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Breeders' Cup 2017
HRN Original Blog:
Kentucky Oaks Runner

The Return of St. John's River

The Return of St. John's River
The 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks was considered a very strong and competitive field of fillies before the running, now two months after the historic running form has held up extremely well. Kentucky Oaks third place finisher Zazu returned to defeat Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty in a thrilling rendition of the Hollywood Oaks. Kentucky Oaks fourth place finisher Joyful Victory came back to finish second in the Mother Goose Stakes behind an overpowering victory by Buster’s Ready. Kentucky Oaks tenth place finisher Summer Soiree turned in a dazzling performance when capturing the Boiling Springs Stakes by 8 ½ lengths on turf. Her Smile finished eleventh in the Kentucky Oaks, a distance third in the Acorn Stakes and then uncorked a stunning last-to-first move to win the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes in her first try sprinting.

There have been just as many failed returns as successful ones, like Daisy Devine’s fifth place finish in the Iowa Oaks, Kathmanblu and Bouquet Booth’s fourth and third place finishes in the Regret Stakes and Street Storm’s runner up effort in a Churchill Downs Optional Allowance Claiming race, but overall the quality of the Kentucky Oaks field has held up well to its earlier reputation.

St. John’s River is the latest filly from the powerful Kentucky Oaks arsenal set to fire off this weekend in the Delaware Oaks (gr.2), and if past performance is any indication the best might have been saved for last. Two necks and a half length, that’s how close St. John’s River is away from four consecutive victories. The three-year-old daughter of Include, while blessed with a magnitude of talent, has suffered from bridesmaid syndrome in her last three starts, finishing runner-up in an Allowance Optional Claiming, the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks. In all starts, the talented sophomore has dropped far off the pace and rallied with a huge run in the stretch to just miss winning two of the biggest spring prep races for fillies. She overcame a tough break in the Kentucky Oaks where she struck the gate coming out, dropped to the rear of the field and still worked her way through traffic from the rail to give Plum Pretty a run for her money, finishing just a neck back in second and closing easily best of all. She will be heavily favored to enter the winners circle on Saturday when she faces six other three-year-old fillies in the starting gate. Her latest work was a four furlong move completed in a comfortable time of :48.20 at Delaware Park. That move followed up two straight six furlong breezes and a five furlong work completed in 1:01.20. She’ll be ready to rumble and with a win she’ll be set up to launch a very powerful summer/fall campaign.

[Ranking at #12 on HRN's current 3-year-old fillies rankings page, is St. John's River too low?]

Four stakes winners will line up to face St. John’s River including All For Thee, winner of the Go For Wand Stakes in her last starts, Wanda Stakes winner Daring Reality, Busanda Stakes winner and Wanda Stakes runner-up Dance Quietly as well as Pike Creek Stakes winner Snow Fall.

All For Thee looks like the logical threat on paper with three straight wins including the Go For Wand but a total of more than twelve lengths. Her works are less than spectacular but nothing to sneeze at either. She has turned in five consecutive four furlong works, the last being the slowest move at :50.60. With two wins over the track she does have home field advantage but she’s still a longshot at best.

Daring Reality won the Wanda Stakes by just over a length before finishing runner-up behind All For Thee in the Go For Wand. She has two slow breezes, both at four furlongs that failed to break the sub :50.00 mark. She shares the same sire as St. John’s River, Include, and runs consistently in the money during her Stakes races.

You have to go back five races to Dance Quietly’s last win when she took the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct in January, but since then she’s been on a four race losing streak. While she has hit the board in three of her losing efforts I wouldn’t bet on her pulling a big effort.

Snow Fall could be the best second choice in the race. She won her maiden two races back and then captured the Pike Creek Stakes at Delaware Park, taking both races by a combined margin of more than nine lengths. Her five furlong work at Delaware on July second was completed in a strong 1:01.20. With only five starts under her belt you have to think there’s room for improvement from this filly.

Strike the Moon and Soundwave complete the field and have five victories between them with three stakes race placings. Soundwave has run only twice this year, finishing second and third in the Classy Mirage and Miss Royal Stakes respectively and turned in an excellent five furlong bullet work in 1:00.80 on Saturday. Strike the Moon has two consecutive runner-up placings in her most recent efforts, missing by a length and a neck in the Miss Preakness and Jostle Stakes. Prior to her runner-up finishes she won a maiden and allowance race back-to-back by more than eight lengths.

St. John’s River towers over this field. If all goes according to plan the very gifted Andrew Leggio trained filly should walk away with her first graded stakes win on Saturday and perhaps toss her hat into the ring for a chance at the three-year-old championship. 

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Older Comments about The Return of St. John's River...

I agree Brian, if she had hit her stride just a few jumps earlier she could have won the Oaks.
I second that timgsmith, barring injury this year it's looking like a great Breeders' Cup for the "ladies".
Sorry Rosie can't ride, but I'd like to see St. John's River continue her great form tomorrow. I thought she ran the best race of all in the Kentucky Oaks.
If she continues to improve we could have one hell of a ladies classic this year.

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 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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