By Emily Shields
The $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) is a true Grade 1, filled with classy mares set to go 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar on Sunday.
#3 Hard Not to Love (2-1) won the Grade 1 La Brea and the Grade 2 Santa Monica over seven furlongs earlier this year, then stretched out to be second in the Beholder Mile (G1) and the Santa Maria (G2). She probably prefers going shorter for trainer John Shirreffs, and is notorious for her anxious behavior before a race. This is her first race at Del Mar, but she has been training well here. Mike Smith will be up again.
#6 Fighting Mad (4-1) was 10-1 when she won the Santa Maria (G2) in an upset over Ce Ce and Hard Not to Love. She is a Grade 3 winner here over a mile, and is two for three on the surface. If her odds stay anywhere near 4-1, she is the play for trainer Bob Baffert. She figures to control the pace on the front end.
#2 Ce Ce (3-1) was the best older mare in training earlier this year, winning the Beholder Mile (G1) and Apple Blossom (G1) in succession. She has won four of her seven starts for trainer Michael McCarthy. The blip on her record is finishing third as the favorite in the Grade 2 Santa Maria last out. Victor Espinoza will be aboard the Elusive Quality filly, who should move forward here with a bit of rest since her last.
#4 Dogtag (6-1) tries the dirt for the first time since her debut, and that was an off the turf affair at Saratoga. Richard Mandella trains the flashy War Front filly. She is coming off two straight grass wins at Santa Anita, including the Possibly Perfect. If she handles dirt, she will be dangerous.
#5 Ollie’s Candy (5-2) is the defending champion. She hasn’t won since then, but has finished close in several major grade 1 races. Ollie’s Candy, who is trained by John Sadler, was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, third in the Beholder Mile, second by a head in the Apple Blossom, and third by a neck in the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park last out. She has been top three in 11 of 13 starts and can not be ignored here. #1 Hang a Star (15-1) completes the classy field. Watch every race of the Del Mar meeting live on TVG.
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