Out of action since July 25 when he suffered a shoulder injury in a spill, 41-year-old French-born jockey Brice Blanc made a victorious return to the saddle Monday when he reunited with Argentine-bred Miss Serendipity to win the featured Grade II $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap.
With his first mount in five weeks, Blanc guided Miss Serendipity to a come-from-behind triumph in the mile and one-sixteenth event for older fillies and mares over Del Mar’s infield grass course.
Miss Serendipity, trained by Hall of Famer Ron McAnally and owned by Matias Cavalieri, rallied on the far outside in the stretch to wear down 9-5 favored Parranda en route to a 1 ¼ length win in 1:40.98 for the distance.
Parranda, ridden by Elvis Trujillo, was a neck in front of third-place Cozze Up Lady, with Stormy Lucy another nose back in fourth in the field of eight distaffers. Winning Rhythm was withdrawn from the original field.
Blanc had been Miss Serendipity’s regular rider since last winter – they won the Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita in late March. However, when Blanc was injured, Rafael Bejarano picked up the mount in Del Mar’s John C. Mabee Stakes and the 6-year-old mare was a troubled sixth and last.
Miss Serendipity, a daughter of Not For Sale, was scoring her seventh win in 26 starts and first money of $120,000 increased her career earnings to $493,600. She returned $11.20, $5.20 and $3.40. Parranda paid $3.60 and $2.60, while Cozze Up Lady returned 43.60 to show.
In the first of two other stakes contests on the Labor Day card, 2-5 favored Wake Up Nick gamely battled back along the rail after being passed in the upper stretch by 11-1 Global Magician to grind out a half-length triumph in the $150,000 I’m Smokin Stakes for California-bred two-year-olds.
Mario Gutierrez was aboard the Cindago colt who is now unbeaten in four starts after running the six furlongs in 1:11.25. Previously this summer, he won the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar and the Santa Anita Juvenile in June.
Cardiac was a hard-charging third, a half-length behind runner-up Global Magician and 4 ½ lengths in front of Colorado Strong in the field of eight youngsters.
Wake Up Nick paid $2.80 and earned $85,500. The colt is owned by Reddam Racing LLC and trained by Doug O’Neill.
O’Neill made it a stakes double in the $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf as he sent out 8-5 favored She’s Complete for a half-length victory under Bejarano.
The Irish-bred filly overhauled longshot pacemaker Sea Mona in the final sixteenth to post her first success in four starts.
Sea Mona was almost two lengths in front of third-place Madam Aamoura, with Awesome Diamond fourth in the field of eight juvenile fillies. Withdrawn were Diva Express, Quint and Bobbi Grace.
She’s Complete gave Great Friends Stable its second victory in the stakes event, having won a year ago with Clenor.
She’s Complete, a daughter of Oratorio, negotiated the distance in 1:35.89 and paid $5.20 while earning first money of $60,000.
Monday’s attendance was 8,821.
BRICE BLANC (Miss Serendipity, winner) -- "My first race back and it is very emotional for me. Ron (trainer Ron McAnally) has been loyal to me the past two or three years. He's always there for me. So to be able to come back and ride a race like this for him and win it, you know how special that is. I love to win races for him. She was relaxed out there, so I wasn't too concerned. I was following two in front of me, but they didn't quicken quite like I thought they would so I had to ease out and go around when we straightened. She has that nice kick and we got it done."
(Blanc last rode on July 25 at Del Mar when he was involved in a spill and injured his shoulder.)
ELVIS TRUJILLO (Parranda, second) -- "I got the trip today and she ran her race. We beat them all, but one."
KENT DESORMEAUX (Cozze Up Lady, third) -- "She ran an awesome race. Ten lengths better than last time."
RON McANALLY (Miss Serendipity, winner) -- "She's been training very well and Brice Blanc knows her and rides her well. The race went about as I thought it would and she got a good trip. I had (Rafael) Bejarano, the guy who has been so hot and just won six races, when Brice was hurt and we didn't have any luck."
FRACTIONS: :23.56 :47.54 1:11.15 1:35.11 1:40.98
The stakes win was the first of the meet for Blanc, but his second in the Yellow Ribbon (Happyanunnoit in 1999). He now has 11 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for McAnally, but his fourth in the Yellow Ribbon. He now has 77 stakes wins at Del Mar, second most among all trainers. The victory was McAnally's 441st at Del Mar, second most among all trainers all time. This is his 55th summer at the track.
Owner Matias Cavaleri is from Key Biscayne, FL.
Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf
RAFAEL BEJARANO (She's Complete, winner) -- "She was away a little slow, but that was OK. Then on the turn we were in tight. The (No.) 3 (Heart of Paradise, who was eased) started backing up and I had to wait. But once I got clear of that I got her going again. She really fired. Nice filly."
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Sea Mona, second) -- "It wasn't the plan to go to the front with her like that; it just came up that way. I tried to take them as slow as I could and she ran well. We almost pulled it off."
MARTIN GARCIA (Madam Aamoura, third) -- "First time on the grass for her and she ran a little green. But I think she'll like distance. This was a good race for her."
JOE TALAMO (Heart of Paradise, eased to seventh) -- "I think someone hit her (leg) from behind. She took a funny step. I didn't want to take any chances, but she's fine."
DOUG O'NEILL (She's Complete, winner) -- "She's just a beautiful filly. She's got so much class about her. She's always acted like she's a multiple winner even though she was a maiden going into this race. Praise for the connections who kept the faith. We bought her prior to Del Mar with the whole Ship and Win' program in mind because the purses for maidens are huge. We couldn't get her in a maiden turf race, so we put her in a maiden Poly and she ran huge to be second. But we knew her home is on the turf. "
FRACTIONS: :23.13 :46.59 1:10.89 1:23.27 1:35.89
The stakes win was the fifth of the meet for Bejarano and his second in the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf (he won last year on Clenor for the same basic connections). He now has 42 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the fourth of the meet for O'Neill and his second in the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf (he won last year with Clenor with the same jockey and basically the same owners). He now has 26 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The owners are the Great Friends Racing Stable (a San Diego area ownership group headed by radio broadcaster Scott Kaplan), Steve Keh of Glendale, CA and Gary Vaccaro of Irvine, CA.
I'm Smokin Stakes
MARIO GUTIERREZ (Wake Up Nick, winner) -- "He was struggling a bit with the track today. He changed (leads) for me at the half (mile pole), then he didn't change again. His rhythm was OK, so I didn't want to do anything else with him; I just let him run on. I think it was the track. All things considered, he did well. He's a nice colt and he got it done."
ELVIS TRUJILLO (Global Magician, second) -- "Perfect trip. What are you going to do?"
ALONSO QUINONEZ (Cardiac, third) -- "Good effort for him. A good experience, too. He's getting better all the time."
DOUG O'NEILL, (Wake Up Nick, winner) -- "That was scary (falling behind in stretch) when you're 2-to-5 or whatever he was, you've got to win. Mario (Gutierrez) did a great job. He saved what he needed to save and got through it. It shows the toughness of Wake Up Nick and Mario knows the horse so well and he needed every bit of it today. Undefeated so far and hopefully we'll keep it going. I would think we'll stay in the Cal-bred series."
FRACTIONS: :22.28 :45.79 :58.17 1:11.25
The stakes win was the second of the meet for Gutierrez (earlier he'd won the Graduation Stakes with the same horse), but his first in the I'm Smokin. He now has four stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the third of the meet for O'Neill and his third in the I'm Smokin. He now has 25 stakes wins at Del Mar.
Wake Up Nick is owned by Reddam Racing, the nom de course of J. Paul Redding of Laguna Beach, CA.