07/23/2016 7:57PM

Mokat relishes return to turf in San Clemente Handicap

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Benoit & Associates
Mokat, ridden for the first time by Kent Desormeaux, wins the San Clemente by 3 3/4 lengths.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The grass is definitely is where Mokat earns the green. She returned to her favorite surface, Del Mar’s turf, and looked better than ever with a dominating performance in the Grade 2, $201,725 San Clemente Handicap on Saturday.

 Mokat was given a chance to try the best races on dirt earlier this year, but after she beat just one of her 13 rivals in the Kentucky Oaks, she was freshened and pointed to the summer series of grass races for 3-year-old fillies here. She won a maiden race here last fall and was second in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante, but went to a new level in the San Clemente by romping by 3 3/4 lengths in her first try under Kent Desormeaux.

 “I thought she might be a little short,” said her trainer, Richard Baltas. “She’s much better on grass. Her action is totally different. She gets lower.”

 Baltas was fearful that Mokat ($16.40) might be a bit short, as she had just two workouts since a 30-day freshening following the Kentucky Oaks.

 “I think she was 85-to-90 percent fit,” Baltas said. “But these horses, sometimes I think we overtrain them.”

 The manner in which she won this race makes her the one to beat in the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 20. Mokat was midpack midway through the race but knifed between rivals on the far turn and kept on motoring.

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 “She was full of run,” Desormeaux said.

 Mokat completed one mile on firm turf in 1:35.23. Lady Valeur, who stalked the early pace, held on for second, three-quarters of a length in front of third-place Stays in Vegas. Be Mine, the 5-2 favorite, was fourth and was followed, in order, by Jade Princess, Corps de Ballet, Gone to Bali, Mirage, Princess Princess, and Belvoir Bay, who set the early pace but faded after “getting out the whole way,” according to jockey Florent Geroux.

Mokat, a daughter of Uncle Mo, is owned by the JK Racing Stable of John Manni. She has now won 2 of 9 starts, and placed in three other graded stakes. The $120,000 winner’s share increased her lifetime total to $285,040.