Princess Grace was a big name in California long before she became Princess Grace if you catch the drift, and now the filly named after the ill-fated Hollywood superstar is also a star in the Sunshine State, following her victory in the $200,000 Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Stakes on the Del Mar turf on Saturday.

She took her lifetime stats to five wins from six in this mile-sixteenth test, for distaffers three-years-old-and-up, when driving between the front-runners at the head of the stretch and motoring on under Kent Desormeaux, stretching her margin of superiority over the late closer Dogtag to a length and a quarter at the line, stopping the clock in 1:40 and four-fifths. Maxim Rate got third; winning bettors got $9.20 for a two-dollar stake.

“This filly is tenacious and one of the most hard-trying fillies I’ve ever had,” said trainer Michael Stidham. “She’s brave and she should be undefeated, that one loss [by a half-length] was just unlucky.”

Desormeaux was equally impressed. “She carried me,” he said. “She was ready to go. When they spread, she got in there. I was driving a Porsche and could press the gas.”

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Best Pal Stakes Leaded By Pappacap

Pappacap was locked and loaded for his first shot at the big time, and the son of first-crop sire sensation Gun Runner hit the target with a bang in the $200,000 Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes, for juveniles over six furlongs.

The Mark Casse-trained colt was in front at every call on his debut at Gulfstream Park, but here he rated handily behind a brisk pace before sweeping around the outside and into the lead on the turn. From there it was just about time and distance as Pappacap drew right off to win by four and three-quarter lengths from Finneus, with Bet On Mookie third. The time was 1:11 and three-fifths.

“I was glad to see how well he settled behind the two up front,” said jockey Joe Bravo of the 2-1 second-favorite. Bravo will likely be pointed for next month’s G1 Del Mar Futurity before finding a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. “In Florida, he was just pure speed, but he showed another dimension today.”

Zoffarelli Won La Jolla Handicap

On Sunday, controversy clouded the finish of the $150,000 Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap, when winner Sword Zorro had his name taken down for causing interference. Runner-up Zoffarelli, beaten a nose, was awarded the mile-sixteenth contest for three-year-olds on turf.

Sword Zorro had the call down the lane, with Zoffarelli – trained by Jeff Mullins and ridden by Drayden Van Dyke – challenging in between him and Hudson Ridge, but Sword Zorro drifted under a left-hand drive from Umberto Rispoli and made contact.

The interference was relatively minor but the margins at the wire were small and the revision of the result was no surprise. Hudson Ridge was promoted to second and Sword Zorro was put back to third. Sword Zorro crossed the line in 1:42 and a fifth; Zoffarelli paid out at $17.80.

The interference aside, the result speaks volumes about the lack of quality in the US turf scene in that two ex-Europeans with such ordinary, almost leaky-roof form can get off the plane – “I’ve only had him eight days,” said Mullins – and immediately start winning at Graded level.

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