Avenge handles another step in trip in Rodeo Drive

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October 2nd, 2016

Ramona Bass’s Avenge successfully tackled nine furlongs in the September 4 John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar, and had no problem tacking on another furlong in Saturday’s $302,415 Rodeo Drive (G1) at Santa Anita. By wiring the 1 1/4-mile event in a snappy 1:58.52, the Richard Mandella trainee locked up a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) over the same course and distance.

This is the point for the obligatory asterisk: the Rodeo Drive (and its predecessor, the original Yellow Ribbon) have yet to produce a Filly & Mare Turf winner. That’s attributable to the caliber of international shippers, and the depth of the talent pool on the East Coast. Both of those historic trends are in force this year, and Avenge will need a lot of pieces to fall into place for her to defy them. That said, she’s an improving filly with the ability to carry her speed.

While Avenge prompted a slow pace in the Mabee, the 5-1 chance set moderate fractions in the Rodeo Drive. Jockey Flavien Prat measured her speed carefully through splits of :23.35, :47.44 and 1:11.40 – not fast, but not larcenous either.

The 2-1 favorite, Zipessa, attended her throughout, but Avenge shrugged her off by quickening to the mile in 1:35. Zipessa, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, took another run at the leader down the stretch. Avenge always appeared to hold her at bay, reporting home with three-quarters of a length to spare.

Frenzified, third virtually the entire circuit, held that spot by a neck from Keri Belle. The only runner to improve her position substantially was Majestic Heat, near the rear in 11th before closing for sixth.

Avenge has come a long way since her early days as a sprinter. The $650,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling now sports a mark of 12-6-0-1, $471,996.

By War Front, sire of Saturday’s Chandelier (G1) runner-up With Honors (and paternal grandsire of Chandelier winner Noted and Quoted, a daughter of the War Front stallion The Factor), Avenge is a half-sister to Grade 3-placed multiple stakes vixen Lira.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Jockey Flavien Prat on Avenge: “She’s getting better with each race. She really surprised me out there today. Once I let go she really got comfortable and took the lead. Honestly, that was a lot of fun and we’ll see how she does for the Breeders’ Cup; it’s a big one.”

Perry Bass, son of owner Ramona Bass: “It’s my parents’ anniversary today, so they’re in Italy, and I know they stayed up to watch. I wish they were here, but it’s good to be here in their stead.

“We didn’t know if she could get the mile and a quarter, and we didn’t know if she could get the mile and an eighth in the Mabee. She surprised us there, and she got the lead here.

“She just cruised, and Flav rode great. (Richard) Mandella and the whole barn were incredible. She has a lot of speed and she can rate, but there wasn’t a lot of speed in the race. The Stidham horse (Zipessa) was the only other speed. As long as Avenge relaxed, we thought we’d be OK out there, and she obviously did it.”