John C. Mabee S. (G2) — Race 9 (8:30 p.m. ET)
Maxim Rate has a couple graded stakes wins to her credit, including an upset score in the Gamely (G1) in May, but Dogtag is potentially the gray mare their rivals will have to beat in Saturday’s $200,000 John C. Mabee S. (G2) at Del Mar.
The pair met last month, in the Aug. 7 Yellow Ribbon H. (G2), with Dogtag going off the slight favorite. Farther off the pace than usual, Dogtag had just one rival beat entering the stretch. The combination of early positioning and the short 1 1/16-mile distance left Dogtag with too much to do, and she was forced to settle for second behind East Coast invader Princess Grace. Maxim Rate who rated slightly ahead of Dogtag most of the way, lacked as strong a kick and finished third.
With better positioning Saturday, and with an extra sixteenth to work with, Dogtag could prove tough for trainer Richard Mandella. The War Front mare has never finished worse than second on turf since joining the Hall of Famer’s barn.
Bodhicitta, who likely needed the race in her title defense of the Yellow Ribbon when a modest fourth is joined by fellow Richard Baltas trainee Going to Vegas, an impressive course-and-distance allowance winner on July 16. Shortening up to perhaps a more manageable trip is the Grade 3-placed Tapwater, while Fast Court Jet makes her U.S. debut for trainer Michael McCarthy after winning six of nine starts in her native Brazil, including two Group 1s.
Del Mar Derby (G2) — Race 11 (9:30 p.m. ET)
The $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2), for three-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf, features a rematch between the top three finishers from last month’s La Jolla H. (G3), who were separated by a nose and a head at the finish.
Sword Zorro crossed the wire first in the La Jolla, but was demoted to third after drifting out and interfering with both Zoffarelli, who was elevated to first, and Hudson Ridge.
A similarly tight finish occurred in the July 16 Oceanside S., in which Flashiest, Crew Dragon, and No Foolery Here arrived at the wire in a blanket finish. Flashiest subsequently trailed a field of 11 in the Saratoga Derby (G1), while Crew Dragon enters off an allowance win over Hockey Dad.
Cathkin Park, who didn’t settle well in the La Jolla following a long layoff, was effective in stakes company last winter at Santa Anita and could improve second off the bench.