DEL MAR, Calif. – Gary and Mary West’s homebred filly Fighting Mad bolted out of the gate to the lead Sunday in the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and then never looked back, outrunning five classy rivals to capture the first Grade I race of her career.
Abel Cedillo was aboard the 4-year-old daughter of New Year’s Day as she covered a mile and one-sixteenth in 1:43.46 for her half-length tally.
“I had the same instructions today that I had yesterday (for his victory on Thousand Words for trainer Bob Baffert in the Shared Belief Stakes),” jockey Cedillo explained.
“Get her out of there and see if you can get to the front. She really broke sharply and want to go right away. I got her to relax some on the backside, then she went right on with it. She’s just an amazing filly.”
Finishing second in the filly-mare headliner was Paul or Karen Eggert’s Ollie’s Candy, who had won this race last year. Running third was Bo Hirsch’s Ce Ce. Hirsch is the son of the man the race is named for.
Fighting Mad picked up a check for $150,000 for the win and moved her bankroll up to $444,008 after her fifth win in eight starts. As the 9/5 favorite, she paid $5.60, $3.00 and $2.20 across the board.
With her Hirsch victory, the Baffert trainee is now a “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race winner guaranteed a spot in this year’s $2-million Breeders’ Cup Distaff along with all her fees paid for the championship race. The nine-furlong crucible runs Saturday, November 7 at Keeneland in Lexington, KY.
“I was a little bit worried about her because she was getting pretty warm in the paddock. But Abel (Cedillo) knows her pretty well and he knows speed is her weapon. To look at her you wouldn’t think she could go (a distance), but when she started opening up, I figured he must know what he’s doing,” Baffert said.
“Basically, she ran them off their feet. The way she acted in the paddock, she ran an incredible race. She was trembling and sweating and I was worried, but once the race started she was pretty serious,” he added.
The stakes win was the fourth of the meeting for rider Cedillo and third for trainer Baffert, however, it was the first win in the Clement L. Hirsch for both. Cedillo now has six stakes wins at Del Mar while Hall of Fame trainer Baffert now has an astonishing 136 stakes wins at Del Mar, far and away the most of any trainer.
Saturday, Baffert and Cedillo had scored in the Shared Belief Stakes with Thousand Words in a very similar scenario to today’s Hirsch. He, too, was quickly sent to the front and made every pole a winner. The pair also teamed earlier in the session with the Wests’ Maximum Security to win the San Diego Handicap.
2020 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes Replay
Positivity positively wins the Graduation Stakes
Earlier on the card, C T R Stables’ Positivity, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, withstood a claim of foul and won the $100,500 Graduation Stakes for 2-year-old California breds by half a length. The Paynter colt ran five and a half furlongs in 1:05.49 and picked up a winner’s share of $57,000.
“Finally got one to go my way. I was aware of that horse behind me coming away from there (Touchdown Brown, whose jockey, Evin Roman, claimed foul for interference away from the gate), but I gave him enough time to work it out. It might have been a little sloppy on my part, but I didn’t think it was too bad,” Van Dyke said referring to the foul claim.
“My colt is a 2-year-old and he’s still learning. We had a nice stalking trip, but he got to jacking around on the turn. Then when we got to running, I knew I’d catch that horse up front (Good With People).
“Things haven’t been going well at the meet for me so far, but it’ll come back around. I go home and leave the racetrack here. I’m at Del Mar and we’ve got the beach. That and we’re racing. It’s all going to be fine,” he said.
J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Good With People made all the fractions in the race, but tired late and had to settle for second. KMN Racing’s Scooby was third.
Positivity won his only other start – a straight maiden race at Santa Anita on May 22 – and now has $87,000 on his earnings ledger.
The victory for his trainer, Luis Mendez, was his second at Del Mar. Last year he won this same race with Big Returns via disqualification.
Trainer Mendez said about waiting out the foul claim, “I know how it goes and I’ve been here before in this position. I was worried. But last year the judges made a call for us (with Big Returns) and this year they were on our side again.”
He added, “First win at Del Mar this year takes the weight off the shoulders.”
Positivity paid $13.20, $4.80 and $3.60 across the board.
Sunday’s riding star was Van Dyke with three firsts. Flavien Prat and Juan Hernandez each won two races. Prat now leads the riders’ standings with 18 first after 10 days of racing.
2020 Graduation Stakes
Racing returns to Del Mar Friday with first post at 2 p.m.
Edited Press Release
Photo: Fighting Mad. Credit: Benoit Photos
Positivity (outside) runs by Good With People to take the Graduation Stakes. Credit: Benoit Photos