JOHN C. MABEE STAKES | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
Moulin de Mougin secured the biggest win of her career and gave jockey Mike Smith a reason to celebrate his 49th birthday in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes on the grass Aug. 10 at Del Mar.
Given a ground-saving trip by a patient Smith, the Kentucky-bred 4-year-old daughter of Curlin rallied from the rear in the field of six older fillies and mares through the lane while one off the rail. She collared pacesetter Wishing Gate just in time by half a length for an 8-1 upset. The winning time was 1:47.96 for nine furlongs on firm turf.
Gamely Stakes winner Miss Serendipity, the 9-5 favorite, wound up last. She was steadied in the stretch drive while making a move when Cozze Up Lady, who went on to finish third, drifted into her path. Stewards reviewed the stretch run but left the result standing.
The victory was the first in a stakes this season at Del Mar for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, emerging from a cold streak after 13 consecutive losses through Friday. Mandella broke the spell with his first win of the meet Aug. 9 in an allowance/optional claiming race.
"A couple of other horses were on the outside. [Smith] just kind of took some time, waited, and got the job done," Mandella told TVG afterward. He described Moulin de Mougin as "a filly that gets a little better as she goes along."
Moulin de Mougin is owned and bred by Ran Jan Racing. Her sire, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame Aug. 8. Her dam, multiple graded stakes winner Cambiocorsa, made her racing career running with great success on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita Park.
As a result, Moulin de Mougin was expected to emulate her and raced in turf sprints until stretched out to mile for the first time in January. In six starts routing on the grass since, the bay filly has three wins, a second, and two thirds, and just recorded the first stakes triumph of her career.
Smith settled her at the back of the compact field -- reduced to six by three scratches -- as Wishing Gate went immediately to the front for Drayden Van Dyke and raced on a comfortable lead through pedestrian quarter mile fractions of :23.03 seconds, :47.73 seconds, and 1:12.55. Cozze Up Lady was closest to Wishing Gate, who opened up by 2 ½ lengths, while Every Way and Miss Serendipity tracked those two.
Rounding the far turn, Stormy Lucy made an early move on the outside of rivals to challenge for the lead but Wishing Gate was full of run as she took the field into the stretch. While several threatened, Wishing Gate remained in front. Moulin de Mougin, still racing fifth but gaining, tugged her way along on the inside before launching her bid on the outside of Every Way under right-handed urging by Smith. She challenged Wishing Gate in deep stretch to get up in time.
Wishing Gate held second by half a length over Cozze Up Lady and Kent Desormeaux. Stormy Lucy settled for fourth, followed by Every Way and Miss Serendipity.
Moulin de Mougin, who was coming off a third in the one-mile Royal Heroine Stakes June 28 at Santa Anita, ran her career line to 4-2-2 in 13 starts and nearly doubled her career earnings to $312,910.
Carrying 119 pounds, she paid $18.40, $7.20, and $4.20 as the second-longest shot on the board, topping a $79.80 exacta. Glen Hill Farm's Wishing Gate, making her second start since January, came up just a bit short for trainer Tom Proctor, returning $4.80 and $3.20. Cozze Up Lady, winner of the restricted Osunitas Stakes July 19 over the Del Mar course, paid $3.20 to show.
Scratched were Queen of the Sand, Miss Ellany, and Charlie Em.
Del Mar's beleaguered new turf course, reopened this weekend after being closed for extensive maintenance from Aug. 1-8, performed well in five races Saturday and Sunday without apparent incident.