DEL MAR, CA – Trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer’s $40,000 claim on Vasilika back in February continued to pay dividends on Saturday when the filly broke through for her first major career score in the Grade 2, $200,000 John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar.
Breaking from post 9 under Flavien Prat as the second betting choice at 4/1, Vasilika sat between horses in mid-pack while the speedy Fahan Mura raced out to a wide early lead and posted fractions of :23.67, :47.25, and 1:11.92. Entering and through the far corner, Vasilika still sat sandwiched by foes as the field began closing the gap on the runaway leader. Finally finding room at the tail-end of the turn, Prat steered Vasilika four-wide around the wall in front of her and commenced a rally to the front. Collaring the leader inside the final furlong, Vasilika drew off late and outlasted the 4/5 favorite Cambodia to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:47.25 for the 1 1/8-mile turf event.
“I had to bide my time on the turn, but when I saw a hole, she gave me a great kick,” Prat said. “Big race for her; big effort. Very impressive.”
Soundly supported following her last-out victory in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap and her status as defending champion, Cambodia failed to fire strongly enough to catch the winner in the stretch and had to settle for second. Though unable to keep pace with the top pair, Fahan Mura continued on well late to finish only a neck behind in third. Meal Ticket spent much of the race chasing the leader but faded late to finish fourth ahead of Sophie P. Sixth was close, with Achira heading The Tulip, while Madame Stripes failed to fire and took eighth. Midnight Crossing, Cheekaboo, and Vagabond Princess completed the order of finish. Cordiality and Storm the Hill were scratched.
Vasilika’s win was her sixth straight and eighth in her last nine starts, which improved her record to 25-11-4-3. The 4-year-old daughter of Skipshot, who didn’t begin turning things around until she arrived in November from the east coast, has now earned $440,595.
“We walked over with a lot of confidence,” said Hollendorfer, who shares ownership duties with partners All Schlaich Stable, Gatto Racing, and George Todaro. “We respect Cambodia and Vladimir Cerin’s horse (Fahan Mura), but we thought we had a really good chance to win. She’s been training so well and doing so well.”
Vasilika returned $10.40 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.40 to show. Cambodia brought back $2.60 to place and $2.20 to show, while Fahan Mura paid $4.80 to show.