Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Decked Out wins the American Oaks on the last jump

Decked Out_American Oaks_615 X 400
Photo: Casey Phillips/Eclipse Sportswire

On paper, the Grade 1 American Oaks looked like a wide-open affair. Then the rains came. Originally carded for 1 ¼-miles on the turf, Santa Anita kept the race on grass, but felt that nine furlongs would be a safer proposition, rather than starting on the downhill course, and crossing over the main track. The change, and the running on a rain-softened course labeled as good, would not change the competitiveness of the New Year's Eve feature. In a mad dash to the wire, it was Decked Out getting up in the final stride to barely deny victory for Sassy Little Lila.


Sent off at odds of 9-2, Decked Out assumed her usual position near the back of the pack, under Kent Desormeaux, as the field of twelve raced through the Southern Californian rain. Trained by the rider’s brother, Keith Desormeaux, Decked Out had not found the winner’s circle since catching a wet turf course, also at nine furlongs at Santa Anita, in a graded stakes race back in April. She has often been in the mix, though, after closing strongly in a series of graded stakes on the grass. While she waited to uncoil her best run, it was an Eastern invader who made all the early pace.


Sassy Little Lila, coming in off four straight solid performances in New York, went right to the lead. The lightly raced daughter of Artie Schiller never had things easy as she carved out fractions of :22.68, :47.03, and 1:10.70. Among those close early was the lukewarm race favorite, Stays In Vegas. While the pace was contested in the big field, Decked Out began picking off horses on the outside. As the American Oaks field hit the homestretch, it still looked like a wide open race, but the pacesetter had no designs on giving up her advantage.


As Stays In Vegas tried to no avail on the outside, Lady Valeur, a 17-1 longshot, scooted up the rail to challenge. Sassy Little Lila was as game as could be though, and hung tough to her lead. Decked Out was now flying on the outside, as the wire approached. As they hit the finish, it was too close to call between the top two, with Lady Valeur just a half-length farther back in third.


The photo revealed a narrow victory for the late runner. Decked Out had earned her biggest career victory by a scant nose over an unlucky loser in Sassy Little Lila. Final time for the 1 1/8-miles over the damp Santa Anita turf was a very solid 1:47.86.

“It’s been that kind of year for the Desormeaux family,” remarked the winning rider. “It was doubtful from the quarter pole. I wasn’t getting there fast enough and I thought I had won, but with the recent photo finishes, I was scared to have an opinion. The end result was close, because she’s knocked on the door all year. She’s been on the south end, and today she got on the north side. (The turf course) has a lot of give to it. I wouldn’t call it yielding, but it’s definitely soft.”


With the Grade 1 victory, Decked Out raised her lifetime record to 16-3-2-3 for her ownership team of Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners, and Gene Voss. The three-year-old chestnut daughter of Street Boss also raised her career earnings to $480,859.


As the 9-2 third choice, Decked Out returned $11.00, $6.00, and $4.20 across the board. The 7-6 exacta with the stubborn runner-up was good for $50.20, while the trifecta was made substantial by the third-place finish of Lady Valeur, returning $667.80.

“She was training awesome coming into today,” revealed Keith Desormeaux. “I think a key decision was not run her at Del Mar. We skipped a race in hopes of getting her fresh and that may have been the winning decision.”


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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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