Stakes Preview – The Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar

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>Del Mar/ September 1 / Race 9 / 6:05 PDT

The Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap, the 9th race on Monday’s Labor Day card, reunites many of “the usual suspects” of the local older filly/mare turf crowd. Four of the competitors just faced each other in the John C. Mabee stakes, but we’re going to go with one who skipped that race.

That horse is #7 Parranda, who took a daring shot at a Grade 1 event on synthetic instead. A turf specialist, Parranda had had only one previous try over anything other than turf, and that was a dismal try over the Monmouth mud back in June of 2013. Of course, synthetic is (for some horses) more similar to turf than it is to dirt, but still, it would have been hard to expect a top effort from this mare against Grade 1 company. However, she more than held her own, coming from last to finish a willing third against the grain of a legitimately speed-biased track. It was a valiant try, and came on the heels of a win on turf in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine stakes against Moulin De Mougin, the horse who won the aforementioned Mabee Stakes. Her races before that were all solid efforts against many of the horses in today’s race.

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Of the Mabee competitors, I like #1 Stormy Lucy the best. While she finished behind Wishing Gate and Cozze Up Lady in that race, she had the roughest trip. Sitting at the back while Wishing Gate loped along up front, she commenced a powerful but premature move into the turn, hoping to catch the leaders napping. It didn’t work; the horses in front of her reacted by making their moves at the same time, and she was pushed four-wide the entire turn. She kept on coming, unable to gain in the lane but never really flattening out either. With the inside post today, she should get a nice ground-saving trip and be very tough. She’s a very solid mare–possibly the best of this group on her top performance–who went through a bit of a dull phase but who signaled a return to form with that last race.

#5 Cozze Up Lady hasn’t run a number worse than 102 on turf since turning four, and her effort in the Mabee wasn’t bad either. In the watchdog spot behind Wishing Gate, she came to that one in the stretch, couldn’t quite get by that unpressured leader, and simply got caught by the ground-saving Moulin De Mougin. She seems to be getting better and better, and her tactical speed makes her a major threat.

But what about #6 Wishing Gate? Was that surprise speed in the Mabee something that could recur? Would it give her a tactical edge? Both questions are hard to answer. To the first: It’s not as if she added blinkers, so the fact that this mare, who had been third or better at the first call in only one of her thirteen other races, was a loose leader is hard to explain. There wasn’t much other speed, though, and it may simply have been a tactical decision by the rider. Today, with #2 Need You Now in the race, it is much less likely that she will have the same advantage of getting a clear lead. She seems worth going against today, as does #9 Miss Serendipity, who has beaten this group on a couple occasions, but who has a poor post today, and who really came up empty in the Mabee. She’s best when she can sit right off slow fractions and stalk, but Cozze Up Lady seems more likely to be sitting where she would want to.

Of the others, Need You Now is speedy but outclassed. Bunairgead had some good numbers in Ireland but was unable to make any impact from the back despite a fast pace in her American debut, and would have to improve significantly to win this. Heat Du Jour won an ungraded Cal-Bred race while racing behind very quick fractions and still didn’t earn a good number. And Winning Rhythm, equally lacking in early speed, also took advantage of fast fractions to win, but just an allowance with a 96 TFUS race rating. None of this group seems good enough.

The play: Exacta box 1-5-7

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