09/04/2016 7:49PM

Avenge holds on by head in John Mabee Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Avenge, under Flavien Prat, holds off Finest City to win the 1 1/8-mile John Mabee.

DEL MAR, Calif. - There was a gamble involved in starting Avenge in Sunday’s $202,070 John Mabee Stakes for fillies and mares at Del Mar. Trainer Richard Mandella had no idea whether she could handle the race distance of 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“I thought the mile and an eighth would be too far and I said, ‘I won’t know until I try it,’ ” he said.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Avenge was within a length of the lead throughout the Grade 2 Mabee. She took the lead in early stretch and held off Finest City to win by a head in an exciting finish. Elektrum finished third.

Avenge ($17.60) was timed in 1:48.82. She led by two lengths with a furlong remaining.

Prat said a patient approach was vital.

“The race came up just the way I’d hoped,” he said. “We were in a good spot and she was going easy.”

The result did little to clarify the crowded older filly and mare turf division in Southern California. Fresh Feline and Nancy from Nairobi, who were second and third in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf here in July, finished 12th and 11th in the 12-runner Mabee.

She’s Not Here, the winner of the Yellow Ribbon, was not entered in the Mabee. Illuminant, winner of the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita in May, is currently sidelined and not expected back until 2017.

Sobradora Inc, the winner of the restricted Osunitas Stakes on Aug. 7, finished fifth in a dead heat with Havanna Belle. Sobradora Inc was the 2-1 favorite. The Mabee was the first loss in the sixth start for Sobradora Inc, a two-time Group 1 winner in Argentina last year.

:: Enjoy news and analysis from DRF? Get handicapping analysis, real-time coverage, special reports, and charts. Unlock access with DRF Plus.

Avenge races for Ramona Bass. A 4-year-old filly by War Front, Avenge led throughout an optional claimer at a mile on turf on July 24, a result that led to the decision to run in Sunday’s race.

“She’s improving,” Mandella said. “We tried her in the mile and we were happy with the result.”

The Mabee was the longest race of Avenge’s 11-race career and her third race around two turns. She won the minor Ultrafleet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in May 2015.

Avenge has won 5 of 11 starts and earned $291,996. As recently as late June, she was racing in main track sprints, finishing last of five in the Desert Stormer Stakes at six furlongs at Santa Anita.