Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has had representatives in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes, and race winners, for more than 20 years.
Batroyale in 1995 was the first of seven winners in the championship event for 2-year-old fillies of the summer meeting that Baffert has saddled.
But when he considered the talent assembling at Del Mar Race Trackfor the 68th running of the Debutante on Saturday afternoon, Baffert came to a strong conclusion.
"Gonna be a tough race," Baffert said. "Gonna be one of the toughest Debutantes I've ever been in. You've got three outstanding fillies and it's going to be a tough deal."
||Drayden Van Dyke
||Watch Me Burn
Two of the three that Baffert referred to are Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Brill, a $1 million sale purchase a year ago, and Simon Callaghan-trained Bellafina, who took the Grade II Sorrento Stakes on August 5 by 4 ¼ lengths.
The third would be Baffert's own Mother Mother, his choice from four fillies who showed Debutante potential in works or races this summer from the 22 he nominated (of a total 162) for the race.
Baffert, who has had multiple entries in the Debutante several times in the past, opted for Mother Mother, a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile who debuted with a 6 ½-length victory at six furlongs here on July 22, after she worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Monday morning. Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, has been sent to Saratoga. Der Lu and The Aurelia Factor, debut winners at the meet, await later assignments.
Brill drew the No. 2 post position, the 2-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro made her racing debut at Del Mar on opening day of the summer meeting, July 18, and overcame a bobble at the start to win by 1 ¼ lengths. A series of works here since for the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee culminated with a bullet five furlongs in :59.80 last Saturday that was the best of 50 at the distance.
Of the Debutante quintet, only Val Brinkerhoff-trained Watch Me Burn, who broke her maiden here on July 19 and advanced her local record to 2-for-2 on August 10, was at double-figure odds on the morning line. Watch Me Burn was a $10,000 supplemental entry to the event.
"We're just taking a shot, maybe we can get a Grade I stakes placing on her," Brinkerhoff said. "We had her nominated for the (Juvenile Fillies Turf) but it didn't look like we'd be able to get in the race, so we decided to put her in (the Debutante) and try it.
"She's a long shot, but it has happened before. She's getting better and better. She'll have to be a lot better to win the race, but she might. You never know."
The field from the rail: Boujie Girl (Geovanni Franco, 8-1), Brill (Drayden Van Dyke, 8-5), Watch Me Burn (Alonso Quinonez, 15-1), Mother Mother (Joe Talamo, 2-1) and Bellafina (Flavien Prat 9-5).
The Del Mar Debutante is a seven-furlong main track test with the winner securing Grade I victory status and a $180,000 share of the $300,000 purse.
The Debutante, which determines the meeting champion in the juvenile filly division, goes as the fourth race on an 11-race program that starts at 2 p.m.