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DEL MAR : These Fillies Have It Easier Against Girls


DEL MAR — Soviet Problem and Twice The Vice have competed against males and beaten them on their turf.

Back with their own gender Sunday, they were winners in two of the meet's biggest filly events.

Soviet Problem, the winner over a male in a match race at Golden Gate in May, ran away from Mamselle Bebette in the $100,000 match race over five-furlongs on the turf.

Twice the Vice, second by one length against a field of 10 colts in the Oceanside Stakes opening day here, was the winner of the $175,000 Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/8 miles on the turf course.

Mamselle Bebette was simply no match for Soviet Problem in the match race run between the fifth and sixth races. Chris McCarron eased his horse with about a 16th of a mile to go and finished 6 1/2 lengths ahead.

Soviet Problem had won four consecutive races, including the match race at Golden Gate over the male Lazor, and Mamselle Bebette had won four stakes races at sprint distances at Santa Anita last winter and spring.

When McCarron got to the jockey room Sunday, he did what he always does and marked his Racing Form according to what he anticipated. For this match race, he marked "speed" and "speed," indicating that both fillies are front-runners.

The speed McCarron had under him was a bit more than Corey Nakatani, Mamselle Bebette's jockey, had under him. Mamselle Bebette broke slightly better on the inside, but Soviet Problem pulled even and then slowly drew away.

"My mare broke running," Nakatani said, "and then pinned her ears back after maybe an eighth of a mile and refused to go. I don't think she liked the surface. The turf was soft, real deep on the inside, and she just didn't take to it."

Nakatani glanced upward at a replay on a television monitor.

"What can I say?" he said. "You can see it. It just wasn't like her. Normally, she pulls you along."

McCarron, in contrast, had a joy ride.

"I liked my chances at the start and I loved them after a half mile," he said. "At the eighth pole, I could feel my filly flying. I shook the reins and showed her the stick and she gave me a great burst of speed."

By that point, McCarron hardly needed to apply pressure. He simply didn't know it.

"When I looked back, took a peek, I didn't see anything so I did a double take in case I missed something," he said. "The other filly wasn't there, so I just geared my filly down."

Soviet Problem was at 1-9 shortly after the betting windows opened and finally settled at 2-5. Mamselle Bebette, once at 7-2, closed at even money. Soviet Problem paid $2.80 to win and the 2-1 exacta, an almost ludicrous proposition, paid $2.40.

Indeed, the Showdown at the Seashore was, in reality, a Mowdown on the Grass.

"This display," McCarron said, "was not good for the future of match racing. People want to see races like Seabiscuit and Ligaroti or Swaps and Nashua."

Twice the Vice did not have it quite so easy, but then she had five other horses with whom to contend. One of them was Sardula, the 9-10 favorite and the horse of the meet here last year. Another was Work The Crowd, winner of the San Clemente Handicap.

Sardula and Work The Crowd went out on the lead and stayed there until halfway around the final turn, when Sardula began to fade. Jockey Eddie Delahoussaye was encountering the same problem Nakatani had with Mamselle Bebette.

"We went out a little fast," Delahoussaye said, "and she seemed relaxed, but she just didn't like the grass. She started bobbing and weaving. She just didn't like it out there."

Twice The Vice, meanwhile, was cruising along in last place under Gary Stevens, about five lengths behind. Stevens kept his filly on the inside and watched for opportunities. Pharma, under Corey Black, had made a run, but she was starting to fade at the top of the stretch.

"I could see the fillies on the lead were stopping," Stevens said. "I thought I'd get by on the fence if Corey kept her straight. She drifted in and I went through the hole outside of her."

Twice The Vice still had a battle, because Chris Antley had Malli Star on the run. They came to the finish with Twice The Vice a nose ahead of Malli Star, Pharma holding on for third with Work The Crowd fourth and Sardula fifth.

Horse Racing Notes

Jockey Alex Solis drew a five-day suspension, beginning Thursday, for his ride aboard La Frontera in the Sandy Blue Handicap Saturday. La Frontera bumped one horse at the top of the stretch and another near the finish, causing stewards to disqualify him as the victor and place him fourth. Trainer Charlie Whittingham said Sunday that La Frontera will get blinkers her next start. "She's very green," he said, "but she's got a lot of ability." Whittingham's loss was a gain for long-time assistant Rodney Rash, whose Dancing Mirage was moved up to the winner's circle.

Bertrando's next start probably will be against Holy Bull in the Woodward Stakes in New York on Sept. 17. . . . D'hallevant, the winner of Saturday's Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap, probably will make his next start in the Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup on Sept. 11, stretching out to a mile from seven furlongs.

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