October 28, 2021

Pappacap lives up to billing in Best Pal; Princess Grace stylish in Yellow Ribbon

Pappacap becomes Gun Runner's first graded winner in the Best Pal at Del Mar (Benoit Photo)

East Coast shippers swept both graded stakes at Del Mar Saturday, Pappacap in the Best Pal S. (G2) and Princess Grace in the Yellow Ribbon H. (G2).

Best Pal S. (G2)

Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse has been highly complimentary of Pappacap, and the Gulfstream Park debut winner showed why he’s held in such regard in the $200,500 Best Pal. Tractable to stalk early before asserting in the stretch, the juvenile became the first graded winner for leading freshman sire Gun Runner.

A homebred for Florida’s Rustlewood Farm, Pappacap was installed as the 8-5 favorite on the Best Pal morning line. But late money came for Aquitania Arrival, who went off as the 2.10-1 choice, and Pappacap ended up as the slight second pick at 2.30-1.

Under Joe Bravo, Pappacap sat in the proverbial catbird’s seat watching a pace battle unfold. Bet on Mookie was pressed by Thirsty Always through an opening quarter in :22.11. Thirsty Always put his head in front at the half in :45.79, but Pappacap was about to overtake them both. The bay struck top gear upon straightening and pulled away to a 4 3/4-length decision.

Bravo observed that Pappacap was employing tactics different from his May 14 unveiling at Gulfstream, where he blasted to the lead.

“I was glad to see how well he settled in behind those two up front,” the winning rider told Del Mar publicity. “His race in Florida, he just was pure speed. You don’t know if that’s the way they like to go. But he showed another dimension today. Mark Casse sends them out ready.” 

“Joe (Bravo) gave him such a great ride coming out of the gate,” assistant trainer Allen Hardy-Zukowski said. “He seemed loaded and when Joe asked in the stretch he responded. I was glad to see that, especially coming off a layoff. It was great.”

Finneus got up for second, 1 1/2 lengths clear of Bet on Mookie, who outdueled Thirsty Always by a neck. Aquitania Arrival was a nonthreatening fifth, and the ever-trailing Our Empire was eased. Olympic Legend was a late vet scratch.

Pappacap negotiated six furlongs in 1:11.66 to remain perfect in two starts, with $158,000 in earnings. Out of the Grade 3-placed Scat Daddy mare Pappascat, he hails from the family of Peruvian champion Al Qasr.

Yellow Ribbon H. (G2)

The Michael Stidham-trained Princess Grace knifed between foes turning for home and quickened sharply in the $202,000 Yellow Ribbon. Susan and John Moore’s homebred thereby got the decisive jump on 3.40-1 favorite Dogtag.

Princess Grace had made a remarkably similar maneuver to take the July 6 Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) in her seasonal reappearance at Parx. Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux watched that replay, and replicated it here as he picked up the mount on the once-beaten filly.

In the early going, pacesetter Raymundos Secret rattled off fractions of :23.06, :46.61, and 1:10.46 on the firm turf. Brooke and Laura’s Light chased, while Charmaine’s Mia rated just behind them.

Princess Grace was reserved in midpack, until taking closer order in traffic on the far turn. Bravely darting through a seam between Raymundos Secret and Brooke, the daughter of Karakontie burst clear. By the time Dogtag was able to deploy from farther back on the outside, the race was over. Princess Grace, the 3.60-1 second choice, held sway by 1 1/4 lengths.

Dogtag stayed on for runner-up honors, and Maxim Rate did her best work late in third. Defending champion Bodhicitta closed belatedly to garner fourth. Next came Keeper Ofthe Stars, Charmaine’s Mia, Laura’s Light, Brooke, and Raymundos Secret. Ippodamia’s Girl was scratched.

“Michael (Stidham) told me one thing before the race,” Desormeaux said, “that I used to advantage today: He said, ‘She’s brave.’ When that hole opened turning for home, I sent her through and she went right on with it. She was a bit keen going into the first turn, but on the backside she was just all floppy ears and off the bit; taking it easy. I clucked to her at the three (eighths) and from there she just carried me home. Nice win on a nice filly.”

Princess Grace, a half-length away from being undefeated, advanced her record to 6-5-1-0, $440,460. The dark bay romped in her premiere at Colonial Downs last summer, added an entry-level allowance at Monmouth, and just got collared in her stakes debut in the Valley View (G3). When the Mrs. Revere (G2) was rained off the Churchill Downs turf, Princess Grace took to the slop to win handily. With the Penny Memorial and Yellow Ribbon to her credit this term, she’s riding a three-race winning streak.

The Kentucky-bred sports a 3×3 duplication of Sunday Silence. Sire Karakontie is out of a Sunday Silence mare, and her multiple stakes-placed dam, Masquerade, is by the Sunday Silence stallion Silent Name.

Stidham, who trained Masquerade as well, notes a trait that she has transmitted to Princess Grace:

“I will tell you this: this filly is tenacious and one of the most hard-trying fillies I’ve ever trained. I trained her mother and she was just like that – not quite as talented, but always digging in and trying to win every time out.

“This little filly has been at six different racetracks and she should be undefeated, the one loss was just unlucky. I don’t know what’s next, I haven’t looked past this race. This was going to be her test to step up to another league and she obviously passed the test really well.”