November 30, 2021

Grace Adler crushes Del Mar Debutante; Flightline flirts with track record

Grace Adler romps in the Del Mar Debutante (Benoit Photo)

Grace Adler dominated the $301,500 Del Mar Debutante (G1), longshot Liam’s Dove broke her maiden in the $103,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf, and unbeaten sophomore Flightline also grabbed attention on the Sunday card. With Del Mar hosting the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, their winning efforts take on added resonance.

Del Mar Debutante (G1)

As a Curlin filly, Grace Adler shaped with great promise when scoring in her five-furlong debut July 31, hinting that more was to come in the seven-furlong Debutante. Yet few could have projected how big a leap forward she would take in just her second start here. Uncorking a power-packed move on the turn, the 4.60-1 chance looked a league apart in the stretch to give Bob Baffert his 10th Debutante winner.

The betting public viewed her as the Hall of Famer’s secondary hope, with Sorrento (G2) near-misser Eda garnering 6-5 favoritism. Eda was embroiled in a pace battle from the start, however, with Sorrento winner Elm Drive. After Elm Drive and Eda dueled through torrid fractions of :21.78 and :44.37 on the fast track, they were exhausted.

Grace Adler, meanwhile, saved her energy for leading rider Flavien Prat. The eye-catcher as she advanced out wide, she soon blew past the leaders. The muscular chestnut was just beginning to hit top gear upon straightening, so the only question was how far. Grace Adler ran up the score to 11 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:23.46.

“No special instructions for me,” Prat said. “Bob (Baffert) just told me that she wasn’t as fast as the other fillies, but that she’d come running. He was certainly right. It might have looked like I moved too early with her, but it was more a case of them coming back to me. We were going forward, and they were coming back.”

Baffert emphasized that the Debutante was a tale of trips, and retains faith in Eda who faded to fifth:

“I wasn’t happy with (Eda’s) position early because they were going way too fast up front. Grace Adler is a really good filly, and when she started to make her move, you could tell by (track announcer) Trevor Denman’s voice that she was really making up the ground. They’re both good fillies, it’s just too bad that (Eda) got caught up in a speed duel. It was set up for (Grace Adler).”

In that context, runner-up Dance to the Music deserves extra credit. The 3.40-1 second choice chased the pace in third, but kept on well to retain second by 2 3/4 lengths from late-running Bicameral. Dance to the Music and Bicameral had run one-two in the same July 24 maiden.

Myfavoritedaughter churned from last into fourth. Next came Eda, Rock the Belles, and the eased pair of Elm Drive and At the Spa.

Now 2-for-2, Grace Adler has bankrolled $222,000 for owners Willow Grace Farm and Michael Lund Petersen. She was a $700,000 Fasig-Tipton yearling from the consignment of breeder Blue Heaven Farm.

The Kentucky-bred is out of Grade 3 victress Our Khrysty, who has also produced Grade 2-placed Virginia Key. The Newfoundland mare is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 hero Bullsbay.

Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf

Prat came up just a head short of a stakes double aboard 3-1 favorite Helens Well in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Liam’s Dove had tired to third behind Helens Well in an Aug. 15 maiden at this course and one-mile distance. As a result, Liam’s Dove went off at 34.90-1 in their rematch in Sunday’s stakes, but this time she carried her speed more effectively to hang on.

Under a well-judged ride by Kyle Frey, the Peter Miller trainee cleared the field from post 10 in :22.71, and found her comfort zone in splits of :46.82 and 1:11.26 on the firm course. Liam’s Dove built up enough of an advantage in midstretch to deny Helens Well, who closed the gap but not quite fast enough. Rallying belatedly for third and fourth, respectively, were Dolly May and Urban.

The outsider of Gary Barber’s two colorbearers, Liam’s Dove clocked 1:36.65 and paid $71.80 – the highest win mutuel in the race’s 10-year history. Barber’s 3.80-1 second choice, Into Touring from the Mark Casse barn, wound up sixth of 11.

Miller, the meet’s leading trainer with 24 wins, revealed that this was a back-up plan after Liam’s Dove couldn’t get in a maiden:

“I’m speechless. A 30-1 shocker. Kyle (Frey) is a good speed rider, but I didn’t think we would be on the lead. I thought some horses would go and we’d be sitting second or third. But Kyle got the lead and put them to sleep. He played it and played it.

“We tried to run her in a maiden race and didn’t get in, it overfilled. We didn’t want to wait to Santa Anita to run her again, so this was kind of a second option. I asked Mr. (Gary) Barber if it would be OK to run here and he said yes.” 

Liam’s Dove, who was seventh in her July 17 unveiling on the main track, has earned $68,900 from her 3-1-0-1 line. Miller, as agent, purchased her for $120,000 at the OBS Spring Sale. The Liam’s Map filly initially brought $75,000 as a Fasig-Tipton yearling.

Bred by Marablue Farm in Kentucky, Liam’s Dove is a descendant of the influential matron Where You Lead. Her dam, the Hawk Wing mare The Dove, is a half-sister to Group 3 scorer and multiple Group 1-placed Without Connection, from the family of Grade/Group 1 winners Yellow Agate and Scenic.

Flightline airs in sprint allowance

Last seen romping in his April 24 premiere at Santa Anita, Flightline made his long-awaited return in the 8TH race. The 1-5 favorite more than lived up to the hype, and contributed to Prat’s four-win day.

The John Sadler sophomore prompted through an opening quarter in :22.01, asserted before reaching the half in :44.17, and turned it into performance art down the lane. Flightline widened his margin while passing five furlongs in :56.05, and still appeared within himself crossing the wire 12 3/4 lengths clear. His six-furlong time of 1:08.05 was just off the nearly half-century-old track record of 1:07.60 set by King of Cricket on Aug. 22, 1973.

Campaigned by Hronis Racing, breeder Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, and Woodford Racing, Flightline has won his two races by a combined 26 lengths. Now the question is where he will deploy his untapped talent next.

The $1 million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling is bred to route, as a son of Tapit and the Grade 3-winning Indian Charlie mare Feathered, who was a close second in the 2015 American Oaks (G1). With his third dam being multiple Grade 1 queen Finder’s Fee, Flightline hails from the superb Phipps family of Dancing Spree, Furlough, and Heavenly Prize.