08/22/2010 7:30PM

Sweet August Moon best in Rancho Bernardo

Benoit Photo
Sweet August Moon wins the Rancho Bernardo under jockey Victor Espinoza.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Sweet August Moon, winless in her first four starts this year following a nine-month layoff, won her second straight race, both in graded company, in the Grade 3, $147,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap on Sunday at Del Mar.

After a prolonged stretch drive, Sweet August Moon ($5.20) gradually pulled away from Alpha Kitten in the final yards to win by three-quarters of a length. Silver Swallow, compromised by a lack of pace, rallied to finish third, a half-length farther back. Taste’s Sis trailed in the abbreviated field of four.

Sweet August Moon completed 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack in 1:16.40.

The task of Sweet August Moon became considerably easier on Sunday morning, when Free Flying Soul, who had finished second to Sweet August Moon in last month’s Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park, was withdrawn.

“She has a chip in an ankle,” said Karen Headley, who assists her father, trainer Bruce Headley. “She’ll have surgery with Dr. Joe Cannon.”

As a result, only four older female sprinters went to the post, and there was no show wagering.

Alpha Kitten, the even-money favorite, inherited the pacesetter’s role and set comfortable fractions of 23.08 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.18 seconds for a half-mile, with Sweet August Moon shadowing her every step. Those two came to the furlong pole right together, and Sweet August Moon, under Victor Espinoza, proved best.

Sweet August Moon, 5, is owned by Team MacPherson and the Legacy Ranch of Pete and Evelyn Parella. She is trained by Brian Koriner, who won the Green Flash Stakes earlier in the week with California Flag, the defending champion in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Sweet August Moon, a daughter of Malibu Moon, has now won 7 times in 17 starts.

“It took her a while to get up to her best following the layoff,”

Koriner said. “She’s a big mare. And she’s temperamental. I think we’re back where we were a year ago.”

Sweet August Moon went to the sidelines last year following three straight wins, including the Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita.


* Later in the day, Bran Jammas ($18.80) rallied from off the pace to beat Ultra Blend by a neck and capture the $100,000 Solana Beach Handicap for California-bred female turf horses. My Maloof Rocket was 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Bran Jammas completed one mile on firm turf in 1:35.08. Peter Eurton trains Bram Jammas for a partnership headed by Frank Alesia.