08/25/2001 11:00PM

Habibti tops Tempera in Debutante


DEL MAR, Calif. - With only the experience of a late July maiden win, Habibti rose to the top of the 2-year-old filly division in California on Sunday with a convincing win in the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante.

She easily beat Tempera, the 1-2 favorite who led turning for home but could only finish third, two lengths behind 12-1 runner-up Who Loves Aleyna.

Habibti's win completed a remarkable weekend double for owner Prince Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. and trainer Bob Baffert, who on Saturday teamed to win the $1 million Travers Stakes with Point Given at Saratoga.

Habibti ($6.60), ridden by Victor Espinoza, ran a professional race, stalking the pace on the backstretch, waiting for room on the final turn, and bursting through along the rail to assume command in the stretch. She won by two lengths, giving Baffert his fifth win in the Debutante in seven years.

Who Loves Aleyna, who led by a length on the backstretch but lost the lead to Tempera on the turn, fought back through the stretch to hold second. Tempera was followed by Que Bonita and Lil Miss Hollywood.

Habibti finished seven furlongs in 1:22.22 before an ontrack crowd of 18,855.

"On the backstretch, I was a little worried that she was trapped," Baffert said. "This is a great filly. I've told the prince this is our filly for the Breeders' Cup. Once we get her going farther, you'll see that she's better and better. She ran like I thought she would."

Tempera's loss denied Godolphin Racing's American 2-year-old division its first win in a Grade 1 in its second year of operation.

"She came up empty and it's very disappointing," said trainer Eoin Harty. "She ended up on the lead, which is not where I wanted to be. She was going easy enough. She looked like a winner turning for home."