Iotapa is the one to beat in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 2 following her devastating romp in the Vanity Handicap in June.
The Hirsch, at 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack, is a Breeders' Cup Challenge Race, with the winner earning a starting berth for this fall's BC Distaff at Santa Anita Park.
Iotapa is the 123-pound highweight in a field of seven older fillies and mares after a front-running 10 ¼-length score in the June 14 Vanity at Santa Anita. She completed the 1 ⅛ miles in an eye-catching 1:47.64.
Trained by John Sadler for Hronis Racing, the 4-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex also won the Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita in February. The consistent filly, claimed by her current connections out of her debut in June 2012 for $50,000, owns a 5-4-1 mark in 11 starts withe a bankroll of $616,796. Iotapa is making her initial start at Del Mar.
Joe Talamo, who has ridden the dark bay filly in seven of her races including the Vanity and Santa Maria wins, is back aboard from post 2. Sadler, the leading trainer at Del Mar last year, is off to a slow start in the summer meet's opening two weeks with three wins from 36 starters.
Iotapa is one of three entrants in the Clement Hirsch for Sadler. In fact, three trainers -- Sadler and Hall of Fame members Jerry Hollendorfer and Bob Baffert -- are responsible for the entire field.
CLEMENT L. HIRSCH STAKES DRAW
Iotapa's major threat is likely to come from multiple graded stakes winner Fiftyshadesofhay. The Baffert-trained daughter of Pulpit makes her fifth try to secure a Grade 1 win, although she has three prior placings at the level.
Fiftyshadesofhay captured the Ruffian Stakes as the favorite at Belmont Park in May, and comes into the Hirsch off a third in the Fleur de Lis Handicap June 14 at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old bay is closing in on $1 million in career earnings for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman.
Martin Garcia will be aboard Fiftyshadesofhay, who drew the inside post while carrying 121 pounds. This is the filly's first start at Del Mar since she finished fourth in her debut in 2012.
Sadler's other entrants are Grade 2 winner More Chocolate, who was second to Lady of Fifty in last year's Clement Hirsch; and Legacy, who steps up to Grade 1 company after a nose victory in the Cypress Stakes at Los Alamitos Race Course July 6.
More Chocolate won the La Canada at Santa Anita in January 2013, but has lost six straight since. The 5-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon has not been out since an unplaced finish in the Goldikova Nov. 3.
Hollendorfer starts the trio of Doinghardtimeagain, Parranda, and Broken Sword -- all graded stakes winners.
Doinghardtimeagain, a homebred for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, comes off a victory in her second start of the year, the Great Lady M at 6 ½ furlongs July 12 at Los Alamitos. She has been successful at 1 1/16 miles previously, winning last year's Hollywood Oaks on Cushion Track.
Parranda also comes off a victory, taking the one-mile Royal Heroine on turf June 28 at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old daughter of English Channel has raced almost exclusively on grass and makes her synthetic track debut here.
Broken Sword captured the Bayakoa at Hollywood last December and has been off since weakening to fifth as the 6-5 choice after setting the pace in the La Canada Jan. 19.