway finished second by a clear margin from Princess Noor’s Baffert-trained stablemate Illumination, followed by Get On the Bus and Roll Up Mo Money.
Bred by International Equities Holdings, Princess Noor was produced by the Wilko mare Sheza Smoke Show. Sold for $1.35 million as a 2-year-old in training, the dark bay filly is 2-for-2 with earnings of $183,000, having previously won her debut at Del Mar in eye-catching fashion
“We knew going in she was a special filly. She showed so much brilliance at the sale, that’s why she cost so much, and we got what we expected to see today,” said Baffert. “She broke a little off kilter and was behind horses, but Victor didn’t really push her, especially at the end. We’re happy to get the win. We’ll run her back at Santa Anita and then go from there.”
At Santa Anita, Princess Noor could target the Sept. 26 Chandelier (G2), a prominent steppingstone toward the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland. Winning both races would make Princess Noor a profitable purchase with earnings in excess of $1.4 million, not even factoring her growing value as a broodmare.
In stark contrast to the uncontested nature of the Del Mar Debutante, the Del Mar Derby (G2) produced a driving finish with the outcome uncertain until the final strides. Slow fractions of :24.63, :49.77, and 1:14.74 gave a seemingly insurmountable advantage to the front-running longshots Dominant Soul and Margot’s Boy, with the latter taking command close to home.
But 3-2 favorite Pixelate was always been in the hunt, rating comfortably in third place under Del Mar’s leading rider Umberto Rispoli. Early in the stretch, it appeared the Godolphin homebred was spinning his wheels, unable to produce the necessary acceleration to run down the leaders. But then Pixelate found another gear, and the son of City Zip rocketed the final furlong in approximately :11 2/5 to prevail by a head.
Trained by Michael Stidham, Pixelate stopped the timer for 1 1/8 miles over the turf course in 1:50.25, securing his first graded stakes win after previously suffering a narrow defeat in the Kent (G3) at Delaware Park. Margot’s Boy and Dominant Soul completed the trifecta, followed by California Kook, Kiss Today Goodbye, Kanderel, American Farmer, K P All Systems Go, Guitty, Heywoods Beach, and No Slo Mo. Warren’s Showtime scratched.
“I talked to Mike (trainer Michael Stidham) this morning and we both agreed that we had the best horse in the race,” said Rispoli. “I said I wanted to ride him up closer than normal for him; I told him this is a smaller tighter course, not like Churchill (Downs). He said: ‘You ride him like you want to.’ I had a great trip and he fired when he had to. I’m very happy.”
Earlier in the afternoon, 2-year-old fillies took to the turf course for the one-mile Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf S. Though the pace was even slower than in the Del Mar Derby—with fractions of :24.03, :50.53, and 1:15.38—the three pacesetters retreated to trail the field as deep closers dominated. Ultimately, it was the 8-5 favorite Madone who produced the winning rally, overcoming a stumble at the start to prevail by half a length.
Conditioned by Simon Callaghan on behalf of Kaleem Shah, the daughter of Vancouver hit the wire in 1:39.09 under Flavien Prat. Nimbostratus crossed the wire second, but was disqualified to third for interfering with Ivy League down the straight. Completing the order of finish were Sweetest Angel, Canoodling, Inner Beauty, Tetragonal, Frazzled, My Princess Ellie, Super Game, and Basilia.
For Prat—who gave up a potential mount in the Kentucky Derby to ride closing weekend at Del Mar—the victory aboard Madone marked his 14th stakes win of the summer meet, breaking the record of 13 stakes victories set by Rafael Bejarano in 2012.
With a perfect 2-for-2 record racing a mile on turf, Madone figures to be considered for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), though future plans have not yet been determined.