Arnold Zetcher LLC and Michael B. Tabor's Fashion Plate continued to make a name for herself on the West Coast, adding a front-running victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,500 Santa Anita Oaks to her resume with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Steven in the irons.
"I've won a few races like this in my day. She was reminding me of Winning Colors going down the backside. I thought if I can keep doing this...it's going to be pretty special," Stevens said.
"Mike's (Smith) filly (Ria Antonia) is a good filly. I've worked her a couple of times so I knew what I was dealing with. I think we were underestimated in here though, off her numbers last out. We knew that she was going to improve a lot today."
Fashion Plate entered the Santa Anita Oaks owning just 10 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks, but the Santa Anita Oaks added 100 to that number on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series and practically guaranteed her a spot in the gate on May 2.
The Simon Callaghan-trained filly broke her maiden by 6 1/2 lengths on December 29 in her first foray over dirt at Santa Anita, then captured her stakes bow when thrown to the wolves in the February 1 Las Virgenes. The Santa Anita Oaks was Fashion Plate's first start off her black-type debut, and the dark bay miss immediately took command from her rail post.
Stevens nursed Fashion Plate's speed along through splits of :23 3/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11 while Honey Ride and Artemis tracked just in behind. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies heroine Ria Antonia, seeking to improve off her seasonal bow when fourth in the Rachel Alexandra, steadily made her way up to engage the leaders nearing the second turn, but Fashion Plate refused to back down.
Fashion Plate maintained control down the lane as Ria Antonia kept fighting to her outside, hitting the line 1 1/4 lengths in front of her rival to finish 1 1/16 miles on the fast Santa Anita dirt in 1:42 4/5.
"She was the speed horse, obviously, and when she was able to go the right fractions...down the backside, Gary found time to take a little breather on her and just bring her back and then let her go again," Callaghan noted.
"As races go, it was a perfect ride...I was delighted with the run from the other filly (Bajan). Oaks-placing for her is massive. I think for now, it (the Kentucky Oaks) would make sense (for Fashion Plate's next race). She's getting better almost as we stretch out in distance. She's a really smart filly and she relaxes well."
Ria Antonia was best of the rest, 3 3/4 lengths up on the Callaghan-conditioned Bajan. Honey Ride completed the superfecta and was followed under the wire by Arethusa, Artemis and Smoove It.
"My horse ran a tremendous race today. I can't complain," Smith stated about Ria Antonia. "I really thought we had the horse (Fashion Plate) measured in the turn and we would get there. We really got beat by a good filly. I think we would have had to be 110 percent today to beat that horse. I really think our horse probably needed two races before this race. She should be better next time."
"We had a great trip, she ran great and she handled the kick-back well. She did everything I asked, very classy," jockey Joe Talamo praised his mount, Bajan. "I think she has a bright future. I do think it's a speed-favoring track today. If you look at the races so far, it's hard to come from off the pace but I'm certainly hoping to do it later on (in the Santa Anita Derby aboard Schoolofhardrocks)!"
Fashion Plate is now 3-0-1 from five career starts and doubled her earnings to $459,250. The dark bay miss began her career on the synthetic Polytrack at Del Mar last August, finishing seventh, then filled the third spot over Hollywood Park's all-weather Cushion Track. She didn't break her maiden until transferring to Santa Anita and is now three-for-three over dirt.
Bred in Kentucky by Springland Farm and Fox Hill Farms Inc., Fashion Plate is no stranger to the auction ring. The dark bay sophomore brought $75,000 as a Keeneland November weanling before selling as a Keeneland September yearling for $35,000. Last spring she eclipsed those prices when purchased for $340,000 at the OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training.
Fashion Plate is out of the listed-placed Citidancer mare Mizz Puzzle, who has also produced stakes winner Mr. Candy Bar, and counts as her second dam Group 3 runner-up Miss Tree. That mare is a half-sister to New Zealand Horse of the Year and multiple champion Tit for Taat.