2011-2013: The Queen of the Solana Beach Handicap

When examining the overall scope of her career, it can be said that Halo Dolly did it all.

To start with, she won on dirt, turf and synthetic. She captured races on both the Northern and Southern California circuits, visiting the winners' circle at no less than six tracks. And she retired as a multiple graded stakes winner and the Champion Cal-bred Older Female for the 2012 season.

Halo Dolly simply enjoyed each venue she visited in the Golden State. But one of her greatest accomplishments happened to take place over the course of three years near the seaside.

By the time Halo Dolly was entered in the 2011 Solana Beach Handicap, she was already a proven winner and router. In the midst of a four-race winning streak, this daughter of Popular was coming off a victory in the Diamond Jubliee Stakes at Santa Rosa. The Solana Beach served as both Halo Dolly's Del Mar debut, and she had been successful on the synthetic and turf during this first part of her career. Asked to run on the Del Mar grass, Halo Dolly took on five rivals in the Solana Beach.

The public had gotten wind of her excellent form, and Halo Dolly did not disappoint her backers. Favored at 8-5, Halo Dolly and jockey Joe Talamo began from the rail and ducked in at the start of the race before settling in last place. But Halo Dolly was unfazed. She picked off a couple of rivals in the backstretch and was well within striking distance going into the far turn. By the time she reached the homestretch, Halo Dolly was level with the two leaders, Caitie's Secret and Chalula One. Despite slow fractions and entering the stretch widest of all, Halo Dolly perservered as she drove past her rivals to take the second stakes win of her career. And that moment began her journey towards the Del Mar record books.

When Halo Dolly returned to Del Mar in the summer of 2012, she had added more wins to her growing resume, and that included some more stakes. Her form had been similar compared to the same time the year before, as she had been third or better in four of her last five starts (including three wins). Third in the Osunitas Stakes in her previous start, Halo Dolly made her second start of the Del Mar meet in the Solana Beach. Made the second choice at over 3-1 and taking on a larger field consisting of eight opponents, it was clear to many that Halo Dolly had a legitimate shot to defend her title. Once more, she proved them right.

With Joe Talamo again aboard, Halo Dolly started from the extreme outside post for this rendition of the Solana Beach. Again racing at the back of the field, she received a much quicker tempo than in the previous year's Solana Beach. Going wide again at the top of the stretch, Halo Dolly put together a poised and strong finish in the closing seconds, moving past her rivals on the outside to become the first two-time winner of the Solana Beach. She would use that momentum to take victory in one more start at Del Mar that summer, taking the Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap in what became her Champion Cal-bred Older Female season.

Halo Dolly loved the Del Mar turf, so it was not surprising she was among the principal horses in the 2013 renewal of the Solana Beach. She had not won too many races since her last appearance at the venue, but bettors were not concerned as they made the race's two-time and defending champion the 5-2 second choice. Rafael Bejarano, a perennial top jockey in the Southland in those days, had the call for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. As for Halo Dolly, it was business as usual on the Del Mar turf.

With only four rivals to joust with in the Solana Beach, Halo Dolly found herself part of a closely bunched field as she navigated the Del Mar green once more. Always a couple of lengths from the front, she found herself in contention in the final straight after saving ground along the inside. At first, she had nowhere to go as two of her rivals were directly ahead of her. But an opening on the outside soon arrived, and Halo Dolly went through, racing with determination like she had in 2011 and 2012. With another good pace to work with, Halo Dolly entered a page of Del Mar lore as she became the first three-time winner of the Solana Beach.

In addition to holding the record for most wins in this particular event, Halo Dolly managed to produce a faster finishing time every year she took the trophy. She took the 2011 renewal in 1:35.08, then lowered that mark with a clocking of 1:34.43 before shaving off a full second in 2013 when she stopped the timer in 1:33.42. She won two of those races from off the pace, and closer to the front in her third go-round. She raced wide twice, and overcame trouble in the last iteration. In a long career peppered with versatility, the Solana Beach showcased Halo Dolly's skills as a racehorse all three years she competed in the contest. In fact, it was in a way a microcosm of her career for that very reason.

After a fourth place finish next time out in the Grade II Yellow Ribbon, Halo Dolly never visited Del Mar again. She went on to win more races, but the 2014 Solana Beach was reserved for a new victor. Even so, the Solana Beach belongs to Halo Dolly. Part of the calendar since the late 1990s (though it did appear a handful of times long before then), it has since become a staple on the Del Mar calendar every summer. There have been some two-time winners since Halo Dolly was in competition, but for now, she is the queen of the Solana beach.

Entry added August 28, 2022 by AF.