DEL MAR, CA – Making her return since suffering her first defeat of 2019, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Vasilika once again found the winner’s circle, defending her title in Saturday’s $200,000 John C. Mabee Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.

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Breaking from the rail under Flavien Prat as the even-money favorite, Vasilika tucked behind several runners while running a lane out as the field passed the judges for the first time. Up front, Ippodamia’s Girl and Juliet Foxtrot dueled through opening fractions of :23.23, :46.70, and 1:10.76.

Heading into the far turn, Ippodamia’s Girl began to give way, creating a bottleneck for the mid-pack runners. Vasilika had to tip out wide into the middle of the track at the top of the stretch to avoid running into a drifting Toinette, all while also trying to reel in the leader.

Finally breaking free of Toinette in deep stretch, Vasilika stretched her legs and neck as far as she could, getting up in the final jump to nose out Toinette at the wire. Vasilika completed the 1 1/8-mile event over the firm turf course in a final time of 1:46.46.

“She put me in a good position today,” Prat said. “Then she picked it up and started coming. (Toinette) bothered me just a little in the stretch; she was drifting out. It almost cost me the race. When we hit the wire, I thought I’d won, but when I came back and saw the replay, I thought I was just headed back to the room.”

Toinette eventually stopped drifting and held third over Paved, while Meal Ticket and Elysea’s World were not far behind her. La ForceAhimsaQuebec, and a spent Ippodamia’s Girl completed the order of finish.

Vasilika’s win was her fifth in six starts this year, with her lone defeat coming last out here in the Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2) when Julien Leparoux substituted for Prat, who was riding at Saratoga that day. The 5-year-old daughter of Skipshot now carries a record of 34-18-4-4 with $1,502,595 earned for co-owners Hollendorfer, All Schlaich Stables, Gatto Racing, and George Todaro.

“When they came back, Prat told me, ‘She finds a way,’ and that’s true,” said Hollendorfer, who claimed her for $40,000 last year just before her eight-race win streak commenced. “He knows how to ride this filly and it looked like he felt comfortable the whole way. He didn’t get her jammed down on the rail where she couldn’t get out; he was out where he needed to be. I thought she was going to get there. It didn’t look as close to me as it was. I’d like to see the photo. Sometimes, you get a horse like this and you’re just so grateful.”

Vasilika returned $4 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Juliet Foxtrot brought back $3.80 to place and $2.80 to show, while Toinette paid $3.20 to show.