DEL MAR — Trainer Peter Miller celebrated Saturday at Del Mar like he’d just won a Breeders’ Cup race. He was overjoyed by And Tell Me Nolies’ victory in the $300,000 Del Mar Debutante and to be able to play a part in jockey Ramon Vazquez’s first Grade I victory.
Home Cooking, the 3-5 favorite trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, appeared to be on their way to victory in the 7-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies, but then a fast-closing And Tell Me Nolies and Vazquez got up at the wire to collect the first place prize of $180,000 by a head.
“I thought she had a shot (at the eighth pole),” Miller said. “I thought we got it, but you don’t wanna celebrate before they put the number up.”
When And Tell Me Nolies’ number went up, Miller raised both arms in celebration, hugged Redekop outside the winner’s circle and went over to shake hands with Vazquez and pet the 9-1 winner on the neck.
“Mr. Redekop (owner Peter Redekop) is a really good client and to have Bryan Anderson, the racing manager, and his wife here in person to watch this, it’s a really big win all the way around,” Miller said. “I’m just grateful and thankful. Ramon just rode … I’m really happy. He’s worked really hard to make it around here. He’s come to San Luis Rey every weekend, every Saturday, to work this filly and to work horses. I’m just happy I could give him his first Grade I.”
And Tell Me Nolies sat fifth after the first half mile, was second at the head of the stretch and closing, but it appeared Smith’s early love aboard Home Cooking might pay dividends.
Turned out the half in 44.36 seconds proved to be the favorite’s undoing after she opened a three-length lead in the stretch.
“I kind of left it (strategy) up to the jock because I didn’t see a ton of speed on the form,” Miller said. “We were drawn inside. I think (Vazquez) wanted to get a position, which he did. Mike thought they were going a little slow, that’s why he made that early move.”
Said Vazquez, who pumped his right fist in celebration at the wire: “I told Peter that I had confidence in this filly right from the start. I’m glad he was loyal to me and let me ride her in this one … I knew I was the winner at the wire.”
And Tell Me Nolies ran the 7 furlongs over a fast main track in 1:23.29.
Miller has won four races in the past two days, putting him in the thick of the battle for top trainer of the meet. Philip D’Amato, who won three races Saturday, leads the pack with 19 victories, one more than Baffert and two clear of Miller and Doug O’Neill heading into Sunday’s final day. D’Amato has horses entered in eight of the 11 races, Miller has six and Baffert and O’Neill five.
“It took us seven weeks to get going, but we’re going now,” Miller said. “I don’t think I can (win), but I’m just glad to be in the conversation.”
John C. Mabee Stakes
Juan Hernandez, the meet’s leading rider, made an early move into the far turn that proved decisive aboard Avenue de France in the 5-year-old’s half-length victory over 1-2 favorite Going Global in the $250,000 Grade II stake for fillies and mares on the turf.
The winner went postward at 10-1 for trainer Leonard Powell and she posted her first graded-stakes victory, running the 1 1/8 miles over a firm turf course in 1:47.96. Going Global, ridden by Umberto Rispoli, finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of 2-1 shot Going to Vegas for second.
Avenue de France has won eight of 22 starts for career earnings of $525,066.