09/02/2010 1:51PM

Wickedly Perfect out to solidify her status in Debutante

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Benoit & Associates
Wickedly Perfect will be seeking her second straight stakes win in Saturday's Grade 1 Darley Debutante at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Wickedly Perfect’s accomplishments this summer, going unbeaten in two starts and winning her stakes debut, have been a bonus to trainer Doug O’Neill.

Earlier this year, O’Neill thought Wickedly Perfect would need longer races in the fall to show her best form. Instead, Wickedly Perfect won her debut over five furlongs at Hollywood Park in June and her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 6, victories that will make her the favorite for Saturday’s $250,000 Darley Debutante at Del Mar.

“She’s always acted like distance would not be a problem,” O’Neill said. “Before she ran, I thought we wouldn’t see the best from her until she went two turns.”

A win in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante over seven furlongs would solidify Wickedly Perfect’s status as the leading 2-year-old filly in California. But she must beat a strong field that includes the exciting maiden race winners Avid, Rigoletta, Sugarinthemorning, and Tell a Kelly, and A Z Warrior, Izshelegal and She’ll Heir, who were second through fourth in the Sorrento. She’ll Heir won the minor Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park in June but is winless in her last two starts.

O’Neill almost always expresses confidence in his starters and sees no reason why Wickedly Perfect cannot be effective in a tough Darley Debutante. She has earned $114,600.

“I think you have an advantage coming out of a stakes rather than coming from a maiden,” O’Neill said. “I think we have a slight edge over the newcomers. She’s got a unique personality. She’s good around the barn and doesn’t exert a lot of energy.”

In the Sorrento, Wickedly Perfect ran an impressive race, staying close to a fast pace of 21.89 seconds and 44.90, running past the two fillies who were dueling for the lead, and winning by a length over A Z Warrior.

Bob Baffert trains A Z Warrior and is seeking his seventh win in the Darley Debutante. He questions whether A Z Warrior can prevail, not because of her ability but because of the competition.

“There are five in there that can win,” he said. “It’s one of the toughest Debutantes I’ve seen in a long time.”

A Z Warrior led throughout a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park in her debut in July and closed from sixth in a field of seven in the Sorrento.

Avid, who won her debut by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden race Aug. 1, may have the lead in the Debutante, though trainer Richard Mandella has worked her behind horses recently.

“She worked well, but that’s no guarantee,” Mandella said. “We’ve tried to school her to prepare for what happens. She shows off working sometimes. She broke out of the gate and blitzed them one day. She’s pretty quick. I think she’s pretty good.”

Purchased for $525,000 at the March Ocala Breeders Sale of 2-year-olds in training, Avid will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Rafael Bejarano was aboard for Avid’s maiden win but is riding Wickedly Perfect on Saturday.

Similar to Avid, it is hard to fault the recent performances from Rigoletta, Sugarinthemorning, or Tell a Kelly, all of whom won maiden races by at least 1 1/4 lengths.

Tell a Kelly won her second start in a six-furlong maiden race by 2 1/4 lengths on Aug. 15 in a manner that suggests her late-running style will be suited to seven furlongs. Sugarinthemorning beat maiden statebred fillies convincingly in her debut Aug. 14. Sugarinthemorning is trained by 78-year-old Ron McAnally, who has won the Debutante twice, in 1975 and 1994.

Rigoletta and Izshelegal, who is still a maiden after stakes-placings in her first two starts, were supplemented to the Debutante for $10,000 on Wednesday.

Compared to Avid, Rigoletta was a bargain buy for $35,000 at the April Ocala Breeders’ Sale of 2-year-olds in training. Trained by Dan Hendricks, she was fifth behind A Z Warrior at Hollywood Park in July but rebounded to pull a 12-1 upset in a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 8, closing from fourth to take the lead in the final furlong.

If there is a quick pace in the Debutante, Hendricks insists that Rigoletta can play a major role in the final furlong.

“I think she’ll stalk or lay a little off,” Hendricks said. “Most of the maiden winners have speed. It will be loaded up front.”