09/04/2010 1:15PM

Lilly Fa Pootz challenges Gotta Have Her in Palomar


DEL MAR, Calif. – Gotta Have Her is a millionaire, a Grade 2 winner this year, and the defending champion of Monday’s $150,000 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar.

Lilly Fa Pootz won her first stakes here in July, finished in front of Gotta Have Her in the Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes on Aug. 15 and is in the best form of her career.

One of the two mares is likely to win the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap, which is run over 1 1/16 miles on turf and has drawn five fillies and mares.

Gotta Have Her’s accomplishments will make her the favorite. She won the fifth stakes of her career in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes over a mile at Hollywood Park on July 3 and was beaten a half-length by Wasted Tears in the John Mabee Stakes. Gotta Have Her closed on the inside to be closest to the leaders at the finish of that race, the first time that Mike Smith had ridden her.

“I thought she ran great the other day,” trainer Jenine Sahadi said. “Mike’s back on her. I think we were more compromised last time by being on the inside.”

Last year, Gotta Have Her finished second in the Mabee and won the Palomar 24 days later. Last November, Gotta Have Her was later second against males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita.

Lilly Fa Pootz was claimed last December for $16,000. This year, she has won 4 of 10 starts, $194,870, and has never been worse than third. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Lilly Fa Pootz won the restricted Osunitas Stakes here on July 24 and was beaten a nose by Wasted Tears in the Mabee.

“It looks like she’s getting better with each start,” said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s assistant. “We kept an eye on her after the last race and she’s been tearing the barn down.”

You Life Me Up, who led throughout the Work the Crowd Stakes for statebred females at Golden Gate Fields in March, may lead in a race that lacks a confirmed front-runner.

Go Forth North, who finished in a dead heat for first in the Sandy Blue Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on turf on Aug. 20, and Prytania, who won an optional claimer on Aug. 11, also start. Wins by either of them would be considered an upset.