By Margaret Ransom
The $200,000 Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mar on Saturday is a rarity in racing these days, one of the few races remaining in North America contested under handicap conditions.
A field of 10 is entered for the 1 1/16-mile turf test for 3-year-old an up fillies and mares. Maxim Rate, the mild 7-2 favorite coming off a win in the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita in May, is the high-weight at 124 pounds with Juan Hernandez aboard.
Once run as the Palomar Handicap starting in 1945, Del Mar adopted the name Yellow Ribbon from the Oak Tree Racing Association when it ceased operations at Santa Anita before 2012. The Yellow Ribbon held at Santa Anita, named for the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree,” is now known as the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1), while Del Mar edition’s history is now pulled from the Palomar Handicap archives.
A nice group of turf distaffers have won this race, but it didn’t rise to prominence until about 20 years ago when Grade 1-winning millionaire Tranquility Lake won back-to-back editions in 2000 and 2001. Other two time-winners include Cambodia (2017-18) and She’s Not Here (2015-2016). Bodhicitta won last year’s Yellow Ribbon and returns to go two in a row at odds of 6-1.
Bobby Frankel has the most wins for a trainer with eight, while rode the most winners, five.
Maxim Rate, owned by Slam Dunk Racing, Stable Currency LLC and James Branham, is back in action for trainer Simon Callaghan.
The gray Exchange Rate mare loves Del Mar and is also a multiple graded stakes winner. Though she hasn’t won at this distance, she’s been successful in graded company from a mile to 9 furlongs and should handle this distance just.
Charmaine’s Mia (4-1), who had won three in a row before running sixth as the favorite in the Gamely, returns to action for trainer Phil D’Amato with a series of good workouts over the past few weeks. The Agave Racing, Medallion Racing and Rockin Robin Racing-owned filly has never run at Del Mar or this distance, but she’s been successful at just a sixteenth shorter. She has loads of speed and will for sure head to the front under Joe Bravo, and if she can hold off the late challenge is a solid selection for a top finish.
Michael Stidham sends out the lightly raced Princess Grace (8-1). She is coming off a win in the Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) at Parx a month ago in what was her first start since a win in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs back in mid-November.
She has a win and a second at this distance and all three of her career wins have been on turf, and while this is a step up in class, she has so far risen to each challenge handed to her. She’s fired a lot of bullets training at Fair Hill and if the Susan and John Moore homebred fires, she will be tough. Kent Desormeaux rides.
D’Amato will tighten the girth on Raymundo’s Secret (6-1), who won last year’s Mabee over this course and is starting for the second time off a long layoff and first since a sixth-place finish in the Royal Heroine Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita in early April. She has won five of nine turf starts (with no placings) and three of four starts at Del Mar, and this former claimer has put up some speed figures to suggest she deserves some legitimate consideration as a top contender. Tiago Pereira rides.
Hall of Famer Richard Mandella sends out LNJ Foxwoods’ War Front mare Dogtag (4-1) in her first start since a second in the Possibly Perfect Stakes at Santa Anita back in mid-June. She’s only finished off the board in three of her 12 career starts and twice in ten starts on the turf, so she is nothing if not consistent.
She’s also versatile and can show more speed or be taken back depending on pace, which can only help her here. She has earned some strong speed and pace numbers and has a win at this distance, plus she’s been training great at Del Mar for nearly a month. Umberto Rispoli rides.
Bodhicitta, trained by Richard Baltas, earned the biggest win of her career here a year ago and is back in her second start off a lengthy layoff and a third, beaten just a length, in the Gamely at 9 furlongs last out. She has been working well and has put up some big numbers in the past, and while her inside post isn’t ideal, she has a later running style that will allow her to get shuffled back under Trevor McCarthy without too much worry over losing early position.
Baltas also trains Ippodemia’s Girl for George and Martha Schwary, and the daughter of Stormy Atlantic is coming off a win in the Osunitas Stakes here two weeks ago. She’s appeared in graded company before, but this is a tough jump for her. Geovanni Franco will ride.
Grade 1 winner Keeperof the Stars has danced a lot of dances without much of a break for the better part of two years, but she keeps giving it her all and picks up a win here and there. She hasn’t won in four tries over this course, but she has won three of four at the distance and is seeking to improve on a seventh here last year. Jonathon Wong trains the daughter of Midnight Lute for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds.
Gary Barber’s Laura’s Light is back on the turf, where she has won five of nine starts, after a two-race absence and is back to her preferred trip around two turns. If we toss her off-the-board finish in the Princess Rooney Stakes (G3) last out, she’s shown she’s consistent and has earned numbers that suggest she belongs here. The daughter of Constitution, who won last year’s San Clemente Stakes (G2T) will be part of the early pace if she gets out of the gate well from the outside under jockey Jose Valdivia Jr.
Chilean Brooke is in good hands for her fourth start in the U.S. for trainer Michael McCarthy and her second-place finish in the Osunitas last out is good enough to be a factor here. She’s working well and will have Kyle Frey aboard for the first time.