since her second-place finish to eventual Champion 3-Year-Old Filly
Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) November 1, millionaire and
dual Grade 1 winner Close Hatches
makes her return to the races in Saturday’s $200,000 Azeri Stakes (G2)
against six other talented fillies and mares. The Juddmonte Farms’ color
bearer was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite for the race,
which is carded as the eighth of 11 races.
are a couple of nice fillies in there that are to be respected,” said
Hall of Famer and three time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Bill Mott.
“Don’t Tell Sophia (the back-to-back
heroine of the 2013-2014 Pippin and Bayakoa Stakes) certainly loves
Hatches, a 4-year-old filly daughter of First Defense and the Storm Cat
mare Rising Tornado, arrived safely at Oaklawn on Thursday and will go
out onto the track on Friday
morning to stretch her legs. She got all of her serious preparation for
the Azeri at the Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, where
her progressive works indicate two bullets out of the last three. On
March 10, she traveled four furlongs in :48.60
for the fastest breeze of 27 horses at the distance.
“She’s been doing very well,” said Mott. “Now we’d like to see a race under her belt and see if she will like the track there.”
Hatches, whose 3-year-old campaign included victories in the Gazelle
(G2), Mother Goose (G1), and Cotillion (G1) Stakes, is a perfect 3-for-3
at the 1 1/16 mile distance
of the Azeri. She will be partnered with Joel Rosario, currently ranked
third in the North American jockey standings, who has been in the irons
for all of her eight starts but one.
will break from the rail in the field of seven fillies and mares, which
also includes California shipper Magic Union, Prince of Wales Stakes
victress Dixie Strike, dual
stakes winner Sister Ginger, multiple stakes winner Flashy American and
On Fire Baby, the defending champion in last year’s Apple Blossom
Handicap (G1) on her home track in Hot Springs.
complete field for the $200,000 Azeri Stakes, in post-position order
with riders and morning line odds: Close Hatches, Joel Rosario, 7-5;
Magic Union, Jose Lezcano, 20-1;
Dixie Strike, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 12-1; Don’t Tell Sophia, Channing
Hill, 5-2; Sister Ginger, Ricardo Santana Jr., 12-1, Flashy American,
Terry Thompson, 6-1 and On Fire Baby, Joe Johnson, 7-2.