09/01/2011 2:36PM

Del Mar: Killer Graces looks to bounce back in Del Mar Debutante

Benoit & Associates
Killer Graces is expected to be one of the favorites in Saturday's Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Killer Graces and Woebegon, impressive winners at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meet, start in Saturday’s $250,000 Del Mar Debutante with slightly dented reputations, fillies who were favored but beaten in stakes in their last starts.

The recent maiden race winners Dreamcaster and Weemissfrankie have yet to start in stakes, which is why one of the key questions in the Grade 1 Debutante will be whether their stakes-tested opponents have a real advantage.

The seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante, which drew a field of 10, is the championship race for the division at Del Mar, and a finish in the top three could put a filly on course for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in November.

Killer Graces was the 11-10 favorite in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 5. Killer Graces stumbled at the start and finished sixth, 3 1/2 lengths behind Mighty Caroline, who has since been retired because of injury.

“I hate to use it as an excuse,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of the start. “We didn’t lose any confidence in her. Maybe the stumble at the break was costlier than we thought.”

At Hollywood Park, Killer Graces won the Cinderella Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs in June and the Landaluce Stakes over six furlongs on July 16, beating Woebegon, who finished fourth as the favorite in that race. Those wins give Hollendorfer the opinion that Killer Graces can run well Saturday.

“If she runs back to the races at Hollywood and closes and gallops out like she did, I’d have to say we’re really live in there,” Hollendorfer said.

The Del Mar Debutante could be a milestone win for Hollendorfer. Through Wednesday, he had 5,998 wins and was close to becoming the fourth trainer to win 6,000.

Trainer Peter Miller would prefer that Hollendorfer not reach the mark in the Del Mar Debutante. Miller blamed himself for Woebegon’s loss in the Landaluce Stakes, which was preceded by a sharp win in a maiden race in her debut June 26.

Woebegon raced with blinkers in her first two starts, but will not wear the equipment Saturday. Miller hopes that without blinkers, Woebegon will be better settled.

“You’re only as good as your last race,” Miller said. “I blame myself for the second race, the loss. I should not have run her back in three weeks.

“We’ll be overlooked, but that’s less pressure on me. I think Dreamcaster and Weemissfrankie are the two to beat.”

Dreamcaster and Weemissfrankie are two of six fillies in the Debutante who won maiden races in their last starts. The group includes the promising Silent Saga, a winner on Aug. 14.

Dreamcaster, trained by Bob Baffert, led throughout a six-furlong maiden race to win her debut by 2 1/4 lengths on Aug. 7. She drew the outside post of 10 in the Del Mar Debutante.

Weemissfrankie won a five-furlong maiden race here July 20 by a half-length, closing from seventh in a field of 10. She has worked quickly on several occasions in recent weeks and is not likely to be as far back as she was in her debut, trainer Peter Eurton said.

“She kind of broke flat-footed,” Eurton said. “I’m hoping that she’ll be forwardly placed. We’ll find out if she’s good enough. Her turn of foot was so impressive.”