08/13/2010 4:33PM

Gotta Have Her facing dual challenges

Benoit & Associatates
Gotta Have Her will be among the favorites for the Grade 2 John C. Mabee at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Gotta Have Her meets a stronger field at a longer distance Sunday in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar. However, the challenges that face the consistent turf mare go beyond streaking Wasted Tears and the 1 1/8-mile trip.

“My biggest concern is no Tyler,” trainer Jenine Sahadi said, referring to injured jockey Tyler Baze, who has ridden Gotta Have Her in 11 straight races. The comment was not meant to knock replacement rider Mike Smith, but Gotta Have Her has only one boyfriend.

“She’s a very antisocial horse, she likes to be left alone,” Sahadi said. “But she loves [Baze]. When he comes to the barn, she has her head out; he hugs her and pets her. Nobody else can get near her.”

The significance of the jockey change will be unclear until Sunday, when Gotta Have Her tries to do something new – win at 1 1/8 miles. Gotta Have Her has won nine races and nearly $1 million, but she has not won beyond 1 1/16 miles.

“She can get a mile and an eighth,” Sahadi said. “And she loves it down here. She runs these turns really well, and she looks gorgeous.” Gotta Have Her won a Grade 2 last out, and has two wins and two seconds in five Del Mar turf races.

A runner-up finish by Gotta Have Her a year ago in the Mabee suggests nine furlongs is within reach. She is not the only starter facing distance issues. The same question applies to Midwest shipper Wasted Tears.

Wasted Tears has won nine consecutive turf races at Lone Star, Keeneland, Gulfstream and Remington while racing 1 1/16 miles or less. She is potentially compromised by the course profile. Only two of the 33 turf routes, through Thursday, were won by the pacesetter.

On the other hand, Wasted Tears enters the Mabee as the lone front-runner. It will be jockey Rajiv Maragh’s job to ration her early speed over a course that rewards late speed.

The Mabee field also includes former claimer Lilly Fa Pootz, come-from-behind winner of the restricted Osunitas Handicap last out. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Lilly Fa Pootz is “is doing really well, she looks good in her coat, she’s very happy, and we’re looking for a big effort.”

Other entrants include Spring Style, Turning Top, Princess Haya, Gozzip Girl and Our Say Oui.