Even though he felt positive about the outcome, Frank Whitham wasted no time making his way down to the track after Saturday's $156,000 Chula Vista Handicap.
"I thought she'd gotten beat, but I wanted to see how the mare was," said Bayakoa's owner.
Whitham would have felt better had he talked with Chris McCarron, who was aboard Fantastic Look.
"I told Laffit (Pincay on Bayakoa) I thought he got me in the last jump," said McCarron.
The rider was right. Seemingly beaten with less than 50 yards to go, Bayakoa found something extra and beat Fantastic Look by a nose in 1:40 3/5 for the 1 1/16 miles.
Spotting the runner-up 14 pounds (127-113), the 2-5 favorite looked as if she were headed to her second straight defeat over this track and consecutive losses in the Chula Vista.
Fantastic Look, who gave her a scare in Hollywood Park's Milady June 16, looked as if she had the upset this time. "I thought I was drawing away from her," McCarron said. "I got a neck, then a half-length in front of her. But, she just kept fighting, fighting, fighting and won the battle."
This was the 19th victory in 34 tries for Bayakoa, and her latest triumph pushed her earnings to more than $2.1 million.
"That was a tough one," trainer Ron McAnally said. "I don't think she's ever had to run harder than that. That was an awful lot of weight to give away. It's a lot to ask; even a horse like her.
"I knew Chris knew my mare and would be doing everything he could to pull this off. He rode a great race. But, even when Fantastic Look went ahead in the stretch, I thought our mare would come back and get her."
For Pincay, it was a welcome victory. It was his first stakes victory of the meeting. He had lost another for McAnally when Tight Spot was disqualified in a controversial decision in the Del Mar Derby.
"She came back, and she's never done that before," he said. "I just held her together. I didn't want to throw the reins away. I was where I wanted to be on the backstretch, but she jumped a piece of paper, lost her stride for a few seconds, then picked it up again.
"She was coming back in the stretch and kept trying. I thought I'd won it, but I've been wrong before."
Ahead of Bayakoa early when second in the Milady, Fantastic Look was content to lay just off the winner through 23 flat and 46 2/5 fractions, then moved up on the inside to get a head advantage after they had run six furlongs in 1:10.
"She sure ran her eyeballs out," McCarron said of the runner-up, the 7-2 second choice. "She's one of the most honest horses I've ever ridden. Before (trainer) Gary (Jones) left for Chicago (he's running Classic Fame in today's Arlington Million) he just said to put pressure on (Bayakoa) all the way. He said maybe the weight would take its toll. It almost did. My filly was just second best today."
The other three Chula Vista starters were non-factors. Formidable Lady, who is also trained by Jones, was third, 4 1/2 lengths behind Fantastic Look and nearly two lengths ahead of Rosadora. Estrella Fuega was last in a field reduced by the late scratches of Patches and Seville.
If history means anything, Title Bought will win the $290,400 Del Mar Debutante today.
The 2-year-old Lyphard's Wish filly is trained by Wayne Lukas and he has owned this race.
When Rue de Palm scored a $40.80 surprise in last year's Debutante, it was Lukas' third straight win in the event and seventh in eight years. The only year he missed was when Brave Raj won in 1986 for Mel Stute.
Owned by Clover Racing Stable, Title Bought backed up in her first two starts, but then was very impressive when she stretched out and won going a mile, the Debutante distance.
Another Debutante entrant with a win at the distance is Gold Fleece. Dispatched at 20-1 after finishing sixth in her sprint debut, the Deputed Testamony filly upset maidens, prompting trainer John Sadler to take a shot in the Debutante.
"We thought all along she wanted to run a distance," said Sadler, who is having a solid season at Del Mar. He's tied for fourth in the standings with eight victories and he's been in the money with 27 of his 62 starters. "You're running for $200,000 in what is really a conditioned race. I know she'll get the trip."
Lite Light, who won the seven-furlong Sorrento Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths as a 17-1 shot, is the probable favorite. She's come back to work well for Henry Moreno and will be trying to present owner Jack Finley with his second Debutante success. He won with Raja's Delight in 1980 and was second with Doon's Baby four years later.
The other entrants are Beyond Perfection, who was second in the Sorrento as the 6-5 choice, recent maiden winners Nice Assay and Brazen and Alyfair, who will be putting on blinkers for trainer Richard Mandella.
Horse Racing Notes
The Arlington Million will be simulcast locally between the first and second races. Approximate post time is 2:40 p.m. PDT. . . . Skip Out Front, an 8-year-old son of Bynoderm whose biggest victory came in the 1988 American Handicap, has been retired to stud. Also second in last year's Eddie Read Handicap and third in the 1987 Read and Del Mar Handicaps, Skip Out Front retires with 15 wins, 10 seconds, 13 thirds and earnings of $871,996 from 70 starts. . . . Wayne Lukas turns 55 today. . . . Brazen and Beyond Perfection were supplemented to the Futurity for $10,000 and all starters in the race will carry 114 pounds with the exception of Lite Light who was assigned 120.
Leading rider Pat Valenzuela won three times with Snow Perch, On A Roll and first-time starter Classic Setting to move 13 ahead of Kent Desormeaux in the jockey standings. David Flores won a pair with Akrotiri and Island Choice.