08/18/2016 11:00AM

Mokat faces five other graded stakes winners in Del Mar Oaks

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Benoit & Associates
Mokat wins the Grade 2 San Clemente on July 23.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Mokat had not raced in the 11 weeks prior to the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar on July 23. The layoff was not an issue.

Mokat gave the best performance of her career in the San Clemente, winning the one-mile turf race by 3 3/4 lengths and leaving trainer Richard Baltas expecting greater feats.

“Who knows how good she is?” Baltas said on Wednesday. “We’ll see.”

Baltas is certain that Mokat is superior on grass, a point the filly can prove in Saturday’s $300,000 Del Mar Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“I think she’ll run better,” Baltas said. “She’s been really good on the grass. We’ve kept her fresh and happy.”

The Del Mar Oaks will be Mokat’s third appearance in a Grade 1 race this year. She was second to the undefeated champion Songbird in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in April but was only 13th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6.

After that race, Baltas began planning a turf campaign at Del Mar.

The Del Mar Oaks drew a field of 11. Mokat is one of six graded-stakes winners in the field, along with Cheekaboo, Decked Out, Harmonize, Stays in Vegas and Tin Type Gal.

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KEY CONTENDERS

Mokat, by Uncle Mo
Last 3 Beyers: 90-63-86

◗ Owned by JK Racing Stable, Mokat had a 30-day break after the Kentucky Oaks. The filly had a background on turf before the San Clemente, having defeated maidens on turf last October and finishing third in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes on turf last November. Trying the main track was a worthwhile experiment, Baltas said.

“I think she’s always wanted to be on the grass,” Baltas said. “We wanted to try the dirt. We got a Grade 1-placing against Songbird.

“She moves like a grass horse. She has a lot of grass pedigree.”

Mokat will have a new rider Saturday in Norberto Arroyo Jr. He replaces Kent Desormeaux, who has the mount on Decked Out, trained by his brother, Keith. Mokat is likely to race from off the pace, Baltas said.

“I think he’ll put her in a good position,” Baltas said of Arroyo.

Harmonize, by Scat Daddy
Last 3 Beyers: 85-88-88

◗ A three-time stakes winner, all on turf, Harmonize was fifth behind Catch a Glimpse in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks on July 9 after a wide trip. The Belmont Oaks was the third time Harmonize lost to Catch a Glimpse and gave trainer Bill Mott every reason to ship his filly across the country for another Grade 1.

“We thought it was a chance to get her in a Grade 1 without Catch a Glimpse,” he said. “We’ll see if we belong in those races.”

◗ Harmonize won the Sanibel Island Handicap at Gulfstream Park in March and was second in the Wonder Again Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Belmont Park in June.

◗ The distance of the Belmont Oaks may have been a stretch, Mott said.

“She didn’t get the mile and a quarter,” Mott said.

Barleysugar, by Kyllachy
Last Beyer: 91

◗ Barleysugar had an impressive debut in the United States, winning the minor Sandy Blue Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf by 2 3/4 lengths at 10-1 on July 17. Trained by Ed Freeman, Barleysugar won her first stakes in the Sandy Blue and will have her graded-stakes debut in the Del Mar Oaks.

Stays in Vegas, by City Zip
Last 3 Beyers: 81-89-89

◗ Stays in Vegas was third in the San Clemente after a three-wide trip. She won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at a mile on turf at Santa Anita in May when ridden by Alex Solis. Flavien Prat, the leading rider through Wednesday, will ride her for the first time this year Saturday.

Cheekaboo, by Unusual Heat
Last 3 Beyers: 86-89-84

◗ Cheekaboo won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita in a 23-1 upset and closed well to finish behind Barleysugar in the Sandy Blue.