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Plum Pretty holds back River to take Oaks
Peachtree Stable's PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) settled just outside of the early pace in Friday's $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), took over in midstretch and just held off the game late rush of St. John's River (Include) to post a neck victory in the 1 1/8-mile event. Last seen dominating the Sunland Park Oaks by 25 lengths, the Bob Baffert trainee finished up in 1:49 2/5 on Churchill Downs' fast track to return $14.60, $7 and $4.60 under jockey Martin Garcia.
Summer Soiree (War Front) headed to the front when the gates opened, and Garcia sent Plum Pretty up to run just outside of the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) winner. Summer Soiree ticked off fractions of :23 3/5, :46 4/5 and 1:11 1/5, all the while chased by Plum Pretty with Lilacs and Lace (Flower Alley) tracking in third and Daisy Devine (Kafwain) running just to the outside of favored Joyful Victory (Tapit).
Summer Soiree couldn't sustain her momentum as the field entered the stretch, but Plum Pretty had no trouble in continuing on. She grabbed command and appeared a clear winner for a moment, but Rosie Napravnik was getting busy aboard St. John's River.
That filly, who rallied to just miss by a half-length in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last out, threatened in the shadow of the wire but ran out of ground late and was forced to settle for second yet again.
"Great trip. Great filly. I couldn't have asked for more," Garcia simply said.
Plum Pretty's win before an Oaks Day crowd of 110,122, the third largest in the race's history, now puts Baffert in position to become the third trainer to win the Kentucky Oaks and Derby (G1) in the same year and the first since Ben Jones accomplished the feat in 1952. Baffert will send out Midnight Interlude (War Chant) in Saturday's $2 million Kentucky Derby.
Plum Pretty was sent off the 6-1 fifth choice and keyed the $163 exacta with St. John's River, who came flying from the rear of the field after a bad break to give back $13.20 and $7.20 at 16-1.
"To me she felt like she was standing good, but she must not have been square because it was just an awkward step first out," Napravnik described St. John's River hitting the side of the gate at the start. "Not having that good break, I decided to angle over and see what we could do from there. We got such a perfect trip down on the rail. She's a very, very talented filly.
"Down the lane I'm thinking my first Grade 1, I'm thinking a million dollars, I'm thinking Kentucky Oaks, I'm thinking Girl Power in the Oaks. It was such a disappointing loss, but you can't take anything away from the filly. She ran so well.
"It's so exciting; I'm so happy to be here; I'm so lucky."
Zazu (Tapit) followed St. John's River from the back, and was 2 1/2 lengths behind in third to pay $4 as the 7-2 second favorite. The trifecta was worth $831.60, and 2-1 choice Joyful Victory rounded out the $4,110.20 superfecta (12-13-6-1) another half-length back in fourth.
"I would have liked to have been on the outside. It would have helped her because she is a big ol' filly. She likes to get her legs stretched out and I wasn't able to do that," said jockey Mike Smith, who was aboard Joyful Victory. "My hats off to the winner but I had a decent trip from the one hole. I tried to kick on and she did for a couple of jumps but she didn't stay on. It was tight early on though. I would have had to really fight and bang around to try and get out early but I thought I would waste too much energy doing that. I rode her with confidence, had her clear going for home but just didn't have enough horse."
Completing the order under the wire were Bouquet Booth (Flower Alley), Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat), Daisy Devine, Street Storm (Stormy Atlantic), Suave Voir Faire (Suave), Summer Soiree, Her Smile (Include), Lilacs and Lace and Holy Heavens (Holy Bull).
Plum Pretty entered the Sunland Park Oaks owning just one win, with that coming in her career bow in October. She opened her three-year-old season, and her stakes account, with a third-place run in the Santa Ynez S. (G2) at Santa Anita, then stretched out to a mile and filled that same spot in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) on February 5.
With the winner's share from the Kentucky Oaks added to her earnings, Plum Pretty has now banked $761,200 to go along with her 5-3-0-2 career mark.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Silent Indy Stables & DDS Stables, Plum Pretty RNAed her first two trips to the sales ring when reaching $100,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected yearling and $75,000 two months later as an Eastern Fall yearling. She finally saw the gavel fall on a winning bid when bringing $130,000 at last year's OBS March Sale of Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training.
The bay lass is out of the A.P. Indy mare Liszy, making her a half-sister to an unnamed juvenile filly by Scat Daddy, a yearling filly by Dixie Union and an unnamed 2011 filly by Ghostzapper. Liszy is herself a daughter of Grade 2 winner Silent Account (Private Account), who placed in the Gazelle H. (G1) and Selima S. (G1) during her career.
Plum Pretty's third dam is Grade 3-placed stakes victress Ciao (Silent Screen), who would go on in the breeding shed to produce the likes of Grade 1 hero Secret Hello (Private Account) and Group 3-winning sire Hadif (Clever Trick). This is the same family as 2008 Blue Grass S. (G1) scorer Monba (Maria's Mon).