Thoroughbred racing had a thrilling variety of performances
to offer this weekend, from stretch-long duels to victories almost equaling the
length of the home stretch, it was thoroughbred racing at its best. Four of
those performances have landed like giant stones in the Kentucky Oaks sea,
sending ripples of effect throughout the nation.
Let’s start with the Prima Donna Stakes and save the best
for last. Gran Lioness made a triumphal return to the winners circle on
Saturday at Oaklawn Park, earning her second stakes win of the year when she
led all the way in the Prima Donna Stakes to win by 1 ¼ lengths. Cutting back
to 6 furlongs after finishing third in the 1 1/16 mile Rachel Alexandra Stakes
Gran Lioness broke like a bolt from the gate, quickly overtook Garnet Crystals
and confidently swept down the backside towards the far turn. Around the turn
the Lion Heart filly continued to dominate the pace, sweeping in to the stretch
with Lady Giacamo half a length behind. From that point on Gran Lioness opened
up a two length lead and continued to pour it on as the wire approached. Garnet
Crystals launched a strong move from behind to move into second but was too
late to catch Gran Lioness who secured the third win of her career. She
continued to gallop out well past the wire, staying ahead of Garnet Crystals
the whole time. Gran Lioness has proven herself a game and talented filly all throughout
her 7 race career while racing against some of the nation’s best sophomore
fillies. Her next start could possibly come in the Beaumont Stakes (gr.2) at
Keeneland on April 17th but nothing is definite.
Aside from having one of the coolest names on the
Kentucky Oaks trail, Daisy Devine can now also lay claim to one of the richest Oaks
preps of the season. Inglorious was the anointed favorite in the Fair Grounds
Oaks on Saturday after it was announced Kathmanblu would skip the race for the
Ashland in April, but the Canadian filly failed to live up to her billing in
the Grade 2 race. Entering the Fair Grounds Oaks fresh horse in her first start since
finishing second to Bouquet Booth in the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 22nd,
Daisy Devine made the most of her golden opportunity and rated a comfortable
second right out of the gate behind Grandacious in the 1 1/16 mile race.
Inglorious appeared to race more greenly than in her previous three starts, pulling
her way from second last to a close up and eager 5th before the half
that went in a slow :48.50. As the field entered the far turn Daisy Devine
surged forward under a tight hold to take command as Inglorious took third.
Into the stretch jockey James Graham let his filly loose and Daisy Devine
responded willingly, opening up two lengths as St. John’s River closed strongly
from behind to overtake Grandacious in second. Inglorious never found her best
stride down the stretch and could only manage fourth behind a tenacious effort
by Daisy Devine who won by a half length over St. John’s River with Niji’s
Grand Girl about two lengths behind in third.
Daisy Devine has now won three of her last four starts and will head straight to the Kentucky
Oaks without another prep between, allowing her once again to come in a fresh
horse with 6 weeks between races. Whether or not that’s a good move in a race
as tough as the Kentucky Oaks we’ll have to wait and see but she handled the 1
1/16 mile distance very well in her first try and continued to gallop out well
ahead of St. John’s River.
In terms of sheer magnitude, Plum Pretty absolutely walloped
the competition in the Sunland Park Oaks, winning by 25 lengths for the most
decisive win of the year by a sophomore filly. In terms of class domination, Summer
Soiree easily bested Bourbonette Oaks (gr.3) for trainer Larry Jones, romping
home by 10 ¾ lengths. As to which win was the most impressive it’s very hard to
say. Plum Pretty completely stole the show with her eye-popping stretch length
win and Summer Soiree wasn’t far behind while beating a higher class field in
front running fashion.
Plum Pretty started the year with two consecutive third
place finishes behind California Nectar and Zazu in the Santa Ynez (gr.3) and Turbulent
Descent and Zazu Las Virgenes Stakes (gr.1) which prompted her to start as the
20-1 favorite in the Sunland Park Oaks on Sunday. No one was expecting what
came next as the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro pulled off her best Rachel
Alexandra impersonation to win going away by 25 lengths. She rated patiently
off the pace of Icelain Diva under a tight stranglehold before willingly taking
the lead at the half mile mark and opening up from there. She was almost 10
lengths out in front at the 6 furlong marker and kept extending her lead from
there, rolling home the easiest of winners in the 1 1/16 mile event. It was
like watching a replay of Rachel Alexandra’s spectacular 2009 Kentucky Oaks
romp and except for the big difference in the quality of the fields the wins
were virtually identical in style. Plum Pretty is no slouch and could just now
be coming into her own. If this is a sampling of how good she is going to be
Medaglia d’Oro might just have sired lightning on the track twice. On another
note, how good does this win make Zazu and Turbulent Descent look now?
Summer Soiree has given Larry Jones one of the most
powerful two-horse Kentucky Oaks punch in history as she sailed to victory in
the Bourbonette Oaks (gr.3) at Turfway Park on Saturday with spectacular ease.
Breaking like a shot at the break Summer Soiree took an easy command in the 1
mile race and never looked back. Taking the field through a slow opening quarter
in :24.84 Summer Soiree breezed through the backstretch under a tight hold by
Gabriel Saez with her ears pricked, looking as comfortable as could be. After a
half that went in :48.42 the daughter of War Front began to ease her way clear
of the field still under a strangle hold, opening up two lengths as she entered
the far turn. Off the turn Summer Soiree was in front by five lengths, then
seven, finally crossing under the wire with ears still pricked a winner by more
than 10 lengths in a hand ride. After winning a 1 1/16 mile allowance at Oaklawn Park to
begin the year in late January Summer Soiree came into the Bourbonette fresh and
much the best. Can Larry Jones train them or what? This guy is coming into the
Kentucky Oaks loaded and he’s not just loaded for bear either, I’d say he’s
loaded for elephant.
[Joyful Victory is still only ranked #33 on HRN's Kentucky Oaks Contenders Rankings page while Plum Pretty is #56 and Summer Soiree is #58]
Who was the most impressive 3-year-old filly of the weekend and will any of them be able to defeat Kathmanblu, Zazu, Joyful Victory and the rest on Kentucky Oaks day?
Photo Courtesy of Pat Lang