By J.J. Hysell
The $300,000 Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante should answer some questions about the early shape of the 2-year-old filly division. It could also provide a sneak peek to top contenders in the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park, although it is good to keep in mind this race is on synthetic and most of these contenders have yet to try dirt.
All eyes are on a Bob Baffert-trained filly – what’s new? – Awesome Baby, a daughter of Awesome Again whose debut on August 4 was one of the most impressive for juvenile fillies this West Coast season. She boasts scintillating speed, both in the mornings and on race day. Her bullet six-furlong work over the surface on Aug. 25 drew quite a bit of attention. The interesting aspect of this race is the presence of several speed types who should challenge this favorite, including She’s A Tiger. The key will be holding her speedy advantage for the seven furlongs.
Concave, a daughter of Colonel John for trainer Doug O’Neill, is a study in contrast to Awesome Baby. The Sorrento winner prefers to come from off the pace and catch a target, which she has successfully done twice. She’s mastered two different surfaces and appears to be a very talented prospect. Note the jockey switch from Mario Gutierrez, who is aboard the other Reddam entry Sprouts, to Patrick Valenzuela, plus the addition of three pounds. She’s had one six furlong work since the Sorrento.
After winning her first two races, She’s a Tiger – three-quarter sister to sharp sprinter Smiling Tiger – met her match in Concave in the Sorrento, but she didn’t give in easily. The addition of blinkers and a switch to rider Gary Stevens are notable. Although her speed figures don’t match that of Awesome Baby, she set blazing fractions in the Landaluce at six furlongs and lasted. This is a filly who might be even better on dirt, so a sharp performance is all she needs to set up for Santa Anita in November.
California-bred Sprouts, the pride of sire Square Eddie, is riding a three-race win streak for trainer Edward Freeman. She’s proven versatile, rating off the pace in her lone open company stakes win, the Cinderella. She’s held off pace pressure before, but it’s a tough assignment if she tries to go with Awesome Baby and She’s a Tiger. Will be interesting to see how she handles the stretch out from five and a half furlongs.
Fascinating, a half-sister to Bodemeister and a $1,300,000 purchase, is just that. One of a trio for Baffert, she is a quality filly whose destiny is likely routing. She showed marked improvement in her last race and in both efforts she made up ground in the latter stages of the race. She should show improvement at seven furlongs, but look out for this one when she goes beyond a mile. She’s also one to watch when she lands on dirt.
Secret Compass, another Baffert runner, looks like the sneaky “other Baffert” in this scenario. That was a solid fourth-place debut considering how far back she was midway through the sprint. The daughter of Discreet Cat was positioned closer to the pace last out and improved. The outside post could be to her benefit with the added distance. Joe Talamo takes over for Martin Garcia, who rides Awesome Baby.
Bajan is a tough filly who ran an impressive second to eventual Best Pal winner Albert’s Hope in her debut, and that rail was no easy spot. Her refuse-to-lose demeanor was revealed next out when she outdueled Southern Sunshine, the Peter Miller trainee she meets again here. She has the benefit of a win at six and a half furlongs.
Garrett Gomez returns aboard Southern Sunshine, the half-sister to Den’s Legacy who is seeking her first win.