A Soiree of Plums

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

 Meet Brian Appleton 

Thoroughbred Horse Racing is my passion.  It started when at the age of 9 I found a book called Come On Seabiscuit by Ralf Moody on my Mother’s shelf.  Reading that book was one of the most exciting things I ever did as a kid. I read that book so many times that I had entire chapters committed to memory and the dust jacket worn and ripped beyond recognition from so much use. From that point on I was hopelessly addicted, reading every book on horse racing I could get my hands on, especially racehorse biographies. In 2009 I began my own blog called Rail Runner on wordpress and have continued to blog there to this day.

Curlin is probably my favorite racehorse of all time. Being able to attend six of his races will always be one of the highlights of my life. Whenever I need to re-find some inspiration in my life all I need to do is watch one of his incredible victories and relive the memories. Rachel Alexandra ranks right up there too. As any horse racing fan will tell you it’s almost impossible to choose just one favorite and I am no exception. Phar Lap and Citation are another two of my all time favorites and the list could go on and on.

I was homeschooled my entire life by my parents and graduated High School in 2006 at the age of 17.  Currently I am completing my Marketing degree with the hopes of entering the Thoroughbred Horse Racing field as a writer/journalist , or in the marketing/advertising/promotions side of the industry.

It is my dream to someday become a thoroughbred racehorse owner and win major races across the United States. Who wouldn't want that, right?  For about 1 ½ years I was part owner in a racehorse, Lord Greystoke raced, and owned by Hibiscus Stables. I was able to attend one of his races at Belmont Park on Kentucky Derby day, May 2, 2009 and it was an incredible experience. While Lord Greystoke finished 7th in the race, being able to stand in an owner’s box not 30 feet away from Penny Chenery’s owner’s box was one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Later in the year Lord Greystoke was finally able to break through with a 4 ½ length win which made me feel like one of the world’s most accomplished thoroughbred owners and further fueled my appetite. I think it would be rally neat to win the Appleton Stakes (Gr.3) at Gulfstream Park, even though I'm generally a bigger fan of dirt racing I can't help but think it would be neat for me to win a race with the same name as my last name.

That’s me in a nutshell, just a very passionate, driven young guy that wants to be a part of this amazing sport and share the adventure with other fans.

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