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Believe You Can posts head score in Fair Grounds Oaks
Brereton C. Jones' homebred Believe You Can took the lead on the backstretch of Saturday's Grade 2, $480,000 Fair Grounds Oaks and just held 4-5 favorite Summer Applause on the wire to score a head win under jockey Rosie Napravnik. Trained by Larry Jones, the Proud Citizen daughter was the 7-2 third pick in the five-filly field and gave back $9, $2.80 and $2.10 when finishing 1 1/16 miles on the fast Fair Grounds dirt in 1:43 4/5.
"The instructions I gave to Rosie were to let her run from the gate and take her into the first turn and see what happens the second half of the first turn," trainer Jones said. "If they want the lead, make them outrun you. As I was seeing those fractions I thought, hmm, maybe they can't catch her. But she ran very well."
Believe You Can pressed the pace set by Colonial Empress heading into the backstretch through a quarter in :22 4/5, but tugged her way to the front to take command while passing a half-mile in :46 2/5. The dark bay lass began pulling away rounding the turn after getting six furlongs in 1:11 2/5, and opened up a 3 1/2-length advantage in the lane. However, Summer Applause continued inching her way forward and gave a final surge to just come up short on the line.
"That was probably the most uncomfortable pace set-up scenario that I could have thought of and it was definitely a very hard first half of a race for the filly," Napravnik said. "It just shows how much talent and how much class she's got. I wish I could have gotten her a better trip but she pulled through for us and she's a race horse.
"I had some horse left when I turned for home but I knew the other filly, Summer Applause, was coming at us so I didn't look back, I just kept riding to the wire. The filly deserves all the credit because she overcame a lot."
It was another nine lengths back to Disposablepleasure, who was followed under the wire by Small Kitchen and Colonial Empress.
"We just didn't get to her. She was better today. But we're still good and we can go on," said jockey Robby Albarado, who was aboard Summer Applause. "That one filly spurted out away from us. I just couldn't match strides from the quarter-pole to the eighth-pole but finally, as persistent as my filly was, she kept coming and coming and nearly got there."
"Of course we are disappointed. We wanted a win, but this shows progress," trainer Bret Calhoun said in regards to Summer Applause. "Robby said he didn't want to move too soon. In a way, small fields like this hurt her chances. She ran good, we just got beat today."
Inny Minnie was scratched earlier in the day by her trainer, Steve Margolis.
"She was a little off her feed yesterday and just seemed dull to me so I didn't want to take any chances," Margolis explained. "She might be coming down with something and it just hasn't hit her yet. She's just not right. There's plenty of races but we'll have to get her to Kentucky and then we'll see."
Believe You Can is now five-for-eight lifetime while racking up $499,284 in career earnings. The sophomore miss captured three straight last season, including the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes at Belmont Park, and opened her 2012 campaign with a 1 1/2-length victory over Summer Applause in the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 21. Her rival turned the tables last out in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes, but Believe You Can got back to her winning ways in this spot.
"We had trainer error last time," Jones admitted. "I hate to take all the blame but, to be honest with you, we had about the same excuse that Calhoun had the first race (Silverbulletday). We were pinned in there with Inny Minnie and the filly wasn't comfortable in there. We knew, but I couldn't just tell everybody that's what the problem was, because we knew that if the next time we drew the one-hole we were going to have to go. I couldn't believe we drew the one-hole again but I knew as soon as we got it what we had to do.
"We're hoping she's getting good at the right time. We hadn't been trying to press her for her life but we knew that this time we had to get her ready and we stepped it up on her a little bit."
With the Fair Grounds Oaks now added to her record, Believe You Can is headed for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks back at Churchill Downs, where she was sixth in last year's Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes.
"That's her next start," Jones confirmed. "We will not try to put anything between here and there. That's why I'm so glad Fair Grounds moved all the races to this last weekend. It makes it fit, it makes it doable. We sure have no reason to think we're not going to the Kentucky Oaks right now.
"We'll go to Keeneland and give her a couple of easy weeks on the Polytrack and then she'll go to Churchill when they start working. We probably won't be breezing over the synthetic but we'll have a couple weeks of just changing the legs and just let muscles relax that have been used and use some different ones and then go over."
Believe You Can will face Summer Applause for a fourth straight time in the Kentucky Oaks.
"I was disappointed we didn't win but I think she still ran a good race," Calhoun said. "Now all we have to do is ship to Churchill and run back almost in five weeks right out of our own stall up there. Right now it's OK; I think if she had to start moving around a lot it could take a toll on her. I think you watch some of the races from around the country today...I didn't lose any confidence in my filly today moving forward. We definitely wanted to win this one but obviously the next one's even a little more important. "
The Kentucky-bred Believe You Can is out of the unraced El Prado mare El Fasto and stayed with her breeder after failing to meet her reserve when only attracting a $70,000 bid as a Keeneland September yearling. El Fasto is a half-sister to Grade 2 heroine Classic Elegance, and this family has also produced Grade 2 victor Rush Bay as well as Grade 3 winners Chorwon and Basket Weave.