Yellow Ribbon kicks off graded action at Del Mar

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Jen Caldwell

July 13th, 2016

Nine fillies and mares will line up Saturday to take part in the first graded offering of the 2016 Del Mar Summer Meet, the $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2) going 1 1/16 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

The well-matched group includes last year’s winner and runner-up in She’s Not Here and Prize Exhibit, as well as Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) heroine Nancy From Nairobi, Grade 1 queen Her Emmynency and Finest City, who finished third behind champions Beholder and Stellar Wind last out in the Vanity Mile (G1).

Finest City will definitely enjoy some class relief in this spot while trying 1 1/16 miles for the first time. The Vanity Mile was her first attempt at eight furlongs, and the Ian Kruljac trainee reputed herself well when missing second by only three parts of a length to Stellar Wind. The City Zip four-year-old rallied for a track record-setting win in the Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) prior to the Vanity Mile and gets the rider from that contest, Kent Desormeaux, in the pilot’s seat on Saturday.

Nancy From Nairobi dropped her initial start of the year in mid-January before going on a three-race win streak that culminated in her first stakes victory in the Royal Heroine on May 5. Trainer John Shirreffs then saddled the Kitten’s Joy mare to a close sixth-place run, just 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner, in the Gamely Stakes (G1) last out. Victor Espinoza has the call for the Yellow Ribbon.

Her Emmynency is no stranger to Del Mar, just missing by three-quarters of a length in last year’s Del Mar Oaks (G1) before shipping to Keeneland to triumph in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1). The Successful Appeal lass hasn’t found any success in three starts this season, running fourth in the Buena Vista Stakes (G2) and fifth in both the Santa Ana Stakes (G2) and Royal Heroine. The Kristin Mulhall pupil will try to turn things around Saturday with Tyler Baze in the irons.

She’s Not Here has to step up in a big way if she hopes to successfully defend her title in the Yellow Ribbon. The five-year-old Street Cry mare earned her last win in the 2015 Yellow Ribbon but has been unable to do better than sixth in five starts since, including the Arlington Matron (G3) most recently on May 28. Drayden Van Dyke will be aboard the Victoria Oliver charge for the very first time in this go around.

Prize Exhibit just missed by a half-length in last year’s Yellow Ribbon and dropped her last two races of the season, but opened her four-year-old campaign with a nose score in the Monrovia Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park. The Showcasing filly is definitely erratic, having not done much in four starts since, but could show up against this group with Santiago Gonzalez holding the reins.

Queen of the Sand will be making her first start since finishing fourth in the Matriarch Stakes (G1) during Del Mar’s Bing Crosby meet last fall. She was second in the track’s Goldikova Stakes (G2) prior to that and her last win came in the Santa Barbara Handicap (G3) at Santa Anita Park in April 2015. Lightly raced Majestic Heat, on the other hand, just captured an allowance/optional claimer on June 17 in her first start since finishing fourth in the Autumn Miss Stakes (G3) last October at Santa Anita. Mario Gutierrez rides Queen of the Sand while Flavien Prat retains the mount on Majestic Heat.

Completing the Yellow Ribbon field are Fresh Feline, third in the Santa Ana Stakes (G2) when last seen on March 26, and Keri Belle, winner of the Megahertz Stakes (G3) to open her six-year-old season in January and fourth last out in the Gamely.

Also at Del Mar on Saturday will be the $75,000 Wickerr Stakes sending nine runners a mile on the turf, including recent Red Bank Stakes (G3) neck second Vyjack.

Nancy From Nairobi photo courtesy of Benoit Photos