Updated on 09/16/2011 8:08AM

Buffy looks vulnerable in Debutante


DEL MAR, Calif. - The last three weeks have been less than ideal for Buffythecenterfold, who will attempt to stretch her unbeaten streak to four races in Saturday's $250,000 .

Since her hard-fought win in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 10, Buffythecenterfold has missed 10 days of training because of illness. She only returned to the racetrack late last week.

Buffythecenterfold's participation in Saturday's Grade 1 Debutante over seven furlongs was not assured until she worked to the satisfaction of trainer Mel Stute earlier this week. The update on Thursday remained positive.

"Her temperature has been normal and everything looks good," Stute said. "We'll gallop into the race. She did have 10 days when she wasn't training. It might have been a good sign. With the modern ways, I may train them a little too hard."

Still, Buffythecenterfold's recent sickness makes her vulnerable, and is part of the reason why eight other fillies were entered in the Debutante, the richest race for 2-year-old fillies in California until the Hollywood Starlet in December.

Her toughest competition includes Indy Groove, who was third in the Sorrento Stakes, and three recent maiden winners - Ionia, Miss Houdini, and Santa Catarina.

Ionia won her debut over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 4 by three lengths at 44-1. Miss Houdini won her debut by 1 3/4 lengths on July 13 at Hollywood Park, but has not started since.

Santa Catarina won a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs by eight lengths in her second start on Aug. 11. Trained by Bob Baffert, she may go favored.

Baffert has won five of the last seven runnings of the Debutante with such notable fillies as Excellent Meeting, Chilukki, and Habibti.

Santa Catarina is Baffert's only starter in the Debutante.

"I think she's a very talented filly," Baffert said. "Let's see what she can do with the stakes horses. We just broke our maiden."

Baffert does not believe that Buffythecenterfold will be compromised because of her recent illness.

"Mel can be dangerous," Baffert said, referring to Stute. "Buffy missed a week, but it could help her."

Aside from Buffythecenterfold, the only other stakes winner in the field is Mac Melody, a stakes winner from Europe who is trying dirt for the first time.

"She worked well from the gate and handled dirt in her face," said her new trainer, Bob Hess Jr. "Everything is positive."

Much of the action will be at the front. Santa Catarina led throughout her maiden win, but will need to run faster to keep up with Buffythecenterfold, who ran the first half-mile of the Sorrento Stakes in 44.60 seconds while dueling with Tricks Her, who finished second.

Tricks Her is not in the Debutante field. Trainer David Hofmans said Tricks Her is ill and will be pointed to the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Buffythecenterfold may face pressure from from Ionia, who has drawn the rail, and Honest Grade, who led throughout to win a maiden race for $62,500 claimers over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 8.

A fast pace may help Indy Groove, who was making her second start in the Sorrento Stakes, following a maiden win at Arlington Park on July 13. She closed from sixth in the Sorrento Stakes to finish 3 3/4 lengths behind Buffythecenterfold.

In recent weeks, Stute has compared Buffythecenterfold to Brave Raj, the champion 2-year-old filly of 1986 and a winner of the Debutante. Stute trained Brave Raj.

Buffythecenterfold has more experience than did Brave Raj at this point, including a win in the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park last month in her second start.

Only two fillies have won the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park and the two major races for 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar, the Sorrento Stakes and Del Mar Debutante: Windy's Daughter in 1972 and Arewehavingfunyet in 1985.

$250,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

1 Ionia K. Desormeaux 115 8-1
2 Sea Jewel V. Espinoza 115 6-1
3 Miss Houdini E. Delahoussaye 115 10-1
4 Honest Grade P. Valenzuela 113 20-1
5 Santa Catarina M. Smith 115 5-2
6 Mac Melody L. Pincay Jr. 117 20-1
7 Buffythecenterfold M. Garcia 121 3-1
8 Indy Groove J. Castanon 113 12-1
9 Little Bit a Swiss A. Solis 115 4-1

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