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Silsita upsets Bourbonette Oaks

  • Silsita (outside) (Pat Lang PHotography)

Silsita was making her stakes bow in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks, but that didn't stop the Todd Pletcher trainee from dueling to a nose win over fellow stakes debuter and longshot Marathon Lady on the wire of the one-mile contest. Sent off the 9-1 third choice in the 12-filly field, Silsita paid $20.40, $9.20 and $4.20 to her faithful backers.

Martha's Moon grabbed command soon after the gates opened, posting the opening half in fractions of :24 and :47 3/5 while pressed by Silsita and Awesome Mama to her outside. Marathon Lady bided her time on the inside and slipped through on the rail to set three-quarters in 1:12 when Martha's Moon started tiring.

All the while, 4-5 favorite Pure Fun was waiting to make her move and took after the leaders on the turn under jockey Garrett Gomez. Marathon Lady floated wide entering the stretch, forcing Silsita to her inside and Pure Fun just in behind farther out into the center of the track. The 36-1 shot quickly angled back toward the rail while trying to shake a tenacious Silsita, but her rival just wouldn't stop.

The pair battled it out through the lane, passing the lead back and forth, before Silsita got the head-bobbing win on the wire in a final time of 1:38 1/5 over Turfway Park's Polytrack.

"Pretty easy trip, we broke well and we wanted to be where we were following somebody and it was perfect," jockey John Velazquez said of his ride on Silsita. "I was trying to get her to slow down the first part of the race and she did that nicely. She's showed improvement each time I've ridden her."

Marathon Lady was game in defeat as the 31-1 ninth pick. The last-out maiden winner had three lengths to spare on a geared-down Pure Fun, who returned in this spot off a triumph in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet back on December 8.

"She ran great," said Marathon Lady's trainer, Steve Hobby. "We'll more than likely head back to Hot Springs and make plans from there. I knew she was going to run a nice race and I was very happy that she was sitting where she was in the race. (Jockey) Robby (Albarado) did a great job with her. The head bob wasn't ours, but that's racing. I wasn't sure (if the head bob was ours)."

"It could have been a little of everything," Gomez mused about Pure Fun's run. "It was her first race back. The racetrack doesn't have any water on it. It's real loose and cuppy. It probably doesn't suit her style of racing. She's a little more blocky -- kind of a muscle-bound thing.

"Up until the point that I needed to put her under a little pressure, she was running absolutely tremendous for me. Everything was good until we turned for home. When she came off the turn, she just didn't want to switch leads. She should definitely benefit from this effort."

"It was her first start of the year," trainer Kenny McPeek said of Pure Fun. "It looked like she was fighting the track a little the last quarter of a mile. It was a little loose and cuppy out there and Garrett said she was fighting it. We thought she had a chance to get beat today, but she's a good filly and it's a step in the right direction."

Broken Spell was looking for redemption following a subpar sixth-placing in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park two weeks ago and rallied for fourth, 8 1/4 lengths ahead of Miss Squeal. Completing the order of finish were Street of Gold, Anahauc, Awesome Mama, Always Kitten, Le Fascinator, Corporate Culture and Martha's Moon.

Silsita broke her maiden in her initial outing on November 29 over Calder's turf for trainer Rodolfo Garcia. Her breeder, Tanourin Stable, subsequently sold part of the Macho Uno filly to Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and she was transferred to Pletcher. The gray lass made her debut for her new connections in an optional claimer on the main track at Gulfstream Park January 3, pressing the pace before fading to be beaten nine lengths in fourth while going 1 1/16 miles.

"We're starting the day off right!" enthused Ginny DePasquale, whose been an assistant to Pletcher for 16 years. "It's very exciting to see this filly jump up and win like this.

"She seems to be a turf filly and some horses seem to take to the Poly. It seemed like a good spot and Todd felt that she was improving over a period of time in Florida. So we thought we'd take a shot and obviously it worked out quite well."

Silsita returned a month later, giving way late to be third in a one-mile grass contest at the same venue, and boosted her earnings following Saturday's affair to $84,725. She also earned 50 points on the new Road to the Kentucky Oaks point system while improving her line to 4-2-0-1.

"I'm sure the (Grade 1) Kentucky Oaks is up to Todd and the owners," DePasquale added. "Whatever they have in mind, I'm sure, they're going to make the right decision for her."

The Florida-bred filly is the first stakes winner of the multiple-stakes placed Wild Again mare Naturally Wild, who is herself a daughter of multiple stakes queen Nat's Lea. Silsita's fifth dam, Two Lea's Girl, is a half-sister to 1958 champion three-year-old Tim Tam, who captured that year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness while running second in the Belmont Stakes.

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