She’s Not Here knows where she is in Yellow Ribbon repeat

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July 17th, 2016

Unplaced in five straight since capturing the 2015 Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mar, She’s Not Here perked up back at the seaside track to repeat in Saturday’s renewal of the $201,035 turf event. The three-quarter sister to Zenyatta thus joined Tranquility Lake (2000-01) and Gotta Have Her (2009-10) as dual winners of the race formerly known as the Palomar.

She’s Not Here was pegged at 12-1 on the morning line, a reflection of her 10-length losses to champion Tepin in both the April 16 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland and the May 7 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), and her fading sixth in the May 28 Arlington Matron (G3) on Polytrack. But the 5-year-old mare was worth a look on this return to Del Mar, where she sported a 2-for-3 mark, and her odds were ultimately trimmed a little to 9-1.

Trained by Vicki Oliver for G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing, She’s Not Here benefited from a well-judged Drayden Van Dyke ride. She was parked just off the pace set by Her Emmynency through fractions of :24.21 and :48.74 on the firm course.

Keri Belle was lapped onto the leader, and Prize Exhibit made a tactically dubious move to join them at the six-furlong split in 1:12.32. For a one-run type, that kind of premature gambit only fritters away energy at the wrong point in the race. Prize Exhibit was committed too far out to sustain her bid, and it wasn’t surprising that she backpedaled down the lane.

Meanwhile, Van Dyke didn’t take the bait when Prize Exhibit went forward. She’s Not Here let the trio knock heads, observing Keri Belle strike the front when Her Emmynency retreated and Prize Exhibit began to flounder, and then threw down her challenge at the right time.

Sweeping to the fore in midstretch, She’s Not Here got the jump on the deep-closing duo of Fresh Feline and 2-1 favorite Nancy from Nairobi. Both reduced the gap late, but not enough to dethrone the defending champion. She’s Not Here held Fresh Feline by a neck, with Nancy from Nairobi another half-length astern in third. The two-time winner negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.70 and returned a healthy $20.40 to win.

Fresh Feline, who’s more effective at upwards of 1 1/8 miles, did well to come so close in her first start back from a 3 1/2-month holiday. Nancy from Nairobi deserves special credit for snaring third after taking a nosedive out of the gate, which relegated her to last early. Finest City ran evenly in fourth, followed by Queen of the Sand, Keri Belle, Prize Exhibit, and the eased Her Emmynency, who just hasn’t recovered her old form since joining Kristin Mulhall.

She’s Not Here ensured that Zenyatta’s family would have cause to celebrate Saturday, after the fizzle on debut by Zenyatta’s full brother, De Coronado, at the Curragh. To be fair, his trainer Aidan O’Brien had warned that the big 3-year-old colt needed this one. But when you’re starting your career going 1 1/2 miles, and Ryan Moore has to stoke you up near the back a long way from home, it’s not terribly encouraging. De Coronado never looked competitive as he checked in ninth, 24 lengths behind odds-on winner Twilight Pavement. O’Brien runners can take a leap forward second time out, so there’s still time for De Coronado to make something of himself.

By Zenyatta’s sire Street Cry, She’s Not Here is out of Where’s Bailey, a stakes-winning half-sister to the incoming Hall of Famer. She’s Not Here, bred by Hermitage Farm and Darley, was sold for $190,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. She’s now bankrolled $403,903 from a record of 22-6-1-3, including a third in the 2014 Boiling Springs (G3) at Monmouth.

Given her proficiency over the course, She’s Not Here would be a sensible chance in the nine-furlong John C. Mabee (G2) on September 4. Oliver’s postrace quotes seemingly omit this possibility, but stay tuned…

Quotes from Del Mar

Jockey Drayden Van Dyke on She’s Not Here: “I spoke to Phil Oliver (a trainer himself and husband of She’s Not Here’s trainer Vicki Oliver) on the phone about an hour before the race. He told me to get her out of there and see if I could lay fourth or fifth – then get her to relax. He said she had been training great, had a good kick and liked the track. So I rode to orders and it all worked out great. This place (Del Mar) is one of my favorite racetracks, so to win a graded race here is special.”

Winning trainer Vicki Oliver (via telephone from Indiana Downs): “I  watched the race from here and I thought  Drayden (Van Dyke) had her in good position down the back stretch, and when he asked her, she really responded. She runs well on that turf course. I don’t know exactly why, maybe she just likes it because it’s a little more firm than most. We’ll bring her back to Kentucky, there’s not another race for her out there [sic - see the option of the Mabee above]. But we’re sending some other horses out to run at the meeting.”

Jockey Victor Espinoza on runner-up Fresh Feline: “Good race for her. She hadn’t run in a while (since her third in the Santa Ana [G2] on March 26), so you know she needed it. Still, a couple more jumps and we would have gotten the winner.”

Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith on Nancy from Nairobi, third as the 2-1 favorite: “She stumbled coming out of there; almost went to her nose. It cost her everything. If I come out of there the right way, I would have been laying third. Instead, I’ve got to come all the way from the back. It would have been totally different.”

Photo courtesy of Benoit