08/18/2013 8:39PM

Del Mar: Halo Dolly wins Solana Beach Handicap for third straight year

Benoit & Associates
Halo Dolly, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, wins the $150,000 Solana Beach Handicap on Sunday for the third straight year.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Halo Dolly returned to Del Mar on Sunday, and it was so nice to have her back where she belongs.

She successfully defended her title in the $150,000 Solana Beach Handicap, ran her record to 16 wins in 32 starts, and became only the fifth horse in track history to win the same stakes race for three consecutive years when scoring a half-length victory in the one-mile grass race restricted to older California-bred females.

It wasn’t the smoothest trip, but Halo Dolly – who pulled aggressively down the backstretch and had to await room on the final turn – was able to rally after room developed and overtook Bella Viaggia to win for the fourth time in five starts on Del Mar’s turf.

“I really think she loves this course,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Halo Dolly, 5, and owns her in a partnership. “We had been pointing for this race.”

Unusual Hottie was third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Bella Viaggia. Heat Trap and Spring Bloom completed the order of finish.

Going into the final turn, Hollendorfer said he was “real worried” about where Halo Dolly was sitting.

“She rated, but she didn’t rate too kindly,” he said.

Halo Dolly ($7) was the second choice in a five-horse field. She completed one mile on the firm course in 1:33.42 under the meet’s leading rider, Rafael Bejarano.

“This is the third year in a row she’s won this race, so, if anything, we’re pretty proud of that,” Hollendorfer said.

The other four horses to have won the same stakes race three consecutive years at Del Mar are Flawlessly, Native Diver, Track Gal, and Zenyatta.

Because of Halo Dolly’s fondness for Del Mar’s turf course, Hollendorfer plans on bringing her back in 15 days for the Grade 2, $150,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap on Sept. 2.  She pulled off a similar double last year.