DEL MAR, CA – Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s shrewd move to place LNJ Foxwoods’ Astute – a winner on turf – onto the Del Mar dirt paid handsomely as she won Saturday’s $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes.

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Astute was the 5/1 second choice as she broke from post 7 under Mike Smith and went right to the front, where she contested the early lead outside of the 1/2 favorite Private Mission.

The two juvenile fillies raced heads apart through opening fractions of :22.21 and :45.30, but Private Mission dropped anchor as they hit the 1/4 pole.

Astute straightened for home with a growing advantage and Smith confidently handled her through to the wire, where she crossed 7 1/2 lengths clear.

The Richard Mandella trainee completed the 6 1/2-furlong fast dirt sprint in 1:17.28.

Credit: Benoit Photo

“Wow, that’s what I’ve got to say,” said Smith, who was also aboard for her debut. “I knew she was good; I just didn’t know she was this good. She was good on the grass the other day, but she’s even better on the dirt.”

A three-way photo finish for second ultimately went to Queengol by a nose and a 1/2-length over Heels Up and Private Mission, respectively.

Canoodling and Miss Costa Rica completed the order of finish.

Plum Sexy and Varda were scratched.

Astute’s win followed a gate-to-wire score in a 5 1/2-furlong dash over the Santa Anita Park lawn on October 12. The Speightstown filly, purchased for $425,000 as a yearling, has now earned $93,000.

“The owners and the manager – Alex Solis Jr. – told me before I ever saw her that she’s special, and it’s kind of held true,” Mandella said. “She got a little sick on me in the summer and I had to give her a month off, so that’s why she’s a little late (starting her career). I only put her in the maiden turf because I knew she could do turf and I was afraid a dirt race the next day wouldn’t fill. I expected she’d run well today, but maybe not this well.”

Mandella indicated that he would consider bringing her back in 3 weeks for the $300,000 Starlet Stakes (G1), a 1 1/16-mile dirt route at Los Alamitos.

Astute returned $12.20 to win, $5.40 to place, and $5.20 to show. Queengol brought back $5.60 to place and $4.20 to show, while Heels Up paid $6 to show.