Midnight Lucky didn't need any luck, or much encouragement from jockey Rafael Bejarano either, as she romped by eight lengths in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the gray miss was making her stakes and two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile contest and easily proved capable of handling such a task when setting a new Sunland Park track record of 1:41.06 over the fast going.
Four of the last eight Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Saturday's 45th renewal of the feminine equivalent of the Louisiana Derby once again promises that kind of quality.
A star-studded cast is waiting in the wings of the 1 1/16-mile contest, headed by unbeaten Unlimited Budget, who closed out her juvenile campaign with a 1 1/4-length win in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Demoiselle.
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.
While the Grade 3 Spiral is the featured event at Turfway Park on Saturday, sophomores fillies will get their turn in the spotlight as a field of 12 line up in the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks. Like its companion one race later, the one-mile event is worth 50 points to the winner for a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
Midnight Lucky, a daughter of Midnight Lute co-owned by Mike Pegram, will be an overwhelming favorite to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a third consecutive win in Sunday's 200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.
A 7 1/4-length debut winner at Santa Anita on February 16 going 6 1/2 furlongs, Midnight Lucky seeks to follow in the hoofsteps of 2011 winner Plum Pretty, who went on to capture the Kentucky Oaks, and 2012 vixen Princess Arabella.
Elghayoor ran down 1-2 favorite Highestmaintenance and I'm Mom's Favorite to take Saturday's $100,000 Cicada at Aqueduct by a half-length. In the process, the dark bay daughter of Ghostzapper earned 50 points toward a starting berth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3 via the new Oaks point system.
Stablemates Elghayoor and Railtown Girl, the 1-2 finishers in last month's Dearly Precious at Aqueduct, return Saturday to the New York track to take on five other three-year-old fillies in Saturday's 21st running of the $100,000 Cicada.
A total of 134 fillies, led by champion Beholder, have been nominated to Keeneland's Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland Stakes, scheduled for April 6. The nominees are available at this link.
The total number of fillies nominated during the early closing period represents a 67 percent increase over 2012. As with the Blue Grass, a late nomination period closes March 27.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's arsenal of three-year-old filly talent continued to get deeper Sunday at Gulfstream Park as Juddmonte Farm's Close Hatches passed her first distance test with flying colors drawing off to 1 1/4 length victory over Catalyst Stable and partners' Kimberly Jean in the 3RD race, 'a other than' allowance test going 1 1/16 miles under jockey Joel Rosario.
Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti's Rose to Gold took command of the Grade 3, $150,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park on Saturday and turned back the pressing 2-5 favorite Flashy Gray to post a 2 3/4-length victory under jockey Calvin Borel. The Sal Santoro-trained daughter of Friends Lake set all the pace in the 1 1/16-mile contest before stopping the clock in 1:45 on the fast Oaklawn dirt.
Rose to Gold was sent off the even-money favorite in the February 9 Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park, but found herself passed in the stretch by 19-1 shot Sister Ginger, who would pull off the 2 3/4-length upset victory for trainer Steve Asmussen. On Saturday, those two fillies meet once again and Rose to Gold will try to turn the tables on her rival in the Grade 3, $150,000 Honeybee at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, oval.
Reigning 2-year-old filly champion and Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I) winner Beholder is joined by unbeaten two-time stakes winner Unlimited Budget and Hollywood Starlet (GI) winner Pure Fun atop a list of 120 nominations to the 139th running of the $1 million-guaranteed Kentucky Oaks (GI), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies, at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 3.
Flashy Gray, a winner of two of three career races for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott but untested in top level competition, emerged as a somewhat surprising fans’ choice over the “All Others” (#24) betting interest, reigning 2-year-old filly champion Beholder (#1) and unbeaten stakes winner Unlimited Budget (#23) when three days of betting concluded early Sunday evening in Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (“KOFW”).
After two days of betting in Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (“KOFW”), unbeaten Unlimited Budget (#23), reigning 2-year-old filly champion Beholder (#1) and the popular “All Others” (#24) wagering interest are atop a tightly-packed group that is battling to determine the betting favorite in the three-day betting pool that is set to close early Sunday evening..
Spendthrift Farm's Beholder proved to be fully recovered from a throat ulcer that was discovered after her runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez when wiring Saturday's Grade 1, $250,750 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita by 3 3/4 lengths under regular rider Garrett Gomez.
Despite missing by three parts of a length in her three-year-old bow on January 21, the wagering public didn't lose confidence in Beholder, sending her off the 4-5 favorite to return $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott does not have a victory in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) among his vast collection of wins at Churchill Downs, but his impressive Flashy Gray (#9) is the early people’s choice to win America’s premiere race for 3-year-old fillies following the opening day of betting in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (“KOFW”).
Beaten narrowly by fellow Godolphin runners Music Chart and Lovely Pass, respectively, in her first two Carnival appearances, Shuruq exacted revenge in emphatic terms in Thursday's Group 3, $250,000 U.A.E. Oaks at Meydan. The Saeed bin Suroor filly relished the step up in trip to about 1 3/16 miles, and the addition of cheekpieces, to surge well clear of the Mahmood al Zarooni duo of Lovely Pass and Music Chart.
The top three from the January 26 Grade 3 Santa Ysabel and the top two from the January 21 Grade 2 Santa Ynez will join three others in the Santa Anita starting gate Saturday for the Grade 1, $250,000 Las Virgenes. The one-mile contest has drawn some of the top sophomore fillies on the West Coast and will be a chance at redemption for some and vindication for others.