Just four fillies entered the starting gate for the Hollywood Oaks (gr.2) after the scratch of Big Tiz, making the race by all appearances a two horse contest between Kentucky Oaks (gr.1) winner Plum Pretty, and Oaks third place finisher Zazu. On Thursday I wrote that I believed Zazu was the filly to beat and a prime candidate to rebound after her Oaks loss.
On Saturday the Tapit filly proved once and for all that she is easily one of the best three--year-old fillies in the nation, perhaps the best. Zazu broke from the four post in the Hollywood Oaks, just to the outside of Plum Pretty who went right to the front to contest the pace with 22-1 longshot Wallstreeter. Going into the first turn Plum Pretty was very eager on the front end, running a half length ahead of Wallstreeter before jockey Martin Garcia took a tight hold of his filly and pulled her back to rate in second. Midway around the far turn Wallstreeter took command by two lengths over Plum Pretty while Zazu moved up to be a close third, just four lengths behind the top two, with Love Theway You are another three lengths in the rear. As the field raced down the backstretch Wallstreeter continued to lead the way over Plum Pretty with Zazu close behind. Love Theway Youare fell far back down the backside, trailing by nine lengths.
Approaching the far turn Plum Pretty and Zazu began to close the gap on Wallstreeter, Plum Pretty moving up on the outside of the pacesetter as Joel Rosario moved Zazu up along the rail. The tempo began to visibly accelerate as the trio approached the top of the stretch. Garcia swung Plum Pretty out into the three path while Rosario displayed daring brilliance and guided Zazu through an impossibly tight gap between Wallstreeter and the rail, momentarily bouncing around between the two before breaking free and gunning for the lead. Plum Pretty got the jump on Zazu as both fillies charged for the wire under animated hand rides. The powerful duo exploded more than seven lengths ahead of Love Theway You are who had moved into second, the whip now out on Plum Pretty who held a narrow advantage. Zazu suddenly seemed to find another gear as her opponent weakened. Still under a hand ride the game filly burst through on the rail and strode across the wire, ears pricked, 1 ½ lengths ahead of the determined Kentucky Oaks winner. It was another 4 ¼ lengths back to Love Theway You are who closed well for third, more than eight lengths ahead of Wallstreeter.
[Plum Pretty and Zazu rank #27 and #29 respectively on HRN's Active Horses rankings page]
Both Zazu and Plum Pretty proved their worth and exceptional talent in the Hollywood Oaks, but it was clear at the end of the day who the better filly was. Zazu won her second graded stakes of the year after capturing the Grade 1 Las Virgenes earlier in the year and finished ahead of Plum Pretty for the third time in four meetings. Winning trainer John Sadler became the first person since Charlie Whittingham in 1971 and 1972 to win back-to-back running’s of the Hollywood Oaks after capturing last year’s event with Switch. Buster’s Ready and Summer Soiree turned in exceptional winning efforts on Saturday as well in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr.1) and Boiling Springs Stakes (gr.3) respectively, but more on that later.