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Summer Applause faces five as morning-line choice in FG Oaks
Grade 3 victress Summer Applause has been installed as the 8-5 morning-line choice for the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday over five rivals. The 1 1/16-mile contest is the New Orleans track's final leg of Fair Grounds' sophomore filly series that also serves as a prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4.
The Fair Grounds Oaks was supposed to feature a rematch between Summer Applause and Avie's Sense, who were the respective winner and runner-up in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes, but an unspecified setback has kept the early second choice out of the race.
"We've had a little setback," trainer Josie Carroll confirmed when reached by phone on her way to Florida. "We're not quite 100 percent 'bang on' with her right now, and I think in a race like this you need to be. We're going to back off this one and give her a little more time."
That has allowed the late additions of Inny Minnie and Colonial Empress into the race, but those two, along with Believe You Can, Disposablepleasure and Small Kitchen, have a tough task ahead in defeating Summer Applause.
"She breezed very good yesterday and she came out of it good," assistant trainer "Peaches" Geier said during training hours Sunday when speaking of Summer Applause's Saturday half-mile move in :47 3/5. "(Jockey) Robby Albarado is really high on her. He says she just keeps getting better every day."
Summer Applause is facing Believe You Can for the third straight time in the Fair Grounds Oaks. The pair first met up in the January 21 Silverbulletday Stakes, the first leg of the Fair Grounds filly series, with Believe You Can getting the best of her Bret Calhoun-trained rival by 1 1/2 lengths.
"(Believe You Can) just got loose on the lead that day," Geier said. "The pace was very slow in that race."
Summer Applause, a Harlan's Holiday daughter, easily turned the tables next out in the Rachel Alexandra, in which Believe You Can finished fourth beaten 7 1/4 lengths.
Believe You Can will be looking to upset her opponent in the Fair Grounds Oaks while getting back to the winner's circle. The Proud Citizen filly has captured four of her seven lifetime starts, including the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes last October at Belmont Park. The Larry Jones trainee faced off against On Fire Baby in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes next out at Churchill Downs, but faded to sixth that day in her juvenile finale.
Rosie Napravnik has been aboard for Believe You Can's two starts thus far this year and retains the mount on Saturday.
Inny Minnie is also facing the duo of Summer Applause and Believe You Can for a third straight time after running third in both the Rachel Alexandra and Silverbulletday. The Hard Spun chestnut miss broke her maiden on Keeneland's Polytrack last fall before finishing second in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes in mid-November. She'll keep Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has sent Disposablepleasure to Saturday's race instead of leaving her in Florida for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on the same day. The gray lass closed out her two-year-old campaign with a nose victory in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes, but didn't do so well in her seasonal bow when fourth in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes over the Hallandale, Florida, venue. Local top jockey James Graham has been tabbed to ride the daughter of Giacomo.
Small Kitchen and Colonial Empress are each seeking their first stakes win in this spot, and the former at least has a shot at the victory. The Mike Maker pupil has romped in her two lifetime starts so far at Fair Grounds. The Corinthian filly was an easy 5 3/4-length maiden special weight winner on February 2 and returned a month later to score by 7 1/4 front-running lengths in an optional claimer. Napravnik was aboard for both those starts but will be replaced on Small Kitchen by Ramon Dominguez for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Colonial Empress was a late entry from trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and the Empire Maker lass would be earning her first career win if she triumphs. Fourth when making her debut in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park last month, the dark bay miss was a well-beaten third in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at that same track three weeks ago.
Fair Grounds Oaks Day will also feature three other stakes on the card. The action gets underway in the 5TH race when nine turf distaffers line up in the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes going about 1 1/16 miles on the green. Two races later, seven runners will go that same distance on the turf in the $100,000 Bayou Handicap, while the penultimate race before the Fair Grounds Oaks will be the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks, which drew 10 Louisiana-bred sophomore fillies to go a mile and 70 yards on the main track.