It’s hard to say who was the most impressive sophomore
runner this weekend with Dialed In’s awe-inspiring last-to-first Florida Derby
win being so overpowering, but I belive there was one other 3-year-old graded
stakes race that can give Dialed In a run for his money.
Whoever said that lightning doesn’t strike in the same
place twice has obviously never watched War of the Worlds or seen R Heat
Lightning run. The Todd Pletcher trained R Heat Lightning didn’t just strike in
the Gulfstream Oaks, she roasted her rivals alive and blazed her way to victory
in the form of an 8 ¼ length romp.
The field for the Gulfstream Oaks broke in an almost a
perfect line but it was Truine and Kindersley who were the quickest into
stride, moving up to take command around the first turn as Salary Drive took up
third on the inside. R Heat Lightning was floated 6 wide around the turn but
quickly moved herself up to fourth position just behind the leaders. Beso
Grande ran in fifth as the undefeated It’s Tricky ran second last a few lengths
back with Island School taking up the rear. Triune ran the opening quarter in
:23.06 with Kindersley, Salary Drive and R Heat Lightning tightly grouped just
behind. After the half mile which went in :46.32 It’s Tricky was about 8
lengths from the front as R Heat Lightning, looking full of run, began to edge
closer to the lead. Into the far turn R Heat Lightning moved up to within a
half length of Triune under a tight hold from Jockey John Velazquez, eagerly tugging
at the rider to let her loose. Midway around the turn It’s Tricky began her
move, launching a rally from behind and moving to within four lengths of the
Approaching the stretch R Heat Lightning took the lead, Velazquez
sitting still as a stone as his filly continued to move away from the field.
Into the stretch R Heat Lightning held onto a 1 length advantage as It’s Tricky
floundered in fourth and Island School closed well from last to move into
second, but it was all just a footnote to the real story taking place up front.
Under a confident hand ride R Heat Lightning exploded to a four length lead
under John Velazquez, rolling through the stretch with supreme ease. Her lead
widened to five, six, seven and finally 8 lengths, flashing under the wire a
shade more than 8 lengths the best. In reality she was much more than just 8 ¼
lengths the best, she was ready to take the lead and draw off before the field
even entered the far turn.
[Is R Heat Lightning underrated at #3 on HRN's Kentucky Oaks Contenders page?]
Suffice it to say that all my doubts over whether or not
this daughter of Trippi could go the 1 1/8 mile distance in the Kentucky Oaks
were answered with a resounding “yes”. Not only did R Heat lightning run a
final time of 1:49.27 for the 9 furlong distance, she ran it faster than Dialed
In’s final time of 1:50.07 in the Florida Derby on Sunday and hers was the more
easily performed victory. She earned a career best 100 Beyer Speed Figure for
her devastating win which beats Plum Pretty’s 99 Sunland Park Oaks Beyer as the
faster of the year for a 3-year-old filly.
It’s Tricky ran a disappointing fourth as the second
choice, tiring quickly in the stretch and unable to sustain her early rally. I
was confident the Mineshaft filly would give R Heat Lightning a run for her
money but the victor proved unbeatable and easily the best.
As things stand now this is the case to be made for R
Heat Lightning in her quest to conquer the Kentucky Oaks: She has won two
straight graded stakes races by huge win margins with ease, she has
successfully won a race at the 1 1/8 mile distance, she has run one of the best
races of her juvenile season in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies over the
Churchill Downs surface and employs a perfect ‘wait and pounce’ running style.
Add to that the obvious fact that she has improved in each start this year and
you’ve got an exceptionally strong Kentucky Oaks contender.
Check back tomorrow to see how R Heat Lightning’s latest
romp will affect the Novel Nine rankings.
Photo Courtesy of Coglianese Photos