Del Mar will offer a pair of graded stakes on Saturday, the $200,000 Best Pal (G2) for two-year-olds and $250,000 John C. Mabee (G2) for turf distaffers. The Best Pal features a short field of six but is the more interesting race.
The 6 ½-furlong test features the West Coast debut of Paynes Prairie, an exciting two-year-old prospect who was recently sold and transferred to trainer Michael Pender. The Tale of Ekati colt exits a sharp 3 ½-length score over maiden special weight rivals at Belmont Park on July 4.
Paynes Prairie finished a close second in the Tremont Stakes two starts back while still a maiden and loomed a top contender after being entered in the July 25 Sanford (G2) at Saratoga, only to be withdrawn due to the impending sale. The speedster picks up the services of Martin Garcia.
Found Money, one of two contenders for Doug O’Neill, brings a two-for-two mark into the Best Pal following a 1 ¾-length decision in the June 21 Santa Anita Juvenile. Corey Nakatani rides the California-bred son of Square Eddie. His stablemate, Nyquist, is a $400,000 son of Uncle Mo who won at first asking over maiden special weight foes at Santa Anita on June 5. Mario Gutierrez retains the mount and Nyquist registered a field-best 95 BRIS Speed rating last time.
Swipe, a non-threatening third in the Tremont two back for Keith Desormeaux, can’t be dismissed from consideration after an encouraging victory in the July 12 Summer Juvenile Championship at Los Alamitos. Annie’s Candy exits a 3 ¾-length romp over maiden special weight foes in her third start for Peter Miller and the winless Bistraya rounds out the field.
Three females – Emotional Kitten, Notte d’Oro and Personal Diary – have shipped in for the 1 1/8-mile Mabee but none rate as top contenders in the field of nine.
Fanticola is the likely favorite following a neck victory in the June 27 Royal Heroine (G2) at Santa Anita but the five-year-old has dropped her last two attempts past a mile and has never won beyond 8 ½ furlongs. The Phil d’Amato remains quite dangerous, easily ranking first in BRIS Prime Power (159.3), and the hot-riding Joe Talamo will try to nurse his mount’s speed an extra furlong here.
Other familiar faces include Queen of the Sand and Stormy Lucy, the respective second- and third-place finishers from the Royal Heroine; Blingismything, winner of the Wilshire (G3) three back and sixth in the Royal Heroine; and Elektrum, last seen finishing fourth in the May 25 Gamely (G1).