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DEL MAR : Flawlessly Wins Third Ramona to Tie Record

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Neil Drysdale saddled Firm Pledge, a 26-1 shot, to win the second race Saturday at Del Mar, hunch players wondered if this would be a tipoff on the $316,000 Ramona Handicap three hours later.

Drysdale has won only three races at Del Mar since 1992, but now, with favored Hollywood Wildcat running in the Ramona, he could win two on the same day.

There was an omen from the second race, but it wasn’t in favor of Drysdale. Firm Pledge is a gelded son of Affirmed, and Flawlessly was the only other offspring of the 1978 Triple Crown champion running on the card. She held off Hollywood Wildcat and withstood a foul claim from Zoonaqua’s rider, Alex Solis, to win the Ramona for the third consecutive year.

This was the most difficult of the three. In 1992, trainer Charlie Whittingham’s mare beat Re Toss by three lengths; last year, she was one length better than Heart Of Joy. There was only a head’s difference at the wire Saturday, with Eddie Delahoussaye, Hollywood Wildcat’s jockey, forced to swing wide and finish in the center of the track after Chris McCarron and Flawlessly kept them pinned in, behind the three tightly packed front-runners, at the top of the stretch.

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When Flawlessly cut the corner, inside her and in front of Hollywood Wildcat were Skimble, Lyin To The Moon and Zoonaqua. Because of Flawlessly and Lyin To The Moon, the hole closed for Solis and Zoonaqua, but after reviewing the race, the three stewards ruled that there was no interference.

Flawlessly, who is owned and bred by Louis and Patrice Wolfson, who also raced Affirmed, joined Native Diver as the only horses to win a Del Mar stake three consecutive times. Native Diver won the San Diego Handicap three consecutive times, carrying 131 pounds for the third victory in 1965.

Flawlessly, carrying 124 pounds, the same as Hollywood Wildcat, ran 1 1/8 miles on the grass in 1:48 1/5, the same as her time a year ago and matching the stakes record by Street Dancer in 1972. Paying $4.60 as the second choice behind the 4-5 Hollywood Wildcat, Flawlessly earned $181,000, sending her purse total over the $2.2-million mark. No other offspring of Affirmed has earned that much.

Skimble, who set modest fractions for the first mile, finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Hollywood Wildcat. It was another two lengths back to Lyin To The Moon, who was 3 1/2 lengths in front of Zoonaqua in last.

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Flawlessly was in fourth place, six lengths behind Skimble, midway down the backstretch, with Hollywood Wildcat running close to the rail, a length farther back.

“You can’t have a set plan in a race like this,” McCarron said. “On paper, I thought I’d be laying fourth with Eddie (Delahoussaye) on my outside. But it didn’t happen that way. I had a dream trip. I got clear on the outside and my mare fired. She’s special. She’s surely the best mare I’ve ever ridden on the grass. Without a doubt.”

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Joe Harper, the general manager of Del Mar, glanced out at the track Friday night as the gate crew struggled for several minutes to get a balky horse loaded for the eighth and final race.

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“If we had another race to run, I’d be a very nervous man right now,” Harper said.

Del Mar, which usually has a 2 p.m. first post, started Friday’s experimental twilight card at 4 p.m., and darkness was near as the last race went off slightly past 7:30.

Business was so good Friday--on-track attendance of 18,797 was up 49% over the total for the comparable day the year before, and betting, counting off-track, reached $8.1 million, compared to $6.6 million on nine races in 1993--that Harper said there would be more twilight cards next year.

“We’re affected by the amount of daylight, and we wouldn’t be able to race twilights on Fridays all the way into September,” Harper said. “But we’ll see how much daylight there is on the early Fridays of the meet and go from there.”

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Horse Racing Notes

Blues Traveller, who has won three out of his last four starts, including the American Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 4, is a lukewarm 3-1 favorite on the morning line for today’s Eddie Read Handicap. Next at 7-2 is Fastness, who won an allowance at Hollywood on July 9, his first start in more than six months because of surgery for a chipped knee. Trainer Bobby Frankel, who has won the Read six of the 20 times it’s been run, will saddle Wharf, who is listed at 8-1.


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